Regrets of the dying…. your thoughts?

Bronnie Ware, a hospice palliative care nurse from Australia, shares what she has heard her patients say.  According to an article in The Guardian “she recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.”

Ware identifies common themes she heard from patients:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

As you enjoy the summer sun… is there anything in this list that inspires you?  Anything that surprises you? What might your regrets be?  Is it possible to have this type of clarity in a life review if we are not facing death?  Is there a different clarity that comes when death is imminent?

What do you think?

Stay tuned….

Michael Ashby's labyrinth - Australia

Michael Ashby's labyrinth - Australia

This labyrinth was drawn in the sand by Dr Michael Ashby who has developed a passion for labyrinths and their value in meditation and reflection.  For more information on making a labyrinth.

3 thoughts on “Regrets of the dying…. your thoughts?

  1. My experience of working with the dying and bereaved has shown that, for me some clarity in life is possible, with enough prompting. Being confronted with the finite reality of death on a daily basis has allowed me some clarity in what I feel is important and where I want to spend the energy I have each day.

    I believe I have observed that, for some people, there is a new clarity that comes with the knowledge of impending death. The precision and clarity with which some people who are close to death appear to be able to apply to their life’s reflections is astounding. Some of the most evolved, self actualizing individuals I have ever met have been people who were in the last days of life and who, despite limited resources, choose to spend some of their time talking to me. I feel so privileged when this happens and strive to capture the thoughts and words they choose to convey to me.

    I meet many people who, apparently congruently, state that they are at peace and ready to die, with no business they feel is unfinished and no thing left undone. Satisfied people who feel they have done their best and lived a full life. It gives me hope that this is possible and it seems to be optimal.

    • Nicola,
      Thanks so much for sharing your insights. It is a privilege to care for people in their last months, weeks and days of life.
      Today I heard someone on CBC talk about Music as Spiritual Practice. I thought how interesting it would be to explore caregiving, or nursing, or nursing of the dying person as a spiritual practice. I am not sure how all the pieces apply, but it would be interesting to think about and write about.
      I too am aware and try to listen to those who feel or express great peace with their life and with the fact that they are dying. On the other hand, I am also aware of those who struggle to find peace, and learn from those threads.
      It is interesting that people with limited energy take time to talk with us health care professionals when they connect. I wonder if it sometimes it is nice to share with a stranger.
      Have you ever read the article “Tending the Spirit”? I think it is by Salzman-Brown. ANd in there she talks about being a nurse, and how we get to witness things because of our presence 24/7 and because we are involved in practical things like bowels and bladder and skin care,… and anyone who can do those things “must be trustworthy?”
      (And I hear similar stories from Health Care Assistants, Personal Support Workers, who form wonderful bonds and who are the recepticle of thoughts and feelings).
      On a more light note… I remember driving with a taxi in Guadalajara Mexico on a daily basis to go to volunteer at the hospice. I remember thinking “They say that hospice nurses face our mortality on a daily basis working at the bedside, but I have never faced my mortality like I am facing it now!” and i realized each day that I was not sure I would make it home that night!
      Kath

      • I haven’t read tending the spirit, I will look for it. Although I have a lifetime in the care industry in various forms, I am fairly new to hospice.
        I hope the time and energy to think and write about time spent with a dying person as spiritual practice comes to you. I like the definition of loving someone as “extending yourself on another’s behalf” ( M.Scott Peck). I feel loved by these patients, it says a great deal to me. I no longer visit as a nurse, I now introduce myself as a hospice society worker, I bring the promise of volunteers and bereavement support. I think that the attitude we bring of coming alongside the patient, wherever they find themselves, prompts these open communications and perhaps, a little of the nurse persona never leaves one either 😉

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