42 thoughts on “Top 5 Regrets of the Dying

  • August 19, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    This is a very insightful list, and it really made me think about how I’m living my life right now. Thank you for this. Would you mind if I reblogged this? Of course I’ll give you credit for it.

    Thank you!

    • August 19, 2013 at 9:43 pm

      Thank you Chiara, you are welcome to re-blog. May it be a support to your readers. Warmly, Elisha

      • August 21, 2013 at 2:05 am

        Thank you so much, Elisha! I’m sure my readers will appreciate the list as much as I do.

        Kind regards,

  • August 20, 2013 at 8:19 am

    I will have no regrets when I die…as a free-spirit I have nurtured all of my relationships……loved fiercely and said and done what I wanted to….written 2 books, working hard to make a difference; my ultimate goal is national tv to speak about my passion…..educating people about verbal abuse….I presented my paper, Society’s Hidden Pandemic, Verbal Abuse, Precursor to Physical VIolence and a FOrm of Biochemical Assault at the Michigan Counseling Association…all without a degree; a lifetime of experience and research. I wrote about my life of overcoming and thriving and won a scholarship and am a sophomore at age 66! I still have all of the energy of an 18 year old! I believe in doing in now and saying it now, because the next second isn’t promised to us.

    • August 21, 2013 at 11:17 am

      The clock is running. Make the most of today. Time waits for no man. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called, the present. Alice Morse Earle, American historian and author, 1851-1911
      The comma after “called” is mine, for emphasis before “the present.”
      Loving all as my god commands,

    • August 22, 2013 at 2:36 pm

      Hi alice,
      I was struck and so inspired when I read your comments here.I very much appreciate your posting – what passion and courage! I would like to get in touch with you; I am Filipino 50-year old woman, and I resonate with your experience, specially that part WHERE YOU MADE SOMETHING GREAT from a very adverse life circumstance.
      How can I get in touch with, if you please allow me the honor and pleasure of doing so?
      Thank you very much and I do hope to hear from you.

      • August 24, 2013 at 7:19 am

        Hi, Pola: Thank you for your kind remarks. You can e-mail me: [email protected]….and if you would put “pola” in the subject line. Thank you! Alice

  • August 20, 2013 at 9:38 am

    I do agree that we take LIFE for granted and get so bogged down with work and become insulated, when really we should spend it doing things we LOVE with the people we LOVE.

    Hopefully the AfterLife is full of that. 🙂

  • August 20, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Thanks for the list, I’ve also put your book on my list. Working with addicts I feel your book will be helpful as they develop their positive habits and remove their obsessions of the mind.

  • August 20, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    Thank you for such a wonderful blog. Like Chiara, I will be reblogging this as well. You have made me do a lot of reflection and how I can do things better/differently in my life.

  • August 21, 2013 at 10:50 am

    My regret is that I should have killed myself in 1985 over Tania that girl at college who used me to make another boy jealous. I saw her at the bus stop really kissing him. I lived in hope and she left him only to go from a bad boy to a jailbird in 1986 when I was finishing my A-Levels. At least my family would have got over it and moved on. I had another bad rejection in 1999 with a psychology student and lots of rejections from dating sites and that is the scope of my love life.

    • August 21, 2013 at 12:04 pm

      So, for the past 30 years you’ve regretted being alive? No, your family wouldn’t have gotten over your suicide. But if it would make you happier, might as well do what you’ve been regretting you didn’t do 30 years ago.

      • August 23, 2013 at 4:00 pm

        Barbara, I think it is hugely inappropriate to encourage somebody to commit suicide.

        Paul, I encourage you to seek counselling to learn to handle rejection, grieve your losses and work on other issues that may be blocking you from finding hope, and happiness.

    • August 21, 2013 at 2:04 pm

      Read No. 5.

  • August 21, 2013 at 11:06 am

    This is a very valuable list. I agree with all the points listed except the last which made me cringe just a bit. Happiness is not always a choice. I am a psychiatrist in private practice & I see a fair number of people who have very treatment-resistant and even intractable depression and bipolar disorder. I think when we say things like “happiness is a choice” that we increase the distress of people for whom depression truly is outside their control.

