When you have only weeks until your departure from this earth, you have a choice: you can focus on all the things you’ve enjoyed and accomplished in life, or you can look at the list of things that you regret. Depending on the life that you’ve lived, the joys will outweigh the regrets, but what if they don’t? What kinds of things do people regret when they feel death knocking at their door?
Bonnie Ware worked in palliative care (similar to hospice) for many years. In her line of work, she constantly encountered people who had only between 3 to 12 weeks left to live. She has written an excellent article and is in the process of writing a book about the conversations she had with her patients. Bonnie was able to experience first-hand people’s reaction to their own mortality: the variety of emotions, the inner growth, and eventually the peace the patients found by the time the departed.
Bonnie has put together a list of the top 5 regrets that kept resurfacing:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. 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.
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.
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.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they let golden friendships slip by over the years.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. 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.
Living a full life, a life that is uniquely yours, is one of the best ways to avoid having these regrets when your time comes. Find out what life you’d like to live and just do it. Don’t worry so much about pleasing your boss, your neighbor or your parents. In the end it is your life and your memories that will matter. Try to incorporate fun activities with your loved ones. Pencil in some time to laugh and be silly. In today’s world of instant communication via social media sites like Facebook, chat rooms and Twitter, you’ll find it easier to share a good conversation or a good laugh with your friends. Figure out what makes you happy and go do it. What are you waiting for?
If death was at your doorstep right now, would you be able to say that you have no regrets?
To read Bonnie Ware’s original article go here.
Image courtesy of spuffy12.