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Avoiding Regrets

daisy366's picture
Posts: 1493
Joined: Mar 2009

I just received this from a nurse friend of mine. Something to think about.


For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last 3-12 weeks of their lives.
People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learned never to underestimate someone's capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again.
Here are the most common 5:
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 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. It is very important to try and honor at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.
2. I wish I didn't work so hard.
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth & 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. By simplifying your lifestyle & making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.
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. We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
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. It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.
5. 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. When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying. Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.

kkstef's picture
Posts: 706
Joined: May 2008

Mary Ann,

Thank you for sharing this message from your friend. It is SOOO true and a wonderful reminder about what is REALLY important in life.... LIVING each day to the fullest and loving every minute of it!

A great post!


california_artist's picture
Posts: 865
Joined: Jan 2009

That sorta goes along with the email interchange we had earlier.

This one line stuck in my head and I continued to find my eyes drawn to it, because it just didn't seem to ring true, for me anyway:

the statement--From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late.

We all view dire news in own way.

For me, from the moment I was faced with the loss of my health with the doctor's prognosis of death in around a year and a half, I found a spirit and fight for life that I had never known.

The loss of health, for me, became a signal, a shock to my system, a jolt which lit a blazing fire within me, signaling the beginning of a true appreciation of life, and I discovered an irascible willingness to fight to live as long as possible, no matter what, rather than to experience initiation of a gentle, accepting slide to the end.

While ends are inevitable, I plan on scrambling for a hold til the earth opens up and engulfs me.

carolenk's picture
Posts: 909
Joined: Feb 2011

In reading this posting, I realized that maybe because I did look for happiness & didn't hold back my feelings, I don't even HAVE a lot of friends to regret not keeping in touch with. I worked 4 jobs up until my cancer diagnosis and enjoyed every one of them--the one that I loved the most paid the least. I had the wonderful opportunity to be a stay at home mom for 8 years and feel really blessed to be able to do that. So there must be SOMETHING I need to work on...

In considering what I've got to regret, I guess I wish I had paid off my house by now but to do that would have meant having my kids burdened with college loans. I appreciate this topic which got me thinking in this direction so that I can reconcile whatever I need to while I have time.

I can imagine there can be a wonderful sense of peace knowing that you have surrendered this life when one is ready to move on. I love the scene in the film Forest Gump where the mother explains from her death bed, "It's my time, Forest." Very Hollywood but so sweet.

(Claudia, it's nice to see you back on the board.)

jazzy1's picture
Posts: 1385
Joined: Mar 2010

This is so insightful and has wondering meaning. I'm not one to say cancer was a blessing, but it was a huge "eye-opener" to me. I value my friends and family, continue to keep the "smile" on my face and plain and simply TAKE ONE DAY AS IT HAPPENS, AND ENJOY EACH AND EVERY MOMENT AS IF IT WERE MY LAST.

I find many of my friends, family and/or acquaintances who haven't had a health scare, aren't on the same page as we might be. My hubbie and I were chatting last week about our futures and how he wanted more money to buy that bigger home and nicer car. I simply looked him straight in the eye and told him "all I want is my health, as the rest will fall into place if it's meant to be". THE END~

Life is precious and now I'm finally getting what I was taught as a very young child...get out and play... I'm playing more then ever, even though I'm in my 50's.


Double Whammy's picture
Double Whammy
Posts: 2788
Joined: Jun 2010

I'm buying the book. Thank you, MaryAnn, for this. I believe every one of those regrets are universally common. I just sent the 5 regrets to some of my friends.


Kaleena's picture
Posts: 1754
Joined: Nov 2009

Thanks for posting this Mary Ann. Even if we know this, some how we still sort of lose track of it. Thanks for bringing it back to light. We tend to get back to our same old routines (good or bad).

Prior to my diagnosis, I spent my time worrying about getting a disease or trying to lose weight, then I realized I lost some precious time with my kids when they were small so I started worrying about that, etc. etc etc. All in all my life was the way I made it. Like they say, don't sweat the small stuff!

Thanks again, Mary Ann

Posts: 275
Joined: Jun 2011

Once I "lost" my health, I feel that I lost a lot of freedom.....freedom to do whatever I wanted. During the months of treatments, I could not do much because I felt like crap. I could not travel (and still cannot because of uncertainty or checkups or whatever) or even make any definitive plans. Even now, my neuropathy can prevent me from enjoying an outing or even a get-together with friends.

I am lucky to have kept in touch with many many old friends. Some of my male HS friends have been my most ardent supporters during this time. Every day there are numerous e-mails from HS friends. Tomorrow four of those best friends will be here for 24 hours - one from France, one from L, one from VA and one from MD. I truly feel blessed by their presence in my life.


daisy366's picture
Posts: 1493
Joined: Mar 2009

I have learned that I have some wonderful people who care alot about me. A life scare has a way of making this clear.

JoAnn, I think it is awesome that you have so many good loyal friends. I know I don't have as many truly good friends as you but I still have some. They are a real treasure.

I agree with the limits of freedom.

Wishing all here a truly blessed holiday season and very healthy 2012!!!

Love, Mary Ann

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