    • August 21, 2013 at 12:58 pm

      Ah — thank you for this post! As practitioners, we MUST be more careful in our use of the word “choice”. I am not only a graduate level registered counsellor but a person who has lived with what appears to be genetic pre-dispositions to depression, generalized anxiety and attention deficit disorder (I also have a curiously insidious neuromuscular atrophy disorder, not clear if it is all connected as of yet — ya, I won the genetic lottery in my family :}) — the mental health issues are probably all connected, and very luckily, not severe. This was not a choice. For me as for many of my clients, happiness is no more a choice then having a balanced blood sugar level is for people living with diabetes. Having a functioning pancreas is not a choice, any more then having a typical CNS, neurotransmitters with balanced levels of dopamine, serotonin, hormones, etc…that impact our moods, sensory perceptions and thoughts. The “choice”, though at all sure not comfortable with that word for everyone, is in acknowledging and believing help is available, seeking and maintaining a treatment approach that works for us, individually. An approach that allows us to be as content (happiness may be an unrealistic goal for some of us– what is truly happy to a chronically depressed person may be feeling less chronic, daily pain) as we can be in our own skin, with our different nervous systems and neurotransmitter functioning.
      These are all wonderful questions though,many of which i try to keep front and centre in my life and gently encourage with clients when they are ready to hear them. Mindfulness has been very, very helpful for me and many people I have worked with..

    • August 21, 2013 at 3:22 pm

      Hi there,

      thank you for your response, yes I would tend to agree with being careful around saying happiness is a choice. In this case I think it’s more in the term of Eudaimonic happines, the kind that is connected with values, meaning and sense of purpose. It’s not so much that we can choose to change the biology of depression and bipolar disorder, but we can learn how to choose to respond to it better and discover more grace in our life. Some might call this grace, happiness.

      In his infamous book Man’s Search for Meaning Frankl wrote, “The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”

      • August 21, 2013 at 6:26 pm

        I, too, had some difficulty in the concept of choosing happiness. It’s hard to know how people find themselves in intransient distress over a lack of housing, medical care, food and an unresponsive mental health system. Some people have insufficient problem solving ability to use available resources. Add to that a system that incarcerates (forced hospitalization) people who become despondent. To suggest that person can “choose” how they feel about their circumstances is dismissive and overlooks how our current health/social system has failed some of the most fragile people among us. I know how these people are treated in the community where I live and it’s appalling. Suggesting that person can choose happiness can be downright cruel.

      • August 21, 2013 at 6:35 pm

        Hi Ellen,

        Sometimes things get lost in translation. All your points are well taken, I think the author of the book was pointing more in the direction of Viktor Frankl’s experience of “choosing happiness.” He was in multiple concentration camps which speaks to all the adversities you mentioned and he came out sensing that the Nazi’s could take all that away, but they couldn’t take away his right to choose how to respond to it. Ultimately, for many reasons, many of us can be trapped in our own traumas from the past, enslaved with reactions and we may need quite a bit of help (therapy, social support) to be able to realize that we can respond to our dis-ease differently even in the face of external adversity. But at times the support isn’t there or there isn’t the awareness how to advocate for it. This is where it makes it difficult to see the choice to respond differently.

  • August 21, 2013 at 11:14 am

    My husband who practiced medical and radiation oncology originally in an upscale retirement/resort area of the US made the observation early in his career that almost every one of his patients who were all transplants, regretted having moved from any support system they had “back home”. These individuals were left to deal with their diseases/procedures/treatments with usually only an aging spouse; no community, no religious group, no family close by.

    • August 21, 2013 at 12:20 pm

      You’re right! I’m young and I’ve been vociferously lamenting the separation and division plaguing families for decades. Sure we sometimes have to move because jobs are available there, but most are doing it just to get away from…. parents, children, regrets, broken hearts. I see the effects…alcoholism and drug abuse.

