The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying

Bronnie Ware is a writer and singer from Australia. For many years she worked in palliative care. While doing so, she learned that many people have regrets as they approach death. According to Ware, here are the top five regrets of the dying.

1. I wish I would have lived my life more true to myself—and not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. (Ware says she heard this regret from virtually all her male patients.)

dying3. I wish I would have had the courage to express my feelings more. (Ware observed that some people, for example, never learned to express their negative feelings in a healthy and constructive way. As a result, they became resentful and bitter.)

4. I wish I would have stayed in touch with my friends. (Ware says, “In the end it all comes down to love and relationships.”)

5. I wish I would have let myself be happier. (Says Ware, “Some people learn too late that happiness is a choice.”)

What do you think of these regrets? Do you resonate with any of them? I resonate with #2. I tend to work too hard at times. (I am typing this blog late Sunday afternoon.) Sometimes I return from giving a week long retreat and plunge immediately into my writing work again. I also rewrite a lot. Maybe too much. Ms. Perfectionism looms her ugly head at times when I’m writing.

I also resonate with #4. I wish I were better at keeping touch with my friends than I am. I ask myself, “If you enjoy the company of your friends so much, why don’t you devote more time to them?” I’m learning, though. The older I get, the better I’m getting at making time for family and friends, I think. Still…

If I were to die tomorrow, what other regrets might I have? Here are a few:

1. I wish I would have trusted God more. Really trusted God. I would have fretted less. I would have been freer.

2. I wish I would have done more direct work with people in need.


3. I wish I would have told my family and friends exactly how much they mean to me. Do they really know? Then again, could I have ever put it into words?

4. I wish I would have written on a few topics I haven’t written on yet. (I tell myself, “There’s still time, you know…”)

Now it’s your turn. What are your thoughts on Ware’s list of regrets? What might some of your regrets be?


PS: Thank you for your prayers for the retreat I facilitated last week with the Benedictine Sisters of Cullman, Alabama. What a beautiful group of women they are! I was inspired by their prayerful chanting of Lauds and Vespers every day. I also appreciated their dedication, joy, and diversity. In their monastery I met sisters who were teachers, nurses, a doctor, a pediatric occupational therapist, social workers, pastoral ministers, musicians, singers, gardeners, development directors, writers, cooks, archivists, spiritual directors, a massage therapist, and even three sisters who were grandmothers and one who was a former Presbyterian minister! I also enjoyed the one-day retreat I led for about 60 people on Saturday June 7. I loved that Alabama accent—and Benedictine hospitality!

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  1. Kathleen Magiera on June 16, 2014 at 5:42 am

    Sr. Melannie,

    Glad the retreat went well. It sounds like a lovely community.

    I resonate with my need to really trust God. I am at a crossroad in my life and wholeheartedly trusting God is a struggle for me at the moment. I so desire to totally trust God in my walk but have this need for control.


  2. Carol McHenry on June 16, 2014 at 11:09 am

    Dear Melannie,
    I know this may sound strange, but I don’t honestly have any regrets, except for the ones I’m not yet aware of. I just want to live out my days growing and strengthening my values of faith, trust, and most of all love!
    Thanks always for your insightful, inspiring and helpful writing!

  3. Karen on June 16, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Yikes! #3. I have always been a hard worker and find great satisfaction from hard work. But I totally suck at expressing my negative feelings or drawing the line at what I will or won’t accept. Not with colleagues or strangers – just the people I care about the most (and, I guess, whose opinion of me I care about the most). Courage is the right word! A very timely blog for me – can I ask for your prayers?

  4. Carolyn on June 17, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    I love your writing!! I have four of your books and so many of the examples seem to relate to my life. I have even used a few to illustrate to another something I didn’t have the words for. So while I hope you will find ways to make it less hard, please continue.
    As to regrets it would mostly be #4. I’m not good at keeping up with friends when there is distance between us.

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