Life lessons from those who regret the lack of a life well lived

By Rick Hinton

A condensed excerpt from a forthcoming book

Is the regret of a life less lived enough motivation to remain behind after physical death? Does this explain one aspect of the paranormal? It very well may. We will all face the inevitable conclusion of physical death with our lives, like a clock ticking off the years, begins to wind down and eventually stops. Until the prospect of dying – or actual death – affects you personally, it’s one of those topics we keep on the shelf. It’s not a comfortable subject, and not something we like to think about.

A hospice nurse working with patients in their last days made some observations. These folks had returned home to die in a comfortable and familiar environment. She found a common thread existing with each one during this period and was not afraid to ask questions. It was as good an experience for her as the sense of closure was for them. As the patient’s time drew to a close, they were quite aware of that fact. There seemed to have been a sense of urgency in speaking what they felt needed to be said. Acceptance of their upcoming transition often brought out regrets of a life not lived to its full potential. Repetitive themes were the result of this nurse’s questioning. The most common five she found were:

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 looking back clearly upon it, it was easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of them and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they’d made – or not made. From the moment you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize until they no longer have it.”

Is there a regret in dying? (Photo by Rick Hinton)

I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

“This came from a lot of male patients I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. All of these men deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

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.”

I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

“Often they would not realize the benefits of old friends until their dying weeks. Many had become so caught up in their own lives 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 all comes down to love and relationships in the end.”

I wish I had let myself be happier.

“Many did not realize, until the end, that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and themselves, that they were content.

It’s food for thought.