Do you ever wonder if you will have regrets about the way you lived your life when you approach death? It may not be the most pleasant topic to think about, but many people have the lingering doubt in the back of their mind that they could be doing something differently, no matter how happy they are.
Few people are in a better position to express the regrets of the dying than hospice and palliative care workers. These individuals spend time with patients who are reaching the end of their lives, and they often hear a lot of common themes.
One former palliative caregiver, Bronnie Ware, wrote an entire book on how her life was transformed by the regrets of the dying patients that she cared for. Here is a look at four of the biggest recurring regrets she heard and how you can avoid them.
Many Dying People Wish They Had Let Themselves Be Happier
Many people fail to realize that happiness is a choice until their final days draw close. They remain fixed in their familiar patterns and habits through most of their lives, stunted by a fear of change that stops them from truly letting themselves be happy. According to Ware, a lot of patients report that they had not honored many of their dreams and had to accept that it was due to choices they had made or not made during their lifetime.
It is important to realize that life is a choice, and you can choose to live it honestly and happily. Try to let go of others’ expectations and let yourself enjoy silly moments and do the things that truly bring you joy. When you lose your health, it is often too late to honor your dreams, so enjoy the freedom afforded to you by your health while you still have it.
They Wish They Hadn’t Worked So Hard
No one on their deathbed says they wish they had put more hours in at work. So many people spend the bulk of their adult life working, and when they look back, they see that they missed out on a lot of important experiences, times and relationships. Ware said that every male patient she nursed regretted letting work make them miss important moments in their children’s youth as well as their partner’s companionship.
You can avoid this by setting a boundary between work and free time. Ignoring this will cause your personal and professional lives to blur together, and the result is unhappiness and missed opportunities for joy.
Set aside dedicated time to spend with family, and establish work-free and device-free time that you can spend truly engaged with your loved ones. Look for places where you can simplify your lifestyle. Perhaps it is possible to live on less money and work less so you can spend more time with your loved ones.
They Wish They Had Kept In Touch With Friends
Throughout our lifetime, constant changes to our circumstances often cause us to lose touch with friends. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you’ll call your friend tomorrow, or the next day, until you gradually speak less and less before losing touch completely. It is not unusual for people to wonder what happened to those who were important to them throughout their life as the end draws near.
According to Ware, dying patients sometimes wanted to reach out to old friends in their dying weeks but it was not always possible to track these individuals down. Many patients expressed deep regrets about not putting time and effort into their friendships over the years.
Love and relationships are really all that a person has as their life draws to a close, so nurture the relationships in your life that you treasure now. Reach out to those who you have lost touch with over the years, and make a point of regularly contacting friends.
It is even better if you can manage to do this in person or with a phone call rather than the more impersonal approach of sending text messages or liking posts on their social media accounts. Even if you do not have a lot of time for long conversations, reaching out for a few minutes every now and then can keep the friendship going for a lifetime.
They Wish They Had Expressed Their Feelings
Many dying patients say that they suppressed their feelings about certain matters throughout their life to keep the peace with other people. In fact, some people ended up developing illnesses as a result of the resentment and bitterness they were carrying with them.
You can avoid this by speaking honestly with others, even if they do not like what you have to say. It helps to be diplomatic when sharing an unpopular opinion, but if you speak honestly with others, you may be surprised by how much it improves your relationship with them. If it does not, it may release an unhealthy relationship from your life, which is also beneficial in the long run.
Reach Out To Harbor Light Hospice
The end of a person’s life is often a time filled with reflection. Many patients gain a sense of peace from talking about their regrets with others. If you have a loved one with a terminal illness, reach out to Harbor Light Hospice to find out how their services can help.
Their volunteers can lend a sympathetic ear to patients and give them the opportunity to express regrets without judgment, while their emotional support services and chaplains can help them find acceptance on a spiritual level.