The 5 Regrets of the Dying


One thing that always plays on my mind is how to live life to its fullest everyday, and if it’s even possible.

I had honestly once thought that to live a life worthy of admiration was to have life turned up to a constant party. FOMO, or the ‘fear of missing out’ plagued me, and I had to say yes to everything or try everything once – which gave me some wonderful and unforgettable experiences. Unfortunately, this also led me to do some very stupid things too.

As I grew out of my teenage years, I realized that on my deathbed, I wouldn’t regret not having enough late night parties, more friends on Facebook or a bigger wall to hang my trophies and certificates. Most of all, I wouldn’t regret not having 6 figures on my bank statement nor having enough luxuries accumulated. I realized, as someone once said, that “we buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.” And I wanted to be done with it.

Recently, my grandpa fell gravely sick of lung failure. The doctor told us through a letter that he most likely had three days left to live and wouldn’t make it out of the hospital. All of a sudden, my broken and disbanded family drew close around him in support. His sickness became our source of strength. Relatives from 10 minutes down the road and all the way from China came in to see him. Miraculously, 3 months later, he is still going strong. I can’t help but think that maybe love had something to do with it – supernatural and human. And I realized that when my life draws to an end, I, too, wanted my loved ones around me more than I wanted anything else.

I came across this thought-provoking and touching article from The Guardian a while ago, which strangely enough my friend showed me weeks prior. It was the 5 regrets of the dying revealed by a nurse who counsels the dying in their last days, and it changed me:

“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. 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. 

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 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. Health brings a freedom very few realise, 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 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.”

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

After reading this article, I realized it was about being boldly and courageously you. It was about putting your loved ones first. It was about expressing your true self. It was about being loyal to your friends. And it was about choosing your own happiness, whatever it may be. No longer did I feel the need to waste my pursuits on the trivial.

It sounds morbid, but I like to think of death often. I find it’s a healthy way for me to keep my life in perspective and to keep the things that matter right where it belongs –  my priority. My loved ones and the God I am deeply in love with are the beginning and end of my life, and I want to keep it that way. Living life to the fullest and with no regrets – what does that mean to me? It means loving the people in my life with all I am, and being loved by them in return.


Image via Molly Jacques