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Nurse reveals the top 5 regrets people make on their deathbed

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For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.

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.

dying-old

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

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 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. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.

2. 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.

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 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. 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 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 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.

Article republished

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  • Alphonsus_Jr

    How sadly superficial and egotistical. To move beyond this shallow horizontalism, read this: Preparation for Death, by St. Alphonsus Liguori. Start preparing now.

    • john c

      We are all judged by our actions/behaviour, irrespective of your religion or lack thereof.

    • Dawn Wave

      Once again, STFU you POS mexican!

      • Creppy Kracker

        Judging from your posts, looks like you need to stick to Twitter.

  • Alphonsus_Jr

    Note the rank horizontalism and egotism. “I regret not giving God His due worship.” Where’s that regret? Also, I remain baffled about what “being true to yourself” means. Does it mean that one possessed of pedophiliac impulses should indulge them rather than resist? That one twisted by the sodomite perversion should go for it? That one who always wished to be an artist, yet had no artistic talent, should nevertheless have pursued artistry?

    • Chris Spalanca

      “I regret not giving God His due worship.”
      This isnt on the list because eventually in life people give up on stupidity and realize that there isnt a magical fairy tale land they will be transported to upon death. You have one life, life it to the fullest, don’t get blinded by religious brainwashing.

      • SammyD

        I trust you will have the same sentiments and have no regrets when it’s your time to face the end.

        • Chris Spalanca

          Death is inevitable, one day I will die, yet that’s the beauty of life, we only have one chance to give it our all and live it to the fullest.

      • Chris Romanator

        Hey @chrisspalanca:disqus , I am wondering how one can be so certain, that God is magical fairy tale? I am not religious, dont go to church,
        I know this, You cannot prove God exists and You cannot prove that he does not…Just wonder how You know he does not?? you might ask yourself this: where does the need to belittle those who believe come from? Whats does that do for you?

        • Matt

          In his defense Alphonsus popped up shoving God down everyone’s throat in the first place even though is supposed to be a happy light spirited post, NOT religious. There was no 2 sided argument to his post either, just God exists, that’s it.

          So my question to you you @chrisromanator:disqus is why do you think it’s acceptable for someone to adamantly believe and be pushy on others and call it faith, but someone who adamantly doesn’t is trying to belittle other people?

          in my opinion both of you need to butt out of each others lives and leave the other to get on with doing whatever it is they want to do, you’re both as bad as each other.

          • Chris Romanator

            Ha-ha!!, Matt your spelling is as low level as your grammar and reading comprehension,,,,I never mentioned it to be acceptable, I was asking a few questions,,, and yes I am bad…

          • Tim Raider

            I don’t see any spelling or grammatical errors in Matt’s post. Yours, on the other hand, has multiple commas instead of periods. I believe that if you’re going to insult someone, please do it correctly, or go to school first before taking a stab at their English skills.

          • Chris Spalanca

            That was funny :3

          • 000spencer

            Judge not, asswipe

          • Mario

            In his defense Chris Romanator was just pointing out the inherent human flaws in Chris Spalanca’s life. Before he was born, there was no injustice and everything was harmony.

            In my opinion, you shouldn’t do the exact thing you tell other people not to do you hypocritical troll.

        • Chris Spalanca

          I revised my answer, as I reacted in anger, I put more logic ito it now.

      • Creppy Kracker

        Don’t ridicule what you don’t want to understand.

        • Chris Spalanca

          Oh I understand it completely, It’s upsetting that you don’t.

      • ninja

        How amazing ! So we shall say to such a man like Hitler RIP he died and there is no one gonna judge him due to his murders of humanity according to your say… I’m gonna kill and hate and doing all the sins and me is so sure no on will ask me after death thanx for inspiration!

        • Chris Spalanca

          Unfortunately people like Hitler were mentally Ill and needed to be stabilized not put into a position of power, yet just like religion does, he preyed on the weakness of people and made them believe that he was a God like figure who would lead his nation to conquering the world. Its the God complex that ruins mankind, we should be working as a species to further our own race, yet were brought down by this religious nonsense.

        • http://stores.ebay.com/goobian1 Jodi DeVore

          I am an Atheist, and I have done as many murders as I have wanted to do. Which is zero. You do not need to be a Christian to be a person with morals. That is just what they tell you when you are a naive child. So you can grow up and have it wired in your brain that what you are doing with your life is good and everybody like you will get theirs. Which is total BS.

          BTW Hitler said many many times he was religious and believed in God. He was either Christian or Catholic.

      • LKW

        Boy will you ever be sorry on judgement day! I pray your heart softens before that day Chris Spalanca.

