Top 10 Regrets Of The Dying

As we journey through life, it’s natural to reflect on the things we’ve accomplished and the paths we’ve taken. But as we get closer to the end of our lives, it’s also common to have moments of regret. Regrets about the things we wished we’d done differently, the opportunities we let slip by, and the relationships we wished were stronger.

Based on the experiences of hospice workers and those who have been through the end-of-life process, there are 10 common regrets of the dying that seem to arise time and time again. These regrets range from not following our passions, to neglecting relationships, to not speaking our truth. While they can be tough to contemplate, they can also serve as powerful lessons for living a life without regrets.

In this post, we’ll explore each of these 10 common regrets of the dying, along with some simple practical tips to remedy them. Whether you’re just starting out on your journey, or well into your life’s journey, it’s never too late to make changes that bring you closer to a life lived with purpose and joy.

I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me

You often feel regret at the end of your life when you’ve spent years trying to please others instead of pursuing your passions and desires. Society’s expectations, peer pressure, and a fear of failure can all lead you to feel like you haven’t lived a life that’s true to yourself.

Actionable Tips

  • Write down your values, beliefs and goals. Evaluate your life against these things and make adjustments to align with what’s important to you.
  • Surround yourself with supportive people who encourage you to live a life true to yourself.
  • Take small steps towards living a life that feels authentic to you. This can be as simple as saying yes to invitations that align with your interests, or taking up a new hobby that you’ve always wanted to try.

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde

I wish I hadn’t worked so hard

For some, work takes over their lives, causing them to ignore their personal relationships, health, and overall well-being. As a result, you may feel regret at the end of your life, even if you’ve been successful in your career. This regret can come from a sense of emptiness, as well as from being physically and mentally exhausted from working long hours.

Actionable Tips

  • Prioritize rest and leisure time in your schedule. This can include things like reading, going for walks, or simply taking time for yourself.
  • Practice good self-care habits, like eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep.
  • Evaluate what’s truly important to you and make changes to your work-life balance to align with these values.

“Work to live, don’t live to work.” – Unknown 

I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings

When you hold back your feelings, whether it’s speaking up in a relationship or not expressing your true thoughts in a situation, you may feel sad and regretful. The fear of conflict or judgment can make you suppress your emotions, leaving you feeling unfulfilled in your relationships and in life.

Actionable Tips

  • Practice self-reflection and identify your emotions.
  • Consider therapy or counseling to help you work through your feelings and develop healthy coping mechanisms.
  • Surround yourself with supportive people who will listen and validate your feelings.

“Speak your truth, even if your voice shakes.” – Maggie Kuhn

I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends

Life can be busy, and it’s easy for you to lose touch with friends over the years. But when you look back, you may regret not making an effort to stay in contact with important people in your life. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and a sense of missed opportunities.

Actionable Tips

  • Make a list of friends you’d like to reconnect with and reach out to them.
  • Make an effort to stay in touch with friends by scheduling regular check-ins or outings.
  • Consider joining a club, group or community that aligns with your interests to make new friends.

“A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked.” – Bernard Meltzer.

I wish that I had let myself be happier

When you focus on your responsibilities and what’s expected of you, rather than your own happiness, you may feel unhappy and dissatisfied. Not giving yourself the chance to pursue joy and fulfillment can make you regret not taking better care of your own well-being.

Actionable Tips

  • Practice gratitude by taking time each day to reflect on what you’re thankful for.
  • Surround yourself with positive and supportive people.
  • Make time for activities that bring you joy and fulfillment.

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” – Dalai Lama

I wish I’d had more courage to fight for what I wanted

Throughout your life, it’s common to give in to fear, doubt, and insecurity, causing you to compromise on your desires, goals, and aspirations. But when you look back on your life, you may realize that you missed out on opportunities and experiences that would have brought you joy and fulfillment.

Actionable Tips

  • Cultivate a growth mindset, embrace challenges, and view failures as opportunities for growth.
  • Build self-confidence and resilience by facing your fears, setting and achieving small goals, and celebrating your successes.
  • Surround yourself with supportive individuals who encourage you to pursue your dreams and who believe in your potential.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

I wish I’d traveled more

You may look back and regret not taking advantage of opportunities to travel and see the world. This can be due to a fear of the unknown, financial constraints, or simply not making travel experiences a priority.

Actionable Tips

  • Start planning your next trip, even if it’s just a small one.
  • Create a travel bucket list and work towards ticking off items on the list.
  • Consider trying new experiences, like traveling solo or visiting new cultures, to expand your horizons.

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine

I wish I’d had the courage to tell people what I think

Throughout your life, you may hold back from speaking up and sharing what’s on your mind because you fear being judged or causing conflict. But as you reflect on your life, you may realize that it’s your own thoughts, feelings, and opinions that make you unique. Suppressing these parts of yourself only leads to unhappiness and regret.

