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5 Regrets people have on their deathbed

Bronnie Ware is a woman who was in close contact with the dying for years. She wrote a top 5 list of regrets people have on their deathbed. I got a little emotional while reading this and thought its worth for everybody reading it!

She published the list with her commentary of what she experienced on her website and I just copy and pasted it with her permission.

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.


2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their

children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.


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26 comments on “5 Regrets people have on their deathbed

    • seba on

      It touched me when I read it and thought its worth sharing it. I could actually see how things like point 1 are already today annoying me. We always do what people expect us to do and never have the courage to break free.

  1. Shaun on

    Great post Seb. Very humbling as it’s so easy to let time slip by.

    I have a few on this list I need to work on. Thanks!

  2. Abby on

    I agree with Andi — so powerful!! Thanks so much for sharing this. I already look back on my 20s and wonder about these. I know I worked too much, wasn’t true to myself, never shared feelings. Am I changing enough though? This definitely got me thinking!

  3. David @ Quillcards Ecards on

    So the biggest thing I learned from this is that I am normal and share the feelings that many people feel.

    I know life is a sliding scale of what we attempt and what we allow ourselves to do – and I guess anyone can look at themselves and think that they are not at the ‘rigid with fright about doing anything’ end of the scale – but maybe from someone else’s perspective we might be.

    Happy thoughts, eh 🙂

    • seba on

      No regrets was our motto when we traveled in Nicaragua. We shouldn’t regret anything we are doing because at one stage we thought we are doing the right thing.

  4. TomarHawk Tom on

    Love this post. So inspirational! I have a few to work on but trying! This sort of thing does make you assess life! I hope I don’t have any regrets! Thanks for this Seba!

  5. Josie on

    Hey Sebastian, As the old lady of this group, I can definitely say there are no regrets with the varied and kooky things I’ve done. Do I have a mortgage that’s paid off? No. Do I have a huge 401K? No. But I can say I followed all 5 of your points. Have I raised a few eyebrows? Yes!
    Thanks for posting. I applaud all of you who live life to the fullest.

  6. Chris on

    This post is such a good reminder about why I travel and why I’ve made some pretty big gambles with my decisions – better to regret what you failed than regret not trying at all.

    I think I’ll send some email to my buddies today now too 🙂

  7. Tiana Kai on

    Wow, so true! This list is a great reminder. Living out of the U.S. made me realize how to work less, much less than I did in the States. I practically ran myself so thin that had no time to even figure out if I was in a job I wanted to stay in.

    Expressing feelings is an important one. Life and relationships can be so much easier when things are expressed, also making things less stressful.

  8. Mariella on

    That is a good one… and so universally true! So important to remember! I think I’m gonna bookmark it and come back to it every now and then so I’m reminded. Thanks for sharing this, Sebastian!

  9. Linda Larsson on

    A big problem is that a lot of times we’re just very confused over what actually does make us happy. But I think traveling can be a good way to find out as it’s difficult to see things clearly when you’re in the middle of it.

  10. Nishi Jain on

    yeah good reminder. Gotta do what’s to be done. And another major regret must be that they didn’t travel and see the world as much as they wanted to.

    The courage-to-express-my-feelings bit reminds me of this heart-rending scene from Gone with the Wind, in which Ellen, the protagonist’s mother, is on her deathbed. All her life she has been this admirable stoic matron, the perfect wife and mother. Completes the picture of a happy family. At the time of her death, in her delirium, all she mumbles is one name “Philip”, a lover from her young days, whom she could not marry, and whose mention nobody has ever heard. Quite unbearably romantic but so sad.