  • August 21, 2013 at 11:38 am

    Thank you for the article on the “Top 5 Regrets…”.
    I was just slightly hesitant about venturing into reading the item. This is based on my present self evaluation that at this point in my life, age 66, and with the reality of the medical probable eventuality that my physician of some 30 years has advised me, I have compared the thoughts of the Top 5 Regrets list as you have presented them and I am greatly relieved to state that I’m ready to go with only one regret.
    The knowledge that my passing will be a very sad event for my family of a wife, three children and 7 grand-ones who all will be hurting for a bit. Our family is quite close and very open about our love for each of the other. The “Regrets” as listed here don’t rise to a level of priority in my hierarchy of importance of needs or wants.
    The list as presented is likely to have impact to many who have not had the blessings that I am grateful for in my life. Thanks for the article.

  • August 21, 2013 at 11:58 am

    Dear Elisha,

    When you’re dead inside what does it matter about regret. If being true to yourself leads to hate and rejection and feelings just cause pain.
    As for ‘working hard’ it serves to keep away the dark spectre of an unhappy existence and provides temporary relief from the deluge of thoughts and feelings that range from self-loathing to misery.
    How can you let yourself ‘be more happy’ when nothing in life is cause for hope.
    In respect of friends and relationships what value is there when you are simply acting a part and being what society expects just to fit in and gain acceptance because the real ‘you’ is far removed from the social norm.
    What is the point of ‘living a life true to yourself when that truth opens you up to rejection, abuse and ridicule.

    • August 21, 2013 at 9:29 pm

      I get what you are saying and that is the part that really scares me. I think at this point I work because I am so BORED with what life has to offer. It is just a bunch of crap on crap if you ask me. You get to people please and play a role if you want a relationship. Sure you can have a kids…but what is the point? So they can feel like they have to live up to other peoples expectations too? Seems silly and pointless. Then there are the people that say life is just great, so fun…what ever…the only time it is fun is if you have money to travel and find a person that is just like you to make fun of how silly the whole thing called life is. It is simply silly…I guess you just have to find the comedy in the moment to enjoy any part of it. I, personally, am so over it! It is a sick joke…and society is a sicker joke because we all are just trying to live and get taken care of…even though when you are born it is a death sentence…and your lovely parents gave it to you when they decided to have sex…and that is suppose to be the greatest thing…create life? When you create life you create death…is it just for company until they die…and something to do? Yup.

  • August 21, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    There should be a separate category for Top 5 Regrets of the Dying Addict:

    1. Did I REALLY need one more hit???

    2. F—k! Why’d the needle have to break INSIDE my vein???

    3. Aw damn! And my liver abuse insurance just expired!

    4. My dealer…I won’t have to pay him! (Oh wait, a bonus)

    5. No more highs / trips / blackouts…. like, EVER??? WTF??

  • August 21, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    In my case when my parents are no longer about, I will commit suicide. It is the sensible thing to do in my case. Why should I want to stay alive. There will be nothing left for me. Why should I make other relations miserable. Best thing for all. Pyschs often don’t fully understand resistant patients conditions and are often powerless to do anything to help because its no in the rule book.

    • August 24, 2013 at 6:50 pm

      The literature points out that those who postponed suicide eventually came to the conclusion that, had they done so when they first considered it, it would have been a big mistake. They also point out that, at the time, they were absolutely convinced it would be the right decision.

      Of course, the built in problem is that we don’t know how the dead would have felt, had they lived.

      If depression is the cause, we are on the verge of some spectacular treatments. ECT is widely vilified and yet is effective in 80 percent of the patients who have undertook it. (I think that figure is way too low.) And that’s available today. Investigating the treatment is difficult because conventional psychiatrists insist that medication and talk therapy are superior. You might get the other side from a psychiatrist that specializes in ECT or a patient who has been transformed by it.

  • August 21, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    As I’ve grown older, have started doing some of the things on the list: being true to myself and values, expressing my feelings more and being less concerned about what others think of my choices and behaviors. I too regret not keeping in touch with friends and make more of an effort now (email makes that easier). There will always be regrets, but I can more be more aware with this list in mind.

  • August 21, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    Yesterday, I attended a funeral and although the thought of dying is somewhat scary at this time of my life because of my young children, during the father’s sermon I realized that the 19 year old young man who bravely fought cancer for two years accomplished much more than I and others have. He touched so many people with his strength, his faith, and his love of life. Even throughout his ordeal he did not allow cancer to beat him or to rule the life he wanted. He graduated High School with honors, he was a good son, a good brother, a good uncle, and a good friend to many. He even attended a university. I am 39 years old and I will barely complete a Bachelors Degree this November, and aside from being blessed with my three children, there are so many things I need to accomplish, and sometimes the regrets you mentioned are latent in my mind.

