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Ex-Hospice Worker Shares Top 5 Deathbed Regrets People Have

She urges people to choose happiness and to let the small stuff go.

In the words of Ferris Bueller, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." The sentiment still rings true all these decades later—and yet, many of us have a deep-seated fear of leaving this Earth without completing our life-long bucket list.

Bronnie Ware witnessed this first-hand during her eight years as a hospice worker, in which she provided palliative care for people living with serious and sometimes terminal illnesses. The more time she spent in the field, Ware noticed that many of her patients were voicing similar regrets on their deathbed. These poignant conversations inspired her to look inward and to author the book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

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"I kept hearing these repeated themes come up over the years. The first time I heard one or two [of] the regrets that were shared with me, I started paying attention because I thought, 'I'm witnessing some pretty huge anguish and heartache here. I don't want to go down the same road,'" she recalled on The Chris Evans Breakfast Show.

The most common regret among Ware's deathbed patients was, "I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me." This regret is explored more in-depth on Ware's blog, where she explains how many of her patients associated feelings of failure with unfulfilled dreams.

"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," she wrote.

Another common regret was, "I wish I hadn't worked so hard." Ware said patients who served as the family breadwinner 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, ones more suited to your new lifestyle," Ware said on her blog.


Failing to express emotional vulnerability was the third top deathbed regret.

"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," Ware explained.

Meanwhile, several patients also said they regretted not staying in touch with old friends. Ware reminded readers that even the easiest relationships take work. As you get older and weather life's storms, don't let your "golden friendships slip by," she urged.

Lastly, Ware revealed that many people on their deathbed wished "I had let myself be happier."

"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," she wrote.

Emily Weaver
Emily is a NYC-based freelance entertainment and lifestyle writer — though, she’ll never pass up the opportunity to talk about women’s health and sports (she thrives during the Olympics). Read more
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