The Five Biggest Regrets of the Dying

Personally experiencing a life and death situation this past year, I’ve wanted to share with you my thoughts on an interesting book, that i recently finished by Bronnie Ware, titled: The Top Five Regrets of The Dying.

In this thought-provoking book, she recorded the most common regrets of the dying and the guilt that they felt in nearing their last days.

Ironically true for most of us, among the top ones in it, are ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard‘.


What lies underneath death, hate and regret. –

What would your biggest regret be if this was your last day of life?

For those wondering; in the book, there was no mention of more sex or bungee jumps.

Instead, Ware, a nurse who specializes in palliative care has counselled the dying in their last days and in her book, revealed the most common regrets that we have at the end of our lives.

Interestingly for me, among the top from men in particular, is ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’.

In her book, Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.”

Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware in her book The Top Five Regrets of The Dying:

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 realize 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 honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realize until they no longer have it.”

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

“This came from every male patient that Bronnie 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 that she nursed, deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”


David Whittington, persistently requested to have his dog Balad, be allowed to visit him at his hospice. With time running out, he got his wish. – UK Guardian

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.

“Often they would not truly realize 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.”

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

“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize 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.”

If you want to dig deeper into this very interesting topic, The New York Times has a very interesting section, which I use greatly for research when writing about this subject.

With many of us living with regret; think about this deeply. What’s your greatest regret so far, and what will you set out to achieve or change before you die?

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