        • Chris Spalanca

          Judgement day? Oh lord please….your going to give me a brain aneurism, I’m enjoying my life and I’m one of the nicest people around but I just simply don’t give in to religious nonsense, When i was younger i worked with the Church i was raised Christian, i saw the corruption i saw the “worship” which is directly related to cult activities. It was sickening to me that so many people are blinded by false hope in something thats not there when they can be doing something productive with their lives to further the human race as a species instead of chanting and worshiping an idol.

      • TolaithPsalm22

        “The fool has said in his heart there is no God” (Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1). Read Romans 1:17-32 also. The bible is clear there is a heaven and a hell, and that the only way to heaven is through faith in Jesus Christ. When we come/seek with humble hearts he will reveal Himself to us. Eat, drink and be merry; live for today for tomorrow we die is basically the message of the Satanic bible.

        • Chris Spalanca

          That’s cute, again I don’t need to really say this since it’s quite obvious, the bible was written by man kind to control the masses, You just proved my point.

          • TolaithPsalm22

            Yes, penned by man but under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” 2 Tim 3:16). Brainwashing? No, that would be conforming to the ways of this world rather than being transformed by God’s Word. He has created us with our own free will, we can chose Him or reject Him. The consequences of our rejection is eternal… He loves you and sent His Son to die for your sins so you won’t have to. It’s a free gift, there is nothing you can do to earn it, but you must receive it. Cult simply means their teaching differs from what the bible actually teaches, and there are a lot of false teachers and false doctrines out there. That’s why it’s important to be grounded in the truth, so you know a lie when you hear it.

          • Chris Spalanca

            You think that is suitable proof that man written texts are Divine? *sigh* Society has fallen so low. And Brainwashing yes, because look how intensely you believe you are correct about a book being religious scripture. I’m not denying Jesus didn’t exist, the stories have to come from some where just like generations tell other myths and legends stories are passed down and exaggerated upon its common human behavior. And we were born through the beauty of evolution and nature, as a species we came into being through generations of life and death which made us to whom we are today, and even to this date we as a species are evolving some being held back by religious beliefs and phenomena but eventually in due time, religion will die out because we as a species will simply have no use for it, as it is just a method of control.

          • TolaithPsalm22

            Wow, now THAT’S way out there:) You mentioned you view religion as a method of control. It’s not about control,
            it’s a choice. God doesn’t force us. I choose to follow Him out of gratitude for what he has done for me. Also, it’s not about religion, it’s about a relationship with Jesus.

          • JR

            As a believer, with a personal relationship with our Lord, I might remind you that when Paul wrote those words to Timothy, there was no “Bible”. It might be fruitful to learn a little bit about who assembled the collection of writings and who originally selected the council members. If you learn this, you may be a little slower to refer to the Bible as an “infallible standard”. People do not need an instruction guide to discern the difference between a truth and a lie… “it is written in our hearts”… a far better guide.

          • john_willow

            Why should God’s son die for anyone’s sins? The whole concept is ridiculous.

        • JR

          Respectfully, “Eat, drink and be merry…” is a direct quote from the Book of Ecclesiastes. And it was not a quote about “sinners” or “children of the devil”, It was the opinion of the author (Solomon) at the time the Book was written.

          On another note… there are three words translated as hell in the New Testament: Hades (Abraham’s’ bosom – only used once in a parable), Tartarus (the prison for Satan and his legion, and Gehenna (the name of the refuse dump outside Jerusalem “where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched”). There was no belief in an eternal place of torment before Jesus spoke (Old Testament), and his teachings do not teach of any such place in the original languages. The early church placed emphasis on receiving eternal life in the spirit, not through fear and intimidation… That is what religion does and Jesus despised religious attitudes.

        • john_willow

          Anyone who would want to spend eternity with the whiny, cranky, self-absorbed, petulant old man that is the Christian god is out of their mind. “God” should be shoved off a cliff. Jesus as we know him today is just the creation of Saul of Tarsus, aka St. Paul, the first propagandist for Christianity. I went to Catholic schools for nine years. This is the best immunization I can think of against Christian myth-making.

      • http://atata.deviantart.com Atatabear

        by the responses you’ve gotten, and how you responded, it seems obvious that this is an argument based on 2 completely different sides… both being completely oblivious… making it almost completely argumentative. To have an opinion like this on religion and to be completely hypocritical is just as bias… why can’t we just get along… this of course after me stating an accusation. You’d say that religion is such a crime on society, yet here you are shoving criticisms of how people live their life down their throat. The point of this post was to live life to what makes you happy. People can practice living a safe life thinking the world is made out of applejuice and paper bags, whatever, why the hell do you care so much about how other people live their lives? What’s your next target? Buddhism?