  • August 21, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    When you dead perhaps you are reincarnated and get a nice new body. At the age of 47yrs old women my own age are mothers, grandmothers etc and are very experienced sexually. I’ve done nothing sexually. The closest i’ll ever get to having a women is by watching some porn films. What I really want is a loving relationship with someone who likes me for me and not some materistic women. I want someone who has still got some youth left in them and have the option of having a family. All I get on dating sites is older women some as old as 76yr old, loads of scammer, fake profiles created by the sites themselves and loads of rejections. I have no friends or any one to introduce me to women. Besides who wants an old asperger male who’s balding, medically retired with no career prospects.

    • August 23, 2013 at 12:30 pm


      Have you ever thought that as a woman (54) that I want to be loved for myself too and not judged as a woman with no life left in her and is just there to make sure you don’t die an old maid. We do not go out with an age but with a person. Start appreciating the qualities of the women you meet and perhaps they may then appreciate you.

  • August 21, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    Our society preaches that the only value a person has is within the number of dollars they bring home in their paycheck. You must sacrifice the things in life that have true meaning if they fall within work hours. If you don’t have a job, you’re not only frowned upon but condemned. The All Mighty Dollar forces us into living lives away from our homes, our families, the moments in life that are precious an irreplacable.

    Look at this list again and think about it. If you live a life true to yourself it could be following a path that does not bring in an income, if your passions are not “marketable.” So, if you’re not marketable you’re going to be working a job you hate. Not everyone can “be whatever they want” and earn a living at it, unfortunately. Working too much means missing important events with your children. Working normal hours means missing many of those as well. If your boss won’t let you take the time off, you’ll miss it. Not cultivating your relationships comes from exhaustion of ticking work clock, being forced to take work home, not being able to take the time you need to make your life happen. Say what you feel… not at work! You’ll get fired if you happen to shed a tear and the wrong person sees it. We are supposed to be emotionless drones. And where are you the majority of your day? Work. The majority of your life? Work! Allow yourself to be happy? That’s all you have left. Try to be happy with the cards you were dealt. It’s unlikely you can escape in our society.

    Humans were meant to live on farms or hunting in the fields. Gathering. Living in small tribal communities. Everyone had a purpose and a job. If you were better with the kids, you were the teacher. If you were better with picking berries, you were the gatherer. If you were better at telling stories, you were the sage. If you happened to hear voices, you were the shaman. This barely exists any more. That’s why so many people are trapped in regrets.

    • August 21, 2013 at 7:57 pm

      Your words echo the exact same thing that I’ve been preaching since college graduation when I realized that my chances for “success” the “green” way (and I’m not speaking environmentally friendly), were slim to none because I wasn’t born with the engineer / programmer / physicist / chemist gene. Mine would be a life of struggle with a few highs and more anxiety and financial insecurity (what a dubiously compassionate euphemism), with a glimmer of hope arising each time someone wins the lottery. Thank God for laughter! It is truly the best medicine. That, and sleep.

  • August 21, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    How about:

    I wish I hadn’t set my expectations so high.

  • August 21, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    This was a fun read because without knowing it I have been living these guidelines for a long time! My life is really great, I only have physical issues from way to much handball and weight training but those can be fixed. I really feel sorry for people who cannot let go of things and should try to live in the moment that they too can help create.

  • August 21, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    For what it’s worth, here is what I have learned from working with palliative care patients as a counsellor:-

    1. No-one wants to die alone. The regret comes from the way THEY have treated people because they never learnt the skills of how to work with conflict. So feel that the people are there – are there because they have to be not want to be and they know the difference.

    2. They never followed their passion – work was something that had to do – means to an end. They never invested the time to work out how to make money out of what they loved (a dream often lost long ago).

    3. They spent too much time trying to make sense of their childhood – for many, it was trying to make sense from nonsense, particularly in dysfunctional families.

    4. They were in relationships for the wrong reasons, generally believing the other person will make the happy, the person with money will make them rich, in other words,will solve all their problems. Or the biggie – they were marrying the family they never had.

