The Top 5 Regrets of The Dying


In the blink of an eye, March has arrived. Autumn is at our door and a new week is unfolding. So, now is the perfect time to ask yourself, ‘Is there anything you’d do differently?’

This very question is the subject The Top 5 Regrets Of The Dying, a book penned by Bronnie Ware, an Australian palliative care nurse, who spent eight years caring for people in the last 12 weeks of their life. During this time, she recored her real life experiences and observations on a blog, and later published this book.

In The Top 5 Regrets Of The Dying, Ware shares the clarity people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom, strength and vulnerability. “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.”


The Top 5 Regrets Of The Dying

Here are the top five regrets in Ware’s own words:


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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


What will you do differently from today?


Photography by Oliver Berghold
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