The 5 Most Important Lessons That Come Out of Loss

Inspiring 6

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

stress, spirituality, time for you, resolutions


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nonmember avatar Alexsmommy08

Every point you make is on target. My father died when I was 6, my mother when I was 15, my sister when I was 31 -all from cancer, and my brother committed suicide last year a few weeks shy of my 34th birthday. No matter how prepared you are for someone's passing it always comes with its own unique set of grief. What I have learned is that if anything were to happen to me before my son was old enough to truly know me he would be forever seeking answers that I do now with regards to both my mom and dad.
For this reason every month and sometimes twice a month I write a card to my son detailing what he has acheived , be it walking, talking or just being an amazing kid. I also let him know how I feel at that precise moment. He is 4 years old and already has 57 unopened cards from me. (I enclose a picture of us the day each card was written). It may seem overkill to some but it helps me find peace. My intention is to give them to him when he becomes a father because I plan on being here for that, but if not it will be a perpetual reminder of how everything else in my life paled in comparison to his existence.

Amanda Magee

I think my regrets would be fear—Not singing or dancing because I was afraid. Never daring to write the book, wear the dress...whatever.

I revist that regrets of the dying wisdom often because I think staying calibrated to live in ways that limit regret takes deliberate effort.

Thanks for this, Kristen. Precious lessons here.

nonmember avatar Amelia

Alexsmommy- that is very sweet. He will appreciate it for certain and I do not think its "overkill" at all. Anyone that would suggest that is without a soul.

Like Amanda I would regret the fear of not taking risks. However I think the biggest regret would lie in the fact that I did not realize how wonderful my parents were and the life that they gave me until I was grown up and had a family of my own. I wish I could back in time and be a 15 year old me again and let my mom know just how amazing she was:(

Roche... RochesterGal

 I wished when my eldest daughter was a teenager what she was doing and going through was normal instead of reacting to things now that I look back where not all that serious.  I was tough on her because she was my first and I wanted her to have a good life.  I apologized to her recently and she told me very surprised, you did nothing wrong, you made me responsible.  Some of my high school friends have had a tough time adjusting to life because their parents did not give them any responsibility or ever tell them they were making mistakes or doing anything wrong.  I also reget not finishing college, I have been stuck in secretarial jobs all my working life and has made me very unhappy.  I am the type of person who needs to be in a job where I am making decisions, not a background person; hence why I was tough on my first born to work hard and make something out of herself and she has. 

nonmember avatar momof2

As I look back I have a few. One is that I didn't get married so young I was only 18 and we had our first born when we were 19. Granted I have two wonderful boys but I regret not being able to go out amd hang with my friends and the struggles I have faced by having a child so young. My other regret would be not working. I know almost every woman dreams of staying home with their kids but we live on a tight paycheck that we are lucky if we have anything until the next paycheck. But if I had worked we wouldve dug deeper into debt. But I also how blessed I am that I got to see the first steps and all their firsts. Amd just this year I got to start playing toothfairy while daddy is deployed again

Nikar... Nikarleen

My biggest regret.. Not being smarter about what kind of man I had children with...worst thing they pay the price by my young & nieve my boys r only thing I truly care about & determined to raise them into good men, the kind I wish I could find.

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