Actionable Tips

  • Practice self-reflection and identify your values, beliefs and opinions.
  • Surround yourself with supportive people who will listen to what you have to say.
  • Practice speaking up, even if it’s in small ways, like joining a conversation or sharing your thoughts in a meeting.

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” – Elbert Hubbard.

I wish I’d had a better relationship with my family

Family relationships can be complex, and you may look back and regret not mending broken relationships or creating stronger bonds with family members. This regret can come from misunderstandings, conflicts, and not making enough effort to improve family dynamics.

Actionable Tips

  • Identify specific areas in your relationship with your family that you’d like to improve and work on these.
  • Practice forgiveness and let go of past grudges or misunderstandings.
  • Make time for regular family gatherings or outings to strengthen your relationships.

“The love of family and the admiration of friends is much more important than wealth and privilege.” – Charles Kuralt

I wish I’d have had more time with my loved ones

If you’ve lost a loved one, you may feel regret about not spending more time with them. This regret of the dying can come from a sense of missed opportunities, as well as from not expressing your love and gratitude for them often enough.

Actionable Tips

  • Prioritize spending quality time with loved ones, whether that’s through regular catch-ups, date nights, or shared activities.
  • Practice gratitude by acknowledging the important people in your life and expressing appreciation for them.
  • Make memories with loved ones by doing things you enjoy together, like traveling, trying new experiences, or something as simple as relaxing at home.

“Life is short, and it is up to you to make it sweet.” – Sarah Louise Delany

Moving forward with the knowledge of the ‘regrets of the dying’

It’s important to remember that it’s never too late to make changes and live a life without regrets. By reflecting on these common regrets of the dying and understanding the reasons behind them, we can learn to prioritize what truly matters and make proactive steps towards a fulfilling life. Whether it’s spending more time with loved ones, pursuing our passions, or standing up for what we believe in, each small step can lead to a life full of happiness and contentment.

So, let’s use these regrets of the dying as a reminder to live life to the fullest, to take risks, to love deeply, and to never take a single day for granted. The journey of life is precious and limited, so let’s make the most of it, and strive towards a life that we can look back on with pride and satisfaction.

And if you find this post helpful, please share it with your loved ones. Let’s spread the message of living life to the fullest and avoid these common regrets together.

“Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” – Francis Chan

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57 Responses

  1. Leaving high school right now, this makes me realise what I need to focus on in the near and distant future alike. Thanks for the great content Dale

  2. With Bronnie’s article I found that I was humbled by a disability later in life and I have no regrets. I say you don’t need a lot of stuff to make you happy, you just need LOVE by your family and friends. If you FEEL the love your will be fulfilled. Spent time to FEEL the LOVE!

  3. I am thankful to have undergone a lot of therapy and made a lot of growth in my life to know that I won’t have any of these except possibly two of them.

    Number 4 is hard for a lot of men. I use to not being able to say it a lot and then I was finally able to say it to the people in my life and now I say it all the time. The beautiful thing about it was that my dad never really said he loved me until I was past 20. I started saying it to him and he says it back and even says it himself to me without me seeing it first.

    Number 5 and 6 are so important. I use to hold a lot of bitterment when I was younger, but when I finally learned to say what I needed to say and take responsibility for myself, it changed my life drastically and made me happier.

    The two I might have are not saving enough for retirement and having children, but I’m 24 so I have a long time to go before deciding any of that. The other ones I am working on so I am happy about that : D.

    Thanks for the post Dale. I am sure this will help a lot of people. It helped me when I originally ran across the study a while back.

    1. Your thoughts were also very helpful Sebastian….It’s true… number 4 is difficult especially if the person u want to say it to hurt you so much.

      As regard numbers 5 and 6, well, sometimes what u hold back are really significant emotions that may never be understood by other people (so might as well really keep them). However, there are time u have to say what must be spoken.

      GOD bless u Sebastian

      1. Thanks liwrihs. That is true it can be hard in those situations, but you have to do it for yourself.

        That is true. I have found that even though the other person might not understand them that it is still beneficial for me to say them. You never know how someone will react to what you say. They will interpret whatever you say based on their own unique life experiences and such. Holding back the emotions just hurts you and who knows, maybe sharing it with them will help them too even if they understand it in a different way than you do.

        I use to be so afraid of sharing my emotions/hurts with someone who I cared about because of a fear that they wouldn’t respond the way I’d want them to. I eventually realized that I was afraid of the spontaneity of life and the person’s response. When I went in with the belief that it doesn’t matter how they take it, I need to do this for my own health, it changed me. I was relieved of the stress of holding everything in and I wasn’t worried about how they took it and it ended up making our relationship better. I could speak my mind and I allowed them to be their own unique person.

        Have a great weekend.

  4. I have a terminal disease and I can’t express how true these words are. Don’t let anything slip by. It’s better to regret something you did then something you didn’t do.

