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Biggest Regrets at End of Life
November 9, 2021
Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.
-Mary Oliver, poet
Bronnie Ware is an Australian author, songwriter and motivational speaker who wrote a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, based on what she heard from patients during her time providing palliative care.

She presents these five regrets in the hope that people will avoid them while they are still able:

  1. "I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me."
  2. "I wish I hadn't worked so hard."
  3. "I wish I had the courage to express my feelings."
  4. "I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends."
  5. "I wish I had let myself be happier."

In the Out of the Box Kit, "Honoring the Essential Self," based on an article by Ruth Wilson, the author urges early educators to help children connect with their essential self from an early age (see regret number one above):

"Behaviors of the essential self tend to be inventive and spontaneous, reflecting the uniqueness of the individual. For one young child, this might mean using her arms to fly like an eagle across the yard. For another child, this might mean wanting to use flowers to make a crown. For one child, this might mean sitting quietly to observe a beetle…Unless young children are supported in the development of their essential self, a part of their unique spirit and personality tends to be squashed."

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Comments (3)

Displaying All 3 Comments
Tiffany Peckham · November 09, 2021
Lincoln, NE, United States

John, I love that! thank you.

-Tiffany at Exchange

Laura Newman · November 09, 2021
ProSolutions Training
Roswell, GA, United States

This snippet resonates with me from a previous role in which I developed and then delivered a broad array of leadership training topics to program owners, directors, and their support personnel. The most common regret voiced by many was the desire (and courage) to express their feelings. Other regrets as cited in this piece, are case-specific but were clearly communicated by the most dedicated leaders I had come to know over the six years I had led the cohort of strong women from our industry.

Having been a volunteer patient caregiver for a faith-based hospice agency, like the author, I too had conversations with those I sat beside, and with family members whose loved one was at the end of their lives. In our field of work, particularly those in servant leadership roles where personal characteristics and qualities held by program administrators include selflessness, humility, and compassion. Program leaders tirelessly and almost without exception focus on the growth and well-being of others, and to the communities in which they belong. Self-care and renewal whenever possible, and often is my own key to a life well-lived, and in turn, one that won't be met with any regret.

Thank you for sharing such an important (yet perhaps sensitive topic to some), most particularly as we close out another year unlike any other.

John Surr · November 09, 2021
Charlottesville, VA, United States

A hospice chaplain friend once said that he observed the difference between those who died happy and the others is that they had forgiven and been forgiven.

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