Top 21 Deathbed Regrets & Life Lessons From the Dying

deathbed regrets

Bronnie Ware was a nurse who accidentally became famous for compiling a list of the most common deathbed regrets. This success was only partially accidental as she worked in palliative care, providing relief and support to individuals facing serious illnesses and the perspective of imminent death.

However, unlike many of her colleagues, she spent a lot of time speaking to her patients, asking them about their lives, what they enjoyed, and what they regretted the most. She noted their stories, as people were happy to share their life lessons and deathbed regrets with someone who genuinely cared.

And although she had many different conversations, some ideas just seemed to keep coming up again and again, indicating a common theme in people’s life stories. With illness, old age, and the perspective of death, people seem to gain clarity and express what they truly appreciated about their lives and what was merely a distraction.

In this way, Bronnie Ware collected her patients’ stories to create one story of the top 21 deathbed regrets. The purpose of this new story was to share the greatest life lessons from these who came before us with those of us who are still alive and trying to figure things out.

And while losing someone is always heartbreaking, we can use their deathbed regrets as life lessons to live more fulfilling, happy, and meaningful lives. By learning from the successes and mistakes of those who came before us, we can make the most of our own lives.

So without any further delay, here are the top 21 deathbed regrets learned by Bronnie Ware.

#1: Not spending enough time with loved ones

Deathbed regret #1: Not spending enough time with family and friends

By far, the number one most common deathbed regret is not spending enough time with one’s family, friends, and the other people we love. According to the stories compiled by Bronnie Ware, people realize that our relationships are very important for personal growth and happiness. However, somehow people still focus on other superficial things such as work, watching TV, playing computer games, or buying things we don’t need in order to impress people we don’t care about.

Instead, Ware concluded that the best medicine for happiness is being surrounded by the people we love, and who love us in return. This allows us to create and share many memorable moments of happiness. Other people make us happy, and their happiness is contagious. So, if the people we love are happy, it in turn makes us happy. And in the end, as far as deathbed regrets are concerned, this seems to be the most important aspect of life.

#2: Not allowing oneself to feel happy

Deathbed regret #2: Being happier

As a happiness coach, I often say that our modern society isn’t designed to make us happy. Sure, it promises us happiness, but it also creates a lot of rules as to when we are allowed to feel happy and when we aren’t. As such, many people get lost in the everyday messiness called life, believing that somehow someday everything will be perfect and they will finally be happy once and for all.

However, as Buddha said, happiness is journey, not a destination. This means that even if everything isn’t perfect right now, we only live once, so we might as well enjoy what we have.

In other words, from the perspective of deathbed regrets, it seems so clear that happiness is a choice and we can (and should!) make say “yes” to happiness as soon as possible. Life will eventually pass, and in the end, the only two questions that will remain are: Was I happy? snd Why didn’t I allow myself to be happier?

#3: Not pursuing one’s dreams

Deathbed regret #3: Not pursuing one’s dreams

Too often, we allow our dreams to remain just that – dreams. We tell ourselves that we don’t have the time, money, or resources to pursue them, shying away from taking the first step. However, life is short, and it is important to take risks and challenge ourselves. We should strive to make our dreams a reality, even if it means making changes to our lifestyle or taking a leap of faith.

Ultimately, when we look back on our lives, we will see that the biggest risk was not dreaming big enough and not taking the opportunity to make these dreams come true. After all, it’s better to try and fail rather than have deathbed regrets thinking “What if” I had done this or that? and “What if” I had been more brave?

#4: Not living a life true to oneself

 Deathbed regret #4: Not living a life true to oneself

Many individuals choose to disregard their own needs and desires in order to please others and conform to societal norms. Consequently, they may find themselves in unfulfilling jobs and unhappy relationships. Reflecting on their lives, they may experience a deathbed regret for not having been more true to themselves and living an authentic life.

#5: Not taking more risks

Deathbed regret #5: Not taking more risks

Fear of the unknown can often lead people to take the safe and predictable route, rather than taking risks and trying something new. As they get older, they may realize that they missed out on some great opportunities because of their fear. Taking risks can be intimidating, but it is also necessary for personal growth and can lead to amazing rewards.

#6: Not spending enough time in nature

Deathbed regret #6: Not spending enough time in nature

As people lie on their deathbed, they often regret not taking the time to appreciate the natural world more and get out into nature more often. Nature provides us with a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and it can be a rejuvenating experience. Whether it’s a walk in a park, a hike in the woods, or a day at the beach, spending time in nature can help reduce stress, improve mental health, and bring us closer to the wonders of the world around us.

#7: Not staying in touch with old friends

Deathbed regret #7: Not staying in touch with old friends

As people get older, they sometimes lose touch with the friends they made in childhood or during their teenage years. They may move away or have different interests and life experiences that lead to a drift in friendship. But, looking back, many often regret not making a greater effort to stay connected and maintain their friendship. It is important to keep in touch and remember that many of the wonderful memories we have were made with these special people.

#8: Not learning another language

Deathbed regret #8: Not learning another language

Many people may have always wanted to learn a new language but never took the time to do it. As they get older, they realize that learning a new language can open up many new opportunities and experiences. They may have missed out on valuable experiences because they couldn’t communicate in another language.

#9: Not being more grateful

Deathbed regret #9: Not being more grateful

People often take their loved ones, health, and possessions for granted. But as they approach death, they realize how precious these things are. They wish they had taken the time to appreciate them more while they had the chance.

