Top 5 Regrets People Have Before Dying
How to Clear Your Regrets Before Dying
The end of life period can bring up many feelings and a deep sense of reflection. Not surprisingly, regrets may surface and fill you with guilt for certain decisions you’ve made in your life. You may feel a sense of urgency to cope with these feelings and make things right before passing. By being thoughtful and humble, you may clear your regrets before your passing.
Approaching Regret in a Healthy Way
Explore your emotions.Think about your regrets and why you regret them. What went wrong for these regrets to happen, and where do you take responsibility?What emotions are triggered as a result of regret (anger, sadness, grief, loneliness)? Are these important for you to deal with before you die? If so, how will you choose to deal with these emotions?
- Decide how you want to resolve your feelings and why it’s important to do this. Do you need to take action? How so?
- For example, you may regret living far from your family and feel lonely and sad. You may choose to take action and invite family to visit or take a trip to visit them before passing.
Use the benefits of regret.Through regret, you can learn how your behaviors have brought negative consequences. Feelings of regret can lead to you take action.This can be especially true if you are nearing death, as you realize that your time is running out. If you experience regret, do what you can to find fulfillment.
- For example, you may regret not traveling to different countries. Use this as fuel to start traveling now. You may not be capable of traveling the world, but you can see things you've never seen and have new experiences.
- If your time is near, take the opportunity to clear the air with those you love and let them know how you feel. For example, if you regret not spending enough time with your grandchildren, leave a legacy for them. Write letters, record audio messages, or send cards as a way for them to know you as they grow up.
Reframe your experiences.Instead of focusing on the negatives of regret, focus on the lessons you learned and how those lessons contributed to your life.A motorcycle accident that left you with major injuries may have taught you the preciousness of life, or a big fight with a friend may have helped you realize how you get emotionally triggered or how much that friend means to you. Whatever your regrets, examine how they influenced you and your life trajectory.
- While your regrets may hit you deeply, try and see what positive effects these life experiences may have had for you.
- In fact, you may want to try to have gratitude for these moments. Think about how these moments, difficult as they may have been, gave you the chance to learn, change, and grow.
Let it go.Don’t let your regrets affect your self-esteem or turn into a depression. If there’s something you can do nothing about, don’t let it ruin you.Remind yourself that no matter how much you want to, you cannot go back in time. Accept what is and let it go.
- If you find yourself saying, “If only….” remind yourself that you cannot relive the past. You can, however, take steps in the present to accept those things and perhaps make amends.
- For example, if you wish you had done something differently (like not worked so hard), recognize that you did the best you could at the time. Accept how you lived your life and that you made mistakes.
- If you wish you had spent more time with your family, you can try to reach out and spend time with them now.
Avoid blaming yourself.If you feel like blaming yourself for the regrets you have, be gentle with yourself. Consider all the factors that led to your decisions: perhaps you had limited knowledge, were under stress, or felt pressure and made a poor decision. Admit that you made a bad decision or failed to do something. Blaming yourself is a not a positive way to deal with the situation, and may make you feel worse.
- For example, if you have a bad relationship with your sibling, you may feel regret and blame yourself for not being a better brother or sister. While it may be true that you could have done better, say to yourself, “I didn’t know then how I’d feel now. I know I made mistakes, but I cannot place all the blame on myself, as that was a previous version of myself, locked in circumstance.”
Say “I’m sorry.”Admit your faults and shortcomings to the people that need to hear it. It can be meaningful to clear the air with friends and family members before passing. If you’re not sure where to begin, start with this formula: express your regret, explain what went wrong or what social norm was violated, take responsibility, say “I’m sorry,” offer a repair, and request forgiveness.
- For example, say, “I regret not spending more time with you when you were a child. I know you wanted me in your life and were sad that I wasn’t there. It was my fault for not prioritizing you, and for that I am sorry. I know we cannot go back in time, but I want to spend time with you now and appreciate who you’ve become. Please forgive me.”
Forgive yourself.Acknowledge your mistake and take responsibility for it. You may feel guilty, and that’s okay. Yet, remember that doing bad things does not make you a bad person.Acknowledge all truths to a situation and then choose to forgive yourself.
- For example, you may regret working too much and not spending time with loved ones. Admit that you made choices that negatively impacted your loved ones, and those choices make you feel bad. Yet, you likely made some good choices in your relationships, too. See the good with the bad, and say, “I made choices I regret and feel bad about them. I recognize these as mistakes, and I choose to forgive myself.”
Be forgiving.Even if people chose not to forgive you for your mistakes, forgive them for theirs. Acknowledge other people’s choices and decisions, even if they hurt you, and choose to forgive them. Forgive the things that people have done against you. Let go of your anger and resentment without feeling like you need to minimize your negative experience.
- If you’ve asked forgiveness from someone who is unwilling to give it to you, understand and forgive this person for still harboring negative feelings toward you.
- If someone has hurt or offended you, now is a good time to forgive and let go. Write a letter and say, “You really hurt me, and I’ve held it against you. No, I see that it’s important that I let that go and forgive you.”
Getting Unstuck from the Past
Allow yourself to be happy.Sometimes people don’t realize until the end of life that you can choose to be happy. Maybe you spent much of your life unhappy, but make the choice from this day onward to choose happiness.Even if you cannot change the past, you can make each day a happy day.
- Fill your days with activities you enjoy. Start new activities that you’ve always wanted to do. Aim to find happiness in as many moments as you can.
Reach out to friends.You may regret shutting people out of your life or not prioritizing relationships more throughout your life. Take advantage of the time you do have by calling in the people you want to spend time with and the relationships that matter to you.
- If you’ve not spend quality time with family and friends, now is the time to do it. Instead of looking to the past, look to the present and the future to bring that fulfillment.
Make amends with others who have passed.You may regret actions or feelings you have toward someone who has already passed. Now, you may understand their situation and the urgency more clearly. You may regret the way you treated someone in their passing and realize now that you wish you could do it over. While you may not have the opportunity to work things out face-to-face, consider writing a letter to the person. State what happened, what you wish would have happened, why you wish it was different, and include an apology. Then, see if there is a way to honor that person’s life or death.
- For example, you might regret getting drunk, driving, and killing someone. Write a letter to that person and become an organ donor to honor that person’s life.
Focus on the present.Use your remaining time in a meaningful way. Try asking yourself — What have I learned? What can I teach others? Consider using creative expression to explore where you are in the present and get unstuck from the past. Try painting, writing letters, journaling, quilting, music, drama, or other forms of art to express your emotions. Getting in touch with your artistic side can help you communicate and release emotions and regrets, allowing you to be present and enjoy the time you have left.
Allow yourself to think about the things you did right.When those regret thoughts pop, remind yourself to refocus on you are proud of, the things that made you happy, and what made your life fuller. For example, if you regret not going to med school when you had the ability because you were too busy with family. Think about your family and the joy you have felt with them. Remind yourself that you made them a priority because it was most important to you. Be thankful for that.
Work with a therapist.If you’re having a hard time dealing with your regrets and are looking for some guidance, consider getting therapy. A therapist can help you work through your feelings and use specific techniques to help you cope. By using a cognitive behavioral approach, you can begin to change your patterns of thinking to reduce feelings of regret.
Video: 🌟BRONNIE WARE: How to Live without Regrets! | Top 5 Regrets of the Dying
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