Top 5 Deathbed Regrets

Aunt Betty & my wife, Sarah
Aunt Betty & my wife, Sarah, looking out over the Pacific in Oregon

My dear Great Aunt Betty Wadsworth is in the hospital, as her health and life are threatened. Having lived one of the fullest lives I’ve ever heard anyone living – like going on a double-date with Buddy Holly in high school and knowing Elvis years before he was a household name – Betty has been battling at least eight diseases for a number of years. Most people would have given up fighting them years ago, but not Betty. No, she’s too stubborn to let close to ten diseases get the best of her! But this Christmas she is in the hospital and it’s quite possible that she may pass very soon, which had me reflect on the car accident that killed a friend of mine and almost killed me. I wanted to share a few points of interest and get your feedback.

If you were suddenly forced to face death this week from an unexpected accident or a life-threatening disease, could you imagine what regrets you might have as you lay there? What would your biggest regret be and what could you do today to minimize the regret you would feel?

According to Bronnie Ware, from, here is her list of Top 5 regrets she heard from people on their deathbed in the hospital where she worked. I connect to several of these, particularly #1 and #5. 

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

Many times I act or make certain decisions based on what I think others will or will not think of me. It is too easy to push our true dreams and desires aside and make fear-based decisions for the acceptance of others. What a great feeling it would be to move past our fears and hesitations of what others might think of us to aggressively go after those things that we feel called to do.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

According to Ware, this came from every male patient that she nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. All of the men she nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and 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 presented to you along your life’s journey.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people, myself included, suppress their feelings in order to keep peace with the rat race of life. We feel we do not have time to stop or slow down and acknowledge or address the underlining feelings we inevitably feel on a daily basis. As a result, we settle for an emotionally-suppressed existence where we rarely connect with others or even ourselves. Many of us develop illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment we carry as a result.

Me in the hospital following my car accident
Me in the hospital following my car accident

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

I am guilty of this one, for sure. Too often we become so caught up in our own lives that we let great friendships slip by over the years. In my opinion, social media and texting is a huge contributing factor. Many times I feel like I am keeping up with friends and family members simply because of what I read on their Facebook page or by the short, impersonal texts we send each other. The truth is that nothing can substitute for quality face-to-face, or at least regular one-on-one phone calls.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Bronnie Ware describes this as another one of the most common regret. Many do not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. Like many others, I am guilty of getting 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.

If you were lying on your deathbed today, what’s the biggest regret you would have and what’s one simple thing you could do today to address it? Please comment on this post if you’re willing to share it with me.

I look forward to hearing from you!



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