#10: Working too much

 Deathbed regret #10: Working too much

Many people look back and regret the amount of time they spent working instead of spending it with their loved ones. They were so focused on their careers that they neglected their relationships, and now they wish they had made more time for their family and friends. This can be a difficult lesson to learn, but it’s important to prioritize the people in your life that matter most. Spending quality time with them is invaluable and will bring much joy and lasting memories.

#11: Not traveling more

Deathbed regret #11: Not traveling more

Many people feel like they have missed out on precious moments due to not travelling enough. They may have always wanted to explore different parts of the world but never got around to it. When they reach the end of their life, they often regret that they didn’t take the opportunity to travel more while they had the opportunity.

#12: Not making better choices

Deathbed regret #12: Making better choices

We all make decisions every day, some of which are minor while others are more significant. Sometimes, looking back on those decisions, we wish we had made different ones. When it comes to major life choices, it is vital to take the time to think things through. Listen to your inner voice, do your due diligence, and don’t hesitate to seek out advice from people you trust and respect.

#13: Worrying too much overall

Deathbed regret #13: Worrying less

We all worry about things from time to time, but when it starts to interfere with our daily lives, it can be a real problem. When we worry too much, it can lead to an excessive amount of stress, anxiety, and even depression. To help reduce the stress, try to take a step back and assess the situation. Ask yourself if there is anything you can do to change the outcome. If not, then it’s best to let it go and focus your energy on something more productive.

#14: Worrying too much about what other people think

Deathbed regret #14: Worrying too much about what other people think

Our society places a great emphasis on approval from others, but this can be detrimental to our mental health. We should all learn to be more confident in ourselves and to live our lives according to our own beliefs, rather than worrying about what others think of us. After all, their opinions should not have the power to control our lives.

#15: Not being persistent enough

Deathbed regret #15: Not being persistent enough

Many people lack the persistence needed to achieve their goals. They give up easily when faced with obstacles and allow their problems to stop them from reaching their dreams. Ask yourself what you truly want from life. Do you want to give up and settle for an average life, or do you want to push through the hardships and make your dreams come true? It is up to you to make the decision that will shape your future.

#16: Not trusting intuition enough

Deathbed regret #16: Not trusting intuition enough

Many of us struggle to trust our intuition, questioning our decisions and doubting if we’re making the right choice. But our intuition can often be trying to tell us something important. If you’re feeling doubtful or unsure, try to listen to your intuition and allow it to guide you. It can help you make the best decision for you in the situation.

#17: Not letting go of bitterness and grudges

Holding onto bitterness and grudges can be extremely damaging to our mental and emotional wellbeing. If we don’t learn to forgive and let go of these negative feelings, they can cause us to become stuck in a cycle of resentment and pain. If you are struggling to let go of a grudge, it can be helpful to try to understand where the other person is coming from. Put yourself in their shoes and try to empathize with their perspective, even if you don’t agree with their actions. Taking the time to process and reflect on the situation can help you to move forward and gain closure.

#18: Not comparing oneself to others

Deathbed regret #18: Not comparing oneself to others

Comparisons can be a source of inspiration, but they can also be a source of discouragement. We often compare ourselves to other people, and feel like we’re not good enough. But the truth is, everyone has unique talents and abilities, and we’re all on our own individual paths. Even though it can be hard, reminding ourselves that there’s no need to compare ourselves to others can help us to focus on being the best version of ourselves.

#19: Disregarding physical health

Deathbed regret #19: Disregarding physical health

Our physical health is essential to our overall well-being, yet we often take it for granted. Not exercising enough, eating unhealthily, and not getting enough sleep are all common examples of neglecting our physical health. Unfortunately, people often don’t realize the importance of physical health until it is too late. To avoid this, it’s important to be mindful of our bodies and to listen to warning signs from our bodies. We should strive to make healthy lifestyle choices and to take care of our bodies.

#20:  Disregarding mental health

Deathbed regret #20:  Disregarding mental health

People often downplay the warning signs of mental illness, thinking they can just muscle through it or that it’s not a real problem. This lack of attention to mental wellbeing can lead to disastrous consequences, including difficulty with interpersonal relationships, an inability to find or keep a job, and even death. It is essential that we take our mental health seriously and seek the help we need to live our best lives.

#21: Not being more spiritual

Deathbed regret #21: Not being more spiritual

Many people look back on their lives and regret not having a stronger faith or a more meaningful connection with spirituality. For some, this regret may revolve around not having a deeper relationship with God. Others may regret not having taken more time to find a sense of inner peace and tranquility. Regardless of the spiritual path one takes, it’s important to take the time to explore one’s beliefs and values and find a sense of solace in their life.

What deathbed regrets do you hope to avoid?

It is never too late to take control of your life and make changes. By making better decisions today, you can ensure that you will not have deathbed regrets when you reflect on your life. Start living a life that you can be proud of, and when the time comes, you won’t be afraid to let go, as you will know that you did your best and lived your best life.

So what changes will you make, ensuring that you can look back on your life without regrets?

Roman Russo

Roman Russo

Roman Russo is the visionary founder, senior happiness coach, and Chief Happiness Officer of Optimal Happiness. He has written the revolutionary Optimal Happiness: The Fastest and Surest Way to Reach Your Happiest Potential, a must-read book about achieving our happiest potential. After researching this field for over eight years, Roman is confident that anyone can become happy and invites us to undertake this transformation. Are you ready to start living the life you always meant to live?

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