The Top Five Regrets of the Dying


No, it wasn’t about not losing their virginity, or not trying weed. It wasn’t about not voting, or not doing their bit for the environment. It was also not about wasting [or not wasting] a lifetime on PornHub, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, or not watching enough movies on Netflix.

Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who worked in palliative care for eight years, has written a memoir revealing the most common regrets human beings have in the last 12 weeks of their lives. In her book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly, she recalls those dying epiphanies, the significance of those regrets, and explains why we must live while we are still alive.

“When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again,” she says.

Here are the top five regrets of the dying, along with excerpts from the book, as witnessed by Ware:

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.

“It is very important to try and honor at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. 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 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.

“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. 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.

“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.

“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.

“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. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. 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 is 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 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.

“When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying. Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.”

This article (The Top Five Regrets of the Dying) is a free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and

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  1. I agree we spend way too much life working for ‘what’? Even when my daughter was not even 20 she could see this that we mostly spend so much time working for someone else dream or rich. I personally can see how we do the work we do for a time as an ends to a means but for 50 – 60 years is questionable.

    • I’ve asked the same question to a family member of mine, he said it is because we are living in a society that requires you to have money to survive. It’s a ridiculous idea when you think about it, but that’s the reality we have created for our generation. There’s nothing wrong with trade economy, but people have become greedier, and so are the rules of living.
      If you want to ‘live’ in ‘this world’, you have to go to work.


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