    5. Happiness only came when they took accountability and responsibility for the decisions they made, not with blame, shame or guilt of how they life transpired.

  • August 24, 2013 at 7:23 am

    I feel sad at seeing so many comments about feeling suicidal, hopeless and bored about life. I think an answer (one) would be to take ourselves….out of ourselves…….volunteer at a shelter, hospital….in other words…get out there and do something for someone else….I think that is why we are ALL here to make a difference in someone else’s life.

    • August 24, 2013 at 4:07 pm

      Not a good idea at a hospital where there are pretty young nurses and doctors (superior beings). They would look down on me. Besides I hate the smell of cigarette smoke, it make me feel dirty, make me want to shower and put on fresh clothes. If you were referring to my post I keep myself busy with the gym, gardening and housekeeping but no one especially someone I find attractive and sexy who likes me ever come into my life no matter how hard I’ve tried in the past and on dating sites.

  • August 24, 2013 at 10:29 am

    I once read that a common regret was not taking one’s education more seriously.

  • August 27, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    Be the best you can!! Each one of us has something special to share with the world , it is our gift . those of us that know what we have that we have and can share this with your fellow man is blessed !!! Use your gift to bring joy and make the world a better place. It will bring you life into a place of real meaning and purpose and it is fulfilling to know you have given all you have inside you and you were here for a higher purpose! LOVE xo

  • August 29, 2013 at 5:34 am

    I had sort of hoped I’d see “I wish I had been kinder to others” on this list. My grandmother was for the most part a good person, but she had a way of putting people down under the guise of teasing. If confronted, she would then berate the other person for not being able to take a joke. She would often accuse the person of twisting around what she said because of their own negativity, and occasionally she would deny that she said it at all. I wasn’t her only target, but I was one of the most frequent. It was a game to her, as well as to many other members of my family. Fed up with a lifetime of that kind of treatment, I had moved thousands of miles away by the time my grandmother died, but my daughter was at her bedside. I have just learned from my daughter that on her deathbed, my grandmother openly acknowledged treating me like that, and deeply regretted it. Knowing this, I forgive her.

  • May 3, 2014 at 8:02 am

    Hi Elisha,
    A good article with good follow up comments. I agree with you in the interpretation of happiness as contentment from Frankl’s perspective.
    We do have a choice over how we allow people and events to influence us.
    Yes, it is hard to change our life around; it is even harder to put up and shut up.
    As a survivor of major childhood trauma, recurrant depressive over 30 years plus, I speak from experience.
    I had to fight to get the support I needed. Several times I was told that nothing could be done for me since I was managing so well on my own. Thankfully, medical insight and support is widely improving.
    Sometimes, medication to ease the individual through the worst is best. Backed up with therapy to identify and resolve the causes in times of improved health. This allows for good decisions to be made and steps taken to build a good life in healthier times.
    It is at this point that Frankl’s insight is best demonstrated. We choose to survive or go under during times of duress. We choose to remain in the past or create our own future.
    I want a good life now. I make small, daily efforts to enjoy what I can and pursue activities which will be of lasting benefit to me. Thats how a good future is becoming a great present. Mindfulness keeps me on track.
    I had several therapy courses, with and without, appropriate medication over recent years. I have also returned to college to graduate from Fine Art when as an adolescent I was told I couldnt draw. This from my mother who expected instant masterpieces from a complete novice. Obviously, I stopped beleiving that a long time ago. Which is the whole point of the choosing happiness rule.
    Choosing happiness is choosing to live the kind of life that we know to be fulfilling to us as individuals. We can choose what skills to develop and where to seek work. It costs money in our society to study and retrain. Having done it on a very low income, I know that it can be done if we try.
    As a woman in her 50’s I have reached what society would see as the dog eared years. Many would already consign me to the scrap heap. My children are almost all grown. I see the dog eared sense in the well-worn, much used and familiar rather than the worn out. In that sense, I intend that the next phase of my life will be as successful and satisfying to me as a more self-actualised individual, as motherhood has been. I may share the rest of my life with a partner, I may live alone. It doesn;t matter, I will have good friends and family around.


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