A year ago the Observer Newspaper printed an article by Bonnie Ware listing what she had learnt working with terminally ill people during the last few months of their lives.
The five most common regrets were:
- I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I didn’t work so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, they see unfulfilled dreams and a number of poor choices. Many have missed their children growing up, lost partners or missed family because they spent so much time at work.
A few reported holding onto feelings in order to keep peace with others, settling for a smaller life and existence, instead of speaking honestly and only having those people in their lives that supported and appreciated them.
Many had not realised 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 friendships slip by over the years.
The last regret was a surprisingly common one, with Ware reporting that many people did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice – they had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits.
I can honestly say that all of these struck a chord – to a greater or lesser extent – with different points of my life. The trick for me now is to make sure they don’t turn into something I look back on and regret when my time inevitably comes.