Bronnie Ware was a palliative care specialist for many years. For those who don’t know these are the amazing people who specialize in treating and maintaining individuals with severe diagnoses. Many of their patients pass away in their care. As Ms. Ware would see them for up to 12 weeks before they passed, moments were bound to be shared. Ms. Ware shared the most oft spoken regrets. Ms. Ware summarizes the sum of experience with,
“People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.”
I’ve taken some highlights from Ware’s website and followed with my understandings of the information shared.
‘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 frequently and readily realized regret. People faced with death are well known for seeing through the densest bull. Many realized how many dreams they differed and left in the sun. Ware noted that, ‘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.’
Don’t disrespect yourself or intentionally deprive yourself of the love you deserve. If you are the kind of person to let fear hold you back, you are the kind of person who will have a hard time forgiving yourself for the choices you’ve made.
‘I Wish I Didn’t Work 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.”
Simply put there is more to life than money. Streamline your life to include people and events that matter to you. Are you going to remember and be proud of your toaster or the summer eves you spent with your friends and family? Jobs always bind me down by inflating my sense of pride. Look how many tables you can wait on! Look at all the dirt you shovel! Again is this something you’ll remember fondly? We need money to play society’s twisted game of resources, but keep it a game and don’t let it rule you.
‘I Wish I Had The Courage To Express My Feelings’
Ware points out,
“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 all try and compromise with the people around us. There is a difference between compromise and surrender. One’s happiness DOES NOT have to come at the cost of another’s joy. Any person I would want to share my life with would never even ask this of me. If I knew that my friends were paying a personal cost for me to be happy that would upset me greatly. So I communicate honestly with the people in my life so we can maximize happiness and personal growth. Stop paying for what should be free!
‘I Wish I Had Stayed In Touch With My Friends’
Ware’s summary of her patients feelings brought a tear to my eye,
“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.”
This understanding saddened me the most of all five. For people to die thinking that no one thinks of them or remembers them makes me feel cold inside. Treat your friends well is the moral of this story. Don’t EVER hesitate to tell someone you love them. They will appreciate this more than they may ever say.
How hard is it to keep in touch with friends in this day in age. Even if it’s a little blurb or hello, send it. That message carries powerful intentions that will stay with the recipient.
‘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,” Ware commented. “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.”
This fills me with potential. I view happiness as the goal that as long as your trying, you can’t loose. There is no ‘ultimate’ happiness to chase after, only the feeling we can share with those we love. We get caught up in the idea of the ‘perfect world’. When those impossible parameters can not be met we settle for something that is a far cry from what we deserve. Keep trying. Keep fighting. Most importantly keep loving.