What most people regret on their death bed

Now it can be told.

A palliative care nurse sums it up:

The top regrets center largely around living a more authentic life:

1. 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 realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. […]

3. 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 they carried as a result.

Many of the patients also wished they had spent less time working and pretending to be content, and more time with friends and actually allowing themselves to be happy. Notably: these people didn’t regret not getting promotions or making more money or being famous.

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6 responses to “What most people regret on their death bed”

  1. Deacon Greg, thank you so much for posting this! It is exactly what I needed to read on this Ascension Thursday. As we prepare for Pentacost, I have decided to make a novena to the Holy Spirit precisely for the gift of courage. Often, I know what I need to do. It is acting upon it that is the hardest task of all.

    God Bless,

  2. I am in my late 50’s and I can still hear my father telling me, at an afternoon High School baseball game which he took off work to watch me play in, that no one on their death bed ever says they regretted not spending enough time at work. Thank you Deacon for finding this wonderful post. Happy Easter!

  3. It’s a little sad isn’t it that regret for not having a closer relationship with God isn’t even in the top 5.

  4. There’s a proverb from somewhere:

    It’s always best on looking back to have said “I wish I hadn’t done that” rather than “I wish I had done that.”

  5. I agree momor, that God not being mentioned on the death bed is a serious red flag. Although, in some sense, our relationships with family and friends certainly are part of the “God plan”, as well as having the courage to “become not who WE want to be, but who God wants us to be.”

    That said, I would think the bigget regret of any faithful Christian would be the failue to take advantage of every opportunity of grace that came our way, which of course, would “cover” everything from kindness to suffering.

    I can’t remember the source, only that it was Catholic, regarding regets IF regrets were possible in heaven (not the case).

    The first was from the angels, who unlike us, do NOT have the ability to suffer redemptively/physically for Christ, but have the wisdom of the power and contribution to salvation of united suffering with Christ. The other regret of angels if I remember correctly was not being able to receive the Eucharist. Both of course, are God’s will for angels, the only point being made, was how extraordinary these opportunites were/are for “we creature folks.”

    The others were from the saints, who, in their “heavingly knowing”, along with redemptive suffering, also saw the effects of prayer, consequently, the “lost opportunity” of even “one unprayed Hail Mary.” Unlike the angels, we CAN suffer redemtively, receive the Eucharist, pray (even without ceasing), and also, participate in creation.

    On a side note, Dr. Peter Kreeft once quoted that if we truly knew the power of prayer, we would never get up off of our knees.

    At least for Christians, I think it all boils down to how much we lived in the will of God, for our own salvation and also in the participation of the salvation of others souls and the creation of human life; the two biggies God allows us to participate in with him, as well of course, as living our “state of life to its fullest.”

  6. klaire,
    Those are beautiful thoughts to ponder. We are as blessed as the angels, just in a different way.

    There is a school of thought that lucifer’s fall was caused by his opposition to Jesus’ humanity. He felt Jesus should be an angel, not a man. His jealousy of humanity accounts for all the evil he does against us, trying to show God how wrong He was to give humanity such an exalted place.

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