Friday, 3 February 2012

Regrets and choices

If you were only given a matter of weeks or months to live what would you do differently? I wonder if Clive had been told this time last year that he had a matter of days left on this earth what would he have done differently? As his partner what might I have done differently? Would we have made different choices? In some things I guess we would - such as paperwork! In others I have no regrets as I know he knew I loved him and vice versa. Clive had only told someone two weeks before he died how happy and content he was and that gives me great comfort.

I am grateful to Pennie Lordan for posting a reference to an article on Facebook about Regrets of the Dying, based on the observations of a palliative nurse. It is similar to the work by Elisabeth Kubler Ross whose work I read last year and lessons I apply to my life now.

The link to the article is here however read on for the details from the actual site below.

From :-

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.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

1. 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 realise 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 honoured 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 honour 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 realise, until they no longer have it.

2. 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.

3. 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.

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

Often they would not truly realise 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 is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

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

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise 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 their selves, 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.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.

So on reflection:

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

I guess I did and I do this! Hence my move to Tadcaster to be with Clive in the first place. Likewise now he has gone I know I have been and will be criticised for what I do/don't do. I know I have to do what I feel is right for me.

2. I wish I didn't work so hard. 

That's easy at the moment! I am still in 'be kind to me mode'! However I am also VERY excited because my new website is well on it's way, thanks to Paul at Leeds Graphic Designers and Sammy at Ice Innovation. Watch this space! One of my tasks is to go back through the 700 blog entries here to categorise them! What's that about not working too hard? My 'work' is my passion.

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

Somehow I know I am okay on this one! My blogs say it all! This post should take it to over 70,000 views! It is something I have improved on whilst I was with Clive and my relationships now. I often used to suppress my feelings for fear of upsetting others. I now let rip!

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

12 months ago I was guilty of this. I have learnt that family are so important but also friends are. I now do my best to do this. I truly value and appreciate my friends.

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

Clive's sudden death has REALLY taught me how fragile life is. How precious each moment is - there may not be others. With him I learnt to really laugh and have fun again - that builds a great foundation upon which to grow and develop. He loved to see me smile and make me laugh - and that is how I intend to live my life again.

Even with someone else......

How can you answer those 5 'regrets' and what can you do differently? What choices can you make NOW so that you can live the rest of your days at peace?

Elaine x

1 comment:

Amanda Clarke said...

Elaine, This is a great article and I am so glad that you shared it with us. Sometimes its easier for people to read an article like this and never bother answering the question you pose at the end. I hope that every one of your readers takes the time to do so; it could change their lives for the better! Sending you much love and best wishes. Amanda xxx