When you arrive at your death, what will you wish you had done differently? Get it’s Hayley Bogaard explores our most common regrets
I want you to close your eyes. Let your life go for just a moment. Now imagine you’re at your own funeral. It’s a little morbid, I know, but stay with me.
You move through the congregation of people. You find your best friend from high school. She’s wearing dark sunglasses but you can see that she’s been crying. Your heart drops when you realise you never told her how beautiful she truly is.
You keep moving and spot a group of friends from your last job and a small lump of guilt rises in your throat. The last time they asked you out for drinks you blew them off. You wish you hadn’t.
You move towards the front of the group, admiring the beautiful white peonies that adorn the venue; your favourite flower. Your mum always knew. And she stands just off to the side, lost in memories of her little girl. If only you could have had one more cooking lesson by her side.
And then you spot your partner, hand in hand with your children. He is quiet, politely talking to one of your aunts. You can see he is broken. His face is flushed but he hides it for your children’s sake. They are silent, taking in the scene around them. Their faces are stained with rivers of tears. Your stomach drops. You should have tucked them into bed more often, rather than stayed late in the office. You should have written a love letter to your husband, rather than another email to your boss.
Regret is a bitter pill to swallow. We all have them. But we can learn from those that have walked this dark path before us, so when we do arrive at our own funeral it is late, in love and perhaps just a little drunk.
I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
This is one of the most common regrets expressed by those facing their death. Parents regret missing their children’s youth, caught on the treadmill of office life. Missed dinners, soccer games and ballet concerts, all for the pursuit of a deadline.
Others just miss life in general. A holiday with friends, your cousin’s wedding. In between meetings, emails, deadlines and invoices, they forget to just live.
So close your laptop; your emails can wait. Your life won’t.
I wish I had been more true to myself
Another common regret is not living authentically. Rather than chase dreams and aspirations, we fall far too easily into the trappings of pleasing others. We studied the degree our parents wanted, we dressed in trends rather than the style we truly loved, we married the wrong person because we felt we had to.
Embrace who you are, because when you arrive at the pearly gates, that’s all you have. Wear what you want, chase the career you dream of, love who you love. And then you can strut through those gates with pride, love and beautiful memories.
I wish I had been more courageous with how I felt
Many people arrive at their death wishing they had had the courage to express how they truly felt, rather than supressing those emotions to please others. Instead, they lived with resentment, bitterness and mediocrity.
It’s never easy to rock the boat. But learn to say no. Learn to say ‘I love you’. Learn the value of your opinion. Be courageous, be brave and embrace strength in vulnerability.
I wish I had stayed in touch with people
Life gets in the way, I know. Work happens. Family happens. Life happens. And somewhere along the way, we lose touch with people who are actually important to us. We blame time, but really, it’s no excuse. So many people at the end of their lives realise the true value of friendship, when, tragically, it’s too late.
People are the most valuable investment we will ever make. They deserve our time, energy and effort. A lunch with your best friend, a call to a work colleague, a quick text message to remind someone you’re thinking of them.
When you’re walking through the crowd at your own funeral, you should be looking around at the familiar faces with gratefulness and loving memories, not regrets.