      • Javid Ahmad Dar

        The most important question for a human being is how he thinks, understands, believes and prepares himself / herself for Life after Death. As per the islamic teachings the angels appear before a human being and give him / her the glad tidings of Paradise or bad news of the hell fire.

    • Dawn Wave

      Shut up mexican POS!

    • Creppy Kracker

      Liberal Psycho babble. For those who have never known God, I imagine the death bed is a scary place. Now if this woman were a Christian, she would have comforted these people and gently led them to Christ in their last days. That would be a life Truly lived.

    • RJ

      What I do note Jr. is a judgmental attitude that so often flows from the mouths and fingers of the Evangelical Christian fundamentalist. To believe in the inerrancy of scripture is to believe that all other religions are ‘wrong’. Therefore, if there’s any ego involved in this article, its yours for feeling ‘superior’ (you know you do) for criticizing, in this case, opinions held by those who are on their death bed. Your comments are accusatory in tone and suppositional in nature. For all you know, every one of these dying patients felt that they gave God His due worship and felt no need to mention it. Unlike the ‘vertical’ relationship you appear to embrace, to criticize those with a desire to cultivate horizontal relationships, is to criticize Christ’s command that we love one another. I love you man, but keep your religious beliefs to yourself. Please!

    • http://atata.deviantart.com Atatabear

      if someone is strongly urged to do something illegal, I say do it! then pay for the consequences. I wouldnt promote killing or pedophiliac actions really, but this twisted world will always have its bumps. If someone can help someone find an alternative passion, then kudos! But if something makes you the happiest person ever and you’ve been through the training of becoming a responsible adult, then do it.

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  • rbestlab

    Did anyone else feel the author was being insensitive by asking the dying to dwell on their omissions and regrets rather than their accomplishments and happiness

    • Definition Beauty

      In this position you tend to discuss both the regrets and achievements, people often want to talk things over, this article just concentrates on one particular aspect

      • JR

        Respectfully, I am in that position, and my past “achievements” have provided no solace… nor, have I or others I know in the same situation gathered comfort from “talking things over”. Primarily, because no matter how compassionate the other party is, it is easy to discern that they can not relate.

    • Rodney Atkins

      My guess would be that the author didn’t ask any questions. People just talk.

  • Jextified

    It’s interesting to see what “really” matters to people in this position. It’s not wealth, achievement, or even religion. It’s the companionship and love of the people around them, their friends and family. The lucky ones figure this out sooner than later.

    • http://atata.deviantart.com Atatabear

      it’s really hard to say considering you learn this when you’re young and then forget as you get older

    • disqus_8oBVer75Lt

      “love of the people around them” if you lived in an HOA; homeowners association you would know there is no love around you it’s all neighbors that are full of hate because they are taught to hate their neighbors by the horrible lying corrupt board members. Sadly, dying is the way most people get out of these hellholes. To understand how much hate there is in HOAs everybody should read this website http://www.neighborsatwar dot com

  • Just Jacking Off In My AVI

    Fo sheezy, im free of all of these except #2. Good knowledge to know.

  • Ann Meserve

    Fill your heart with love for all. You will be happy.

    • Wendy

      There are a few non-believers on the page. I believe in Jesus Christ, I believe in what the bible teaches. Your excuses are you don’t believe in Jesus Christ because people cram it down your throat. People cram atheism down our throat. It appears that being an atheist is much easier to live by because it is just plain easy, much more fun, and do not have to make an eternal commitment. I am really sorry that some of you feel this way. There will be know cramming from me just the truth. Just look around you there are miracles and blessings everyday as well as the bad stuff. We are sinners and are choices define who we are. They either make you stronger and move on or give up. I for one choose Christ and eternal life vs Hell and eternal death. Christ says “come as you are”. It is your choice!

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  • Rudy Haugeneder

    Despite many qualms like most people have, I am satisfied with the past and present because I refused become a generally greedy mainstream person — big time consumer of mostly useless stuff — and did as little as possible to contribute to the planet’s environmental destruction and towards now understood rapid Climate Change that looks to doom the near future for children and young people who are likely to face a hungry, angry and horrendous world. I am satisfied and will take that to the grave.

    • cecilia

      I agree…I’ve tried to ADD to this world, not take things away (ie pollute).

  • Denbo

    My biggest regret I will have is I spent too much time on the Internet reading the comments section.

