The 5 Most Important Lessons That Come Out of Loss

5 regrets of the dyingThis past week, I learned of the deaths of three people. One was a college acquaintance, another my beloved theater professor. The third was a young mom I didn't even know whose passing I found out about from one of my blog readers.

When these tragedies occur, I find myself looking back at my own legacy, using the sadness as a way to challenge myself to be a better person and parent. I've taken to reminding myself of the powerful regrets dying people have spoken about so that I don't waste another second of this gift of life I'm lucky enough to have.

I suppose it might seem odd to find inspiration from "Regrets of the Dying," an article by former palliative care nurse Bonnie Ware (who later wrote a book on the same topic). But I can only imagine that they'd want their words to matter and change someone who still had a chance to enjoy their days.


This past week I decided to read her article again and apply those five regrets to my own life. Nothing like a healthy dose of perspective to help make one more appreciative and aim for better. 

1. I wish I had been true to myself and not just done what others expected of me. I still struggle with this every day, though I'm getting closer with some of the career and relationship decisions I've made. As hard as it is for me not to care what other people think, I still find myself concerned, particularly with my own mother.

2. I wish I had worked less. As a business owner, working less is quite a challenge, but lately, I've been waking up earlier so that I can spend the morning hours with my children before their sitter arrives. And I've been shutting down and working after they go to bed so that I can be present for them through the afternoon and evening. I'm happier for it, and so are they.

3. I wish I'd expressed my feelings more. I'm fortunate that I've always been open about sharing my feelings, perhaps maybe too much. If there's anything I've learned from watching others suffer, keeping emotions inside can often do more harm than good. Part of this, however, is allowing myself to be vulnerable, and I'll be honest: I'm not quite sure I'm there yet.

4. I should have stayed in better touch with my friends. I've already discussed how I regret not staying in touch with my friends. I am thankful for Facebook in this case because it has allowed me to contact old friends and rekindle our friendships. I still wish I had more time to travel and visit those who aren't close by. One day at a time, right?

5. I wish I'd been happier. It's easy to get bogged down by the day-to-day challenges of being a working parent, but I know that taking things in stride not only makes me nicer to be around, but also sets a good example for my kids. And let's be honest -- I'm pretty sure no one ever says when the end is near, "I wish I had laughed and smiled less."

What would be your last regrets?


Image via David W/Flickr

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