Top Five Regrets of the Dying

A nurse has recorded the most common regrets of the dying, and among the top ones is ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’. What would your biggest regret be if this was your last day of life?

There was no mention of more sex or bungee jumps. A palliative nurse who has counseled the dying in their last days has revealed the most common regrets we have at the end of our lives. And among the top, from men in particular, is ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’.

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. 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 writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.”

Here are the top five regrets of the dying, 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. 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.”

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.”

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.”

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 themselves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”

What’s your greatest regret so far and what will you set out to achieve or change before you die?

Dying Father has Last First Dance with Daughter

By Gabe Gutierrez for TODAY
July 22, 2013 at 8:42 AM ET

On a sunny Saturday in July, Rachel Wolf was preparing for the day she always dreamed of, complete with wedding gown, makeup, and guests.

But there was one thing missing: a groom.

Instead, the day was about her dad. Rachel’s father, Dr. James Wolf, is dying of pancreatic cancer. He likely has less than three months to live.

So to make sure that he would be there on her wedding day, Rachel, 25, came up with an unusual idea: she would create and record her own father/daughter dance. The venue, Auburn Recreation Park in Auburn, Calif., the limo and the D.J. were all donated.

“I just was flabbergasted,” Dr. Wolf told TODAY in an interview that aired Monday.

“There are a lot of things that I would’ve liked the girls to experience with me being there,” Dr. Wolf said while choking back tears. “And I’m not going to be there.”

Just hours before the big moment, he was in the hospital. Later, he was so exhausted that he could barely get dressed without help from his wife, Jeanine.

“I don’t know what to expect,” she said. “I’m hoping that he’s feeling well enough to be able to get that dance in.”

He was.

A limo pulled up around 7 p.m., and Rachel stepped out in a white dress that sparkled in the evening sun.

Dr. Wolf locked eyes with his little girl. “Hi honey!” he yelled. “You look gorgeous!”

“Thanks Daddy!” she cried.

Their embrace swallowed any sadness, conquered all worries. This bond was not yet ready to be broken.

Especially not before one last dance.

The song they chose was “Cinderella” by Steven Curtis Chapman. The crowd, which included Jeanine, Rachel’s sister Lauren, and a group of Dr. Wolf’s patients, looked on as father and daughter glided across the gazebo.

Though a man in the thralls of chemo probably shouldn’t exert himself, the dancing continued after the song ended: he danced with Lauren, and then with his wife. And just when you thought they were finished, the whole family joined in.

It was a celebration – perhaps not like Rachel ever imagined her wedding day was going to go, but an evening she will never forget.

“Each and every day, we have a choice,” Dr. Wolf said. “We have a choice to either love that person that’s in front of us or not. It’s the relationships that you build over the years that is the most important thing in life.”

“Everything else is just an illusion.”

If I start crying will I be able to stop?

by Russell Friedman for

There are many misconceptions about the pain associated with significant emotional loss. Some relate to the relationship of others, for example: “It’s not fair to burden them with my pain,” or “You have to be strong for others” [mom, dad, kids, etc.]. Some relate to how we think we should be reacting to the loss, for example: “I should be over it by now,” or “I have to keep busy.”

One of the most hidden and dangerous fears is that if I ever let myself feel the pain that I sense, I will start crying and never be able to stop. It is precisely this kind of incorrect assumption that can keep us locked into a position of unresolved grief, forever. And yet, based on what we have been taught in our society, it is a most logical extension of everything we have ever learned.

We were taught from our earliest ages that sad, painful, or negative feelings were to be avoided at all cost. And if we were unable to avoid them, at least, not to show them in public. Everyone we’ve ever talked to can relate to these comments: “If you’re going to cry, go to your room, and cry alone”; “Knock off that crying or I’ll give you a reason to cry”; “Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, weep and you weep alone.”

Those are just a small sampling of the kinds of remarks that have dictated your reactions to the loss events in your life. In one of our articles we said that many of our survival habits were developed when we were quite young, and that we may be managing adult lives with the limited skills and perceptions of a child.

If you picture a tiny infant, unhappy about something, you will realize that the infant communicates displeasure at the top of its little lungs. If you think about it, you will recall that infants also express pleasure at the top of their lungs. They make no distinction between happy and sad, in terms of volume or intensity. As children move out of infancy they are socialized to reduce both the volume and intensity of the expression of their feeling responses to life. This might be somewhat acceptable if both happy and sad were merely muted a little and muted equally. Unfortunately, only the sad side gets severely crimped. The happy, joyful, and positive feelings are allowed to stay, and can even be shared with others. The other half of our normal feeling existence is relegated to isolation, separation, and aloneness.