  5. Hi Dale, I always enjoy reading your posts and they seem to come at the perfect time. I always wondered about this when I visit my grandma in the retirement home, she lives from memories and tells me the best stories of her life over and over again. I guess at the end when you cannot move by yourself and are dependent on someone to take of you, you realize that even the freedom that we have now of being independent in our daily lives is something we should cherish, as many don’t have that. I struggle with number 3, I am getting better at spending more time with friends. Also, number 5 has put my family (siblings through a lot of pain lately), I’m hoping that the situation will get better between us but is my younger sister who is having a difficult time speaking her mind constructively that has caused the family to split is a tough situation but I have faith that it will all work out soon! Thank you!

  6. I have tried to live my life this way since losing so many close people through death. It makes you think how precious life is and it is not to be taken for granted. We cannot live life thinking we will grow old and can wait until then. We need to love life as though it’s the last day on earth we have & not have regrets. Start now, you will not be dissapointed

  7. Thank you so much for this wonderful article Dale! You’re an angel for providing constant reminders of good things! 🙂

  8. Great article! Strange how little things come up at a time that’s needed. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  9. 6 & 10 are my story ‘
    6 is lesson i leaned hardest way ” paid a huge price ”.
    10 is something i wish i knew how”to do that ,it makes me wonder how when so much stuff puts you down.. its like Battle every day b/w +ive & -ive thoughts

  10. Dear Mr. Patridge, I would like to thank you for researching and sharing such inspiring articles.. I am sure in each of these u have made someones day… and this particular one has…

  11. Dale, a random Tweet on Twitter hit my account & now I follow you on Twitter after seeing myself in so many posts on your site. “10 regrets” article I’d say #10 is my nemesis. I work in corporate America. Fell into the career 20 years ago. Don’t like the work, the politics/managers who do & know nothing yet control our lives without care for the workers or their families. We are puppets who cover their incompetence. I want more time with my family & freedom to do something I enjoy & am interested in. I’ve settled for mediocrity and no change due to familiarity and ignoring my passions and interests–citing any excuse to keep familiarity and routine. Time to make a serious leap of faith, shed this skin & forge a new me–because I do not like where I am at career wise. I can do better, I deserve better. They (management) does that to people, tears our faith in ourselves away… into thinking we can only do what we do. It’s illusion, creates fear/doubt in ourselves, so they have the power over us. Time to break away, so while I’m still young, I don’t have to have #10 as my regret. Thanks for this article and all others on this site.

  12. I can appreciate all these things. However, when we say “happiness is a choice” for some folks, it isn’t a choice. I understand appreciation, gratefulness, etc., but some folks are depressed and need help due to chemical imbalances. Happiness is the farthest thing from a clinically depressed person’s mind. I think a positive attitude always helps, if possible.

    1. And many of us do find happiness when we look for it. If you look to be depressed you will remain so, if you seek happiness and fulfillment then that is what you’ll get. Life is a state of mind. Just ask the people who survived the concentration camps; they’re all happy because they chose to be so – not because they watched their loved ones die. Life IS a choice, choose wisely! ; )

  13. This is a good list but I don’t agree that happiness is a choice. Happiness is also a process, and for many who suffer from depression or other difficult circumstances, it’s important to validate those barriers. Believing you can just choose to be happy implies that when you’re not happy, it’s your fault. That’s flawed logic in a world full of intricate choices and relationships.

    1. Fault? Not sure where you dug that up, but we are responsible for our reaction to the world around us. We’re not victims doomed to depression. Ever hear the expression FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT. I’ve used that technique many times. It’s helped me get out of my funk on many occasion. Depression runs deep and wide in my family tree, we’ve lost several to suicide. I didn’t just wake up one day and start singing with joy, I had to work at it by way of using 12 step programs, therapy, venting with friends, spiritual outreach and making a conscience choice each day to choose to be happy! Today I can whole heartedly say I am happy its not longer a struggle to get there, I am here, but yes it takes time to make that change, but it is possible IF one puts in the time and effort! ; )

      1. Thanks. I I have used this technique but have forgotten it. Thanks for reminding me. I am starting it tomm! Thanks! FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT!

    2. I agree with you. Not every item on the list applies to every person equally. Positive thinking will always make life better, but, depending on your situation, doesn’t always make one happy in the short run. However, in the long run, I suspect it builds a sort of momentum. I think the people who quote that regard are generally ones who weren’t suffering clinical depression, but for whom life didn’t measure up to their ideal expectations and spent a large amount of time thinking about that and letting it get to them. That probably isn’t you.

    3. Great observation, and very true. Unhappiness can be like bad weather, impossible to avoid and difficult to escape. I find the best cure for a bout of that is intense exercise–it leaves you wondering what you were worrying about in the first place.

  14. Number 4–I always feel a bit of a heel when i return the”I love you” because the other person said it first,but your list has encouraged me to be first in line Dale,thanks for the list.

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