I was recently reading a piece by Bronnie Ware, care worker who works in the area of palliative care.She has worked with countless number of patients who are sadly seeing their last days on earth. Bronnie questioned the patients about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, five common regrets surfaced again and again and I thought I would share them with you this week
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 realise 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 have 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. It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard. This came from every male patient Bonnie nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship.
Women also spoke of this regret. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence. By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result. As a result, they settled for an existence and never became their real self i.e. who they were truly capable of becoming. We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. Many people 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. It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise 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 you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind.
You might think it an odd place to begin changing your life, but consider this: write your own obituary. What is it that you’d like someone to say about you after you are gone?
Operation Transformation advisor Dr Eddie Murphy runs a psychology and counselling practice in Portarlington, Co Laois, helping with panic attacks, anxiety, anger, depression, PTSD, etc, for children, adults and families. Call 087 1302899 or visit www.dreddiemurphy.ie.