Deathbed Non-Regrets: What Won’t You Regret About Your Life On Your Deathbed?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 • by Gene Newman

A palliative care nurse recently wrote a list of the top 5 regrets people make on their deathbed. It became really popular. You may have seen it posted on Facebook. If not, here are the highlights:

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

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

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

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Even though we’re not experts on deathbed regrets, this seems pretty standard. But how much control do we really have over any of these things? Are these actual regrets or just cliches we accept as reality when the end is near? If given the chance to live life over again, how many people would change how they lived? Would you work less hours even if you had a family to support? Express your feelings and follow your heart more freely, even if alienated you from friends and loved ones? Treat happiness as an “on/off” switch primarily set to “on?”

In short, it’s a thoughtful, conversation-starting list but it’s not useful. The only person who learns from regrets is the person who has them in the first place. Unless you have a time machine, it’s too late to change these things. For others, regrets don’t translate well. People often have to make their own mistakes for it to become real. It’s all part of life.

Rather than dwell on the negative, let’s do the opposite: What won’t you regret on your deathbed? What are the things that made your life worth living? When did you do something against the norm that might have turned out great (or horribly) but was still worth the ride? It doesn’t have to be major life altering moments (as you’ll see below in our examples), but it should be something that brings a smile to your face whenever it drifts into your mind.

To get the ball rolling, here are some examples of things people around the Everplans office don’t regret. Leave your Deathbed “Non-Regrets” in the comments below or send them directly to us:

  • Never passing up the opportunity to go on a waterslide. Ever.
  • Not seeking out my real birth parents.
  • Breaking my wrist learning how to snowboard at an age when most people don’t attempt to learn how to snowboard.
  • Reading over 300 Star Trek books.
  • Taking all my sick, personal and vacation days every year.
  • Ending a relationship/getting a divorce (ed note: this was mentioned more than once.)
  • I’ve worked on a lot of businesses and don’t regret a single one. This includes the successes, failures, and ones that were downright outrageous. (Those were actually the most memorable.)
  • Getting that awesome shoulder tattoo that everyone told me I’d regret.
  • Watching Goodfellas every time I come across it on TV. (Also Godfather I & II, Groundhog Day, Die Hard, National Lampoon's Vacation...)
  • A trip to the Bahamas my friends and I took during college. We could barely afford food (we had to pool our money for each meal), had to hitchhike everywhere, and had some interesting adventures at the hands of locals. It was stupid and dangerous as heck but an experience of a lifetime.
  • Going for the green on a par 5 with my second shot.
  • Spending a month’s salary on a handbag.
  • Two words: Swingers party.
  • Cutting most of my classes in high school. It helped me develop well-rounded social and street skills.
  • Pizza. Yep, just pizza.

Share your Deathbed “Non-Regrets” on Facebook, in the comments below, or send them directly to us here.