    • lbrig

      lol Love this. And this is why I read the comments…

    • Leyla

      Haha….I concur….feel like I wasted 2 minutes of my life just now….the article was good however as a nurse I was shocked to not see it mentioned how many regrets i have known people to have about wasting years being angry at friends/family that they arent even sure what they were originally angry about?!

    • ruds

      Hahahahaahh…..same here

  • Swati Kain

    Why is sacrifice so underrated…one can never regret doing something for the welfare of the human society…realize your duty, happiness will follow!

  • Millard Fillmore

    Keep the religious fanatics away from me when the time comes, that’s all I ask. Cases in point: The two who made comments here.

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  • steven allen

    Should watch the movie ” About Time”. Really made me think.

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  • Akin Lang

    ” No man can have sex with all the women in his lifetime. But one should certainly try. ” i know i will regret not following that saying.

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  • JR

    It doesn’t sound like any of you have stage 4 liver failure and all the little goodies that come with it, including facing an eminent end. I used to joke about these things too… I spent my life striving for wealth to the expense of my relationships… I believe the nurse was sharing very honest observations, based on my own personal experience. Love your fellow persons, be honest with yourself and others, and don’t allow the opinions of others to mold yours. To my Christian brothers and sisters, try to remember that Jesus simplified everything down to: Love God and love others… Love is far more persuasive than talk. Much love to all of you on your journey.

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  • elephantadvocate

    Notice, in the reportage by the nurse, not one person mentioned god or Jesus or anything to do with religion yet some of you pounced on atheism. How about being a bit more broad minded?N

  • Melissa S.

    Great article! I agree with everything you said. Keep up the great work.

  • Alida Betts

    Having just spent weeks with someone who was dying, and she being in her mid seventies…I am REMINDED to NOT let ‘life go by” without DOING< THINKING< EXPERIENCING, GROWING… I just don't want to "BE" and subsist. IF we are not growing, learning, changing, then we are just dying with no growth or change along the way. I can't stand standing still and letting life whirl by. I want to LEARN from what I watched her experience. SAving, Scrimping, doing without for NO reason, is not enjoying what the Lord put here for us to enjoy. LiVe NOW. Die later.

  • disqus_8oBVer75Lt

    My biggest regret is buying in an homeowners association. It has destroyed my life. I hope before I die I save at least one million people from making this same mistake. The best way I know to do that is to guide people to read ‘Neighbors At War’ by Ward Lucas. And read his website http://www.neighborsatwar.com I cannot tell you how priceless this information is and why buying in an HOA or condo association can totally destroy your health, wealth, and happiness.

    I can never get these years or my health back after making this horrible mistake. It’s so devastating and heartbreaking. And I know I’m not the only one…there are tens of thousands more. We just can’t get the media or the legislators to listen….they believe the propaganda of the CAI. So horribly sad!

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  • Raz

    I wish I had not called my wife a B ….

  • Cathy Toms

    My parents were from the Depression years. Hard work was their motto to care for their family. It saddens me that taking time for themselves to enjoy the fruits of their labor was not in their being. Perhaps if they did, my siblings and I would have pulled harder on our own bootstraps. We encouraged, and occasionally they did let the wind rush through their hair–but also hoped to see more smiles on their faces. Families are important, but loving oneself is number one in a full life.

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  • Barbara LeBey

    I’m one of the lucky ones because I figured this out a long time ago. I hope my loved ones will come to this realization soon.

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  • beniyyar

    Oddly enough, I am unable to relate to any of the points which were given to the nurse by the dying people she interviewed, and I am dying as I write this from Stage IV malignant and metastatic prostate cancer. I almost think that perhaps the responses the nurse got were more a reflection of her own issues than those that concerned the dying.
    I have only a limited time left, and I am very weak. But I am using that time to let my wife and children know how deeply I love them, that I am sorry for the mistakes I made towards them and wrongs I am responsible for, and how happy my sweet and loving wife has made me and how proud and happy I am about about our children and their successes. I make it a point to thank my friends for being my friends and for their supporting and helping me and my wife during this and other difficult times.
    I feel that God has blessed me with a truly great wife and family and I am thankful to Him for the chance to show my wife, son’s, and our friends how much I love and care about them, and how I so very much appreciate all they have been and done for me. I would strongly recommend that as much as is possible, everyone who can should go to their loved ones and let them know in words and deeds how much you love them and care about them, especially to treat them with love, respect, kindness, and understanding, and to thank your friends for being your friends and for all they have done for you. I strongly urge you not to wait until you are sick and dying to realize that the only things that are genuinely important are your loving wife or husband, your children who love you and need you, and your friends who have been by your side. I can assure you, nothing else really matters at all.

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