What Matters Most? (Part 4): Viewpoint of the Dying

Summary: “Dying people’s main regrets were things that you can easily have.” 

In her book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing, author Bronnie Ware wrote about her experiences as a personal caregiver for terminally ill people. She was intensely involved with the care of these people for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives. According to Bronnie, “Not everyone had regrets, but a lot more did than didn’t.”  Reading her book, or at a minimum knowing about these regrets of the dying, might help you be among “those who don’t have regrets” when you come to the end of your life. Here are the top five regrets that she heard over and over from those under her care:

I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expect of me. This was the most common regret. In a body of knowledge called transactional analysis, experts speak of an ego state (frame of mind and associated behavior) called the Natural Child. This is the part of your psyche that is childlike (as opposed to childish) and simply “wants what it wants.” When you are making significant decisions in life, it is a good idea to “get into the Natural Child state of mind” and determine what you truly want before proceeding. Maybe you can, or cannot, find a way to make what you want happen when considering the realities of your circumstances, but why wouldn’t you at least begin by getting guidance from your Natural Child ego state? At a minimum, this might help you avoid frequently defaulting to what others expect of you.

I wish I hadn’t worked so hard (even said often by people who loved their work). According to Bronnie, “There is no point in success without balance.” Hard workers often felt they missed too much of their children and grandchildren’s lives and quality time with their life companion.

I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. People suppressed their feelings too often just to keep the peace. They regretted holding on to resentment and their unwillingness to deal with, or terminate, unhealthy relationships sooner.

I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. Many people missed their friends and felt lonely when they were dying, but often had no idea how to get in touch with them.

I wish I had let myself be happier. They desired more smiling, laughing and silliness in their lives.

Death has a way of stripping away many of the superficial concerns of life and helping people focus on the truly important. I believe paying attention to these dying people’s regrets will help you joyfully participate in life. Thanks to Bronnie for capturing their wisdom.

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

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