With all of those beliefs and habits as a backdrop, it is almost entirely logical that we might be terrified to show or express any of the normal and natural painful reactions to losses of any kind. It even makes sense that we might believe that if we started crying we wouldn’t be able to stop. So, if you have been a little hard on yourself for what you could not do, give yourself a break. You may have been executing your programming perfectly.

It may sound a little harsh and inhuman to say that you were programmed, but if you follow the analogy, you might find it helpful in allowing you to change. At the very least, if you can see how well you executed the incorrect things you learned, you will see that you can also execute correct things with great precision.

We have yet to see anyone not be able to stop crying. However, we have seen too many people avoid using The Grief Recovery Method because of an inordinate fear of any expression of their sad, painful, or negative feelings.

Nelson Mandela is Dying: Three Lessons for You and Your Family

written by Dr. Monica Williams-Murphy for

By typical end-of-life definitions, Nelson Mandela is dying (he is in critical condition after a lengthy hospital stay, and has had multiple recent admissions). Those of us in the healthcare professions see this end-of-life equation all of the time: increasing severity of illness and frequency of hospitalizations plus advanced age almost always equals dying. Now, everyone likes to believe this equation may be altered by hopes, prayers, and modern medicine. But unfortunately, such yearnings usually fail to change the equation, no matter how powerful our offerings or how advanced our medicine.
President Mandela is a case in point. A case followed closely by the world, but also foreshadowing what may happen with each of us at the end of our own lives. We can all learn the following three lessons from his end-of-life experience.

Lesson One: Recognize the End-of-Life Equation
On June 9, 2013, South Africa’s best-selling weekly newspaper, The Sunday Times, reported that Mandela’s long-time friend Andrew Mlangeni publicly stated: “You (Mandela) have been coming to the hospital too many times. Quite clearly you are not well and there is a possibility you might not be well again.” Mandela’s long-time comrade recognized and verbalized the end-of-life equation whether the rest of the world wants to hear it or not. I applaud him. Oftentimes, the only one who is willing to acknowledge what is really happening is the one who is approaching death himself. The rest of us: friends, family and even doctors, often choose to remain in a state of denial believing that more can be done to change the equation.

Lesson Two: Understand Decision Motivations
Lots of people want to keep Nelson Mandela alive at all costs, even if it inadvertently causes unnecessary suffering for him. You may read this and ask, “Are these people selfish?” I would say, generally, they are not…we are not. We all love him and recognize his iconic peace-promoting power in South Africa and abroad. However, our perspectives are underpinned by “our” desires for him rather than perhaps asking what he would desire for himself. Virtually the whole world is praying for his return to health. In contrast, Mr. Mlangeni, was also quoted in The Sunday Times article urging Mandela’s family to “release him” and “let him go.” This position is the most selfless and loving, but can also be the hardest to realize. Again, should we become involved in making end-of-life decisions for another, we must ask ourselves about the motivations for our choices. We should select care not based on what we desire or fear about our loved one, but should with great reflection select treatments which the dying would choose for themselves.

Lesson Three: Give Permission to Die
In South African culture, it is customary for the family to give final permission to die, to emotionally and spiritually release the one who is approaching death. At some point Nelson Mandela will receive the words, “We release you, Father.” I have given this same permission to my very own dying grandmother, and I have frequently stood at the patient bedside as families gave permission to their own. Rarely, in living, do we create occasions to bid such sweet offerings to those we love, but surely in the face of dying, we should utter the words, “Thank You,” “I Love You,” and “Good-bye…I release you.”

So, Nelson Mandela is dying (either shortly or in the not so distant future), yet he remains iconic, not only for South Africans, but for the rest of us as well. Take these three lessons from the end of his life and apply them to yourself and your own family. Then take his words and apply them to your life: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made in the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” (“The Top 10 Nelson Mandela Quotes,” The South African)

(Of note, I submitted this to multiple Op Ed Venues and no one was interested in publishing it. I take that to mean either A) the article has no merit B) even media thought leaders are not comfortable publicly discussing death- reflective of our prevailing death-phobic paradigm, or C) people thought it was in poor taste to predict the death of our dear Mandela, or D) All of the above. Regardless, here it is for your review)