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The regret in dying

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Is the regret of a life less-lived enough motivation to remain behind after physical death? It very well could be.

While recently going through my files I pulled an article I had placed away several years before. At the time, while interesting, it didn’t exactly pertain to events that were going on in my life in that moment. The times, however, do change….

We all will face the inevitable conclusion of physical death. Our lives can be likened to a clock with a fresh battery…running throughout our youth…and continuing to tick the minutes and hours steadily along throughout adulthood. Yet, at a designated point the clock begins the descent of winding down, and eventually stops; the battery has lost its charge and there won’t be a new one to replace it. We then pass into a different form of our journey.

And…until the prospect of dying, or actual death, affects you personally, it’s one of those topics we feel more comfortable just keeping on the shelf and pretending it’s not there.

It’s not something we like to think about if we don’t have to.

This article that I had placed into a folder in my filing cabinet and soon forgot involved a nurse who worked with patients that had reached the extent of their passage through life. Discharged from the hospital, they had gone home to die in a comfortable environment. This nurse treated them in their last days, comforted them as best she could, but also made observations. She found a common thread that existed with each and every patient during this period:

“People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions as expected: denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial, and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though…every one of them.”

This nurse was not afraid to ask questions. It was as good an experience for her as it was for the sense of closure for them. The patient’s time was drawing to a close and they were quite aware of that fact. There may have been a sense of urgency in them speaking what they felt needed to be said. Acceptance of their upcoming transition often brought out the regrets of a life not lived to its full potential. Repetitive themes were the result of this questioning. The most common five that this nurse 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 look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams, and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honor at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.”

I wish I didn’t work so hard.

“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.”

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.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.”

I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

“Often they would not realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that 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 is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks—love and relationships.”

I wish I had let myself be happier.

“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to themselves, that they were content…when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.”

In the paranormal realm it is thought that sudden, unexpected deaths can result in spirits lingering behind; things are unresolved. Yet, when one knows his or her death is coming, how does regret factor into their final days? Unresolved issues? I would think so.

Perhaps they also have their own reasons for staying behind.

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