herald

Monday 18 December 2017

we can all learn from these sad death-bed regrets

take heed, writes anna coogan, before it's too late

It's too late to do much about regrets when you're dying, yet what if you had a chance to change things for the better while you're still healthy?

People's biggest regrets before dying have been recorded by an Australian writer who, as a former nurse, worked with people in the final stages of terminal illness.

Bronnie Ware began recording patients' dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, and has now put her observations down in a new book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

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, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it."

I wish I hadn't worked 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."

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. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."

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."

I wish that I had let myself be happier

"Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. 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."

The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, by Bronnie Ware, is published by Balboa Press, price €25.10

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