It is often said that death is the only certainty in life, yet, the uncertainty of what it implies remains a mystery. If we are innately aware that life ends at some point, we tend to live as if we were immortal and neglect our deepest desires and needs.
A palliative nurse recorded the most common regrets of the dying and wrote a book entitled “The Top Five Regrets of The Dying”. This book gives a compelling insight into what a life well-lived means.
The most common regrets were the following:
The first regret was “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” By reflecting on their life choices, the dying felt regret toward their lack of authenticity. They all wished they had chosen their own path instead of settling for more traditional or safe paths.
The second regret was “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.” This was mostly expressed by male patients, who realized that they invested the time they had poorly, and regretted missing their children’s youth because of work.
The third regret was “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.” Similarly to the first regret, the patients often regretted their lack of authenticity. Resentment, bitterness, anger are negative effects that must be dealt with, not suppressed or ignored. Interestingly, many of these patients developed illnesses due to the heavy weight of their frustration.
The fourth regret was “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.” Love, affection, comfort, laughter, are all dependent upon companionship and friendship. Research suggests that the key to happiness and health is a strong and authentic social network. Too often, we undervalue what we have and only realise its true value when it is gone.
The fifth regret was “I wish that I had let myself be happier.“ The patients all realised that, after all, happiness is a choice. We can choose to let go of what makes us unhappy and unfulfilled, and move toward what can help us grow, evolve, improve and reach a peaceful state.
We all wish to look back on our life someday and be content, satisfied and proud of the way we spent our time on earth. Luckily, these common regrets can help us reflect on the current state of our lives and make more fulfilling and authentic life choices. A life well lived is truly possible if one remembers to follow their inner voice.
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