EOLU Blog

Don’t Focus on Regrets at the End of Life

Why it’s not helpful to ask dying people what they regret about their lives and what to do instead.

“Don’t waste your time in anger, regrets, worries, and grudges. Life is too short to be unhappy.” 

Roy T. Bennett

For some reason there’s been a buzz in the last few years about finding out what people on their deathbeds regret most about their lives. We hear this often: “they regret what they didn’t do more than things they did.” That’s fine to say and tends to be good advice for those of us who aren’t facing our last days. We can learn from their mistakes and pledge to live our own lives differently from now on.

In fact, research on regret as an emotional state has shown that it may be helpful for young people as a reminder to reconsider their current path and make better choices for the future. But when regret occurs in situations where there is no chance to change the current circumstances or make things better, it can cause chronic stress and do both physical and emotional harm. Individuals who feel they have no path forward can experience guilt, self-blame, disappointment and depression as a result of spending their time focusing on their regrets.

Regret sells

However as a society we are drawn to learning about the regrets of other people because we fear making mistakes or missing out on opportunities. We are eager to benefit from someone else’s suffering if it means we can avoid the same path for ourselves. Advertisers rely on our fears by using regret as a motivator to sell products, such as “this person didn’t buy from us and paid more money for worse service.” We don’t want to be the foolish person who regrets their choice so we pay attention to messages like that and we buy products, books and courses that teach us how to avoid these costly mistakes.

Not helpful at the end

There’s nothing really wrong with this tactic except when it applies to people who are nearing the end of life. Because they may not have time to repair the past or forge a new direction in the future, they have no opportunity to truly learn from their regrets. Placing their attention on the mistakes of their lives may lead them to despair and a feeling of worthlessness as they prepare for the end, especially if you are unable to guide them beyond their self-blame.

Do this instead

Instead of asking “what regrets do you have from the past” we would be better advised to ask “what are you grateful for in your life” or even “are there things left undone that you would still like to address.” If the person wants to talk about regrets it’s fine to go there, but it’s not helpful to introduce the topic to them if they’re not already thinking about it. Viewing life as a series of mistakes or regretful events is painful and creates a spiral of negativity. But we can help people avoid that downward spiral and lessen their distress by asking better questions.

Listen and find meaning

People at the end of life generally benefit greatly from doing a life review and being able to tell their stories in a safe setting. The art of being a good listener includes helping them find meaning, connection and resolution through their own stories without judgment or shame. To truly help a person find peace at the end of life focus on forgiveness, gratitude for what life has offered, self-compassion and letting go of self-blame. But don’t ask about regrets unless you know you can lead them out of that dark place to a higher, more healing perspective.

EOLPodcast

Ep. 323 Self-Care Tools for 2021 and Why We Need Them Now with Suzanne O’Brien RN

Learn why self-care and love are essential tools to master right now as we navigate these days of grief, transformation and healing.

My guest Suzanne O’Brien is a hospice and wellness nurse, international speaker, and bestselling author. She the founder and creator of The International Doulagivers® Institute and the Doulagivers® Life Class and Wellness Membership. She has traveled the world educating and helping build training programs to support community-based end-of-life care globally. She shares the tools she teaches for self-care during difficult times and why it’s so important to love ourselves. We’ll also learn about a new initiative launching November 1st to train 1 million people around the world to care for people at the end of life and to live their own best lives. Learn more at the website:

https://www.doulagivers.com

Listen here:

This episode includes:

  • How the pandemic has shifted our energies these past 2 years
  • How Suzanne’s Life Café met the needs of her community during lockdown and continues to reach people from around the world
  • Why we especially need to tend to our own physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs right now
  • Why stillness is important as we connect with our inner selves
  • True self-care requires self-love
  • A morning practice for self-awareness and care
  • Changing our inner world to be more loving will change how we perceive the world outside of us
  • The One Million People Trained Campaign

Links mentioned in this episode:

If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes. Thanks again to all supporters on my page at Patreon.com/eolu! Your contributions make all the difference.

EOLPodcast

Ep. 297 Compassion 101: Why We Are Failing and How To Do Better

Learn how to increase your own capacity for compassion toward yourself and others and make the world a better place in the process.

In this episode I share some of the research and articles I’ve been reading in the book Compassion: Bridging Practice and Science, edited by Tania Singer and Matthias Bolz. It seems to be that we are in need of greater compassion as a society right now to help us cope with our current adversities and grow stronger in love and kindness in the process. I have some poems and practices to share that hopefully will inspire all of us to higher consciousness. View Tania Singer’s website:

www.taniasinger.de

Listen here:

This episode includes:

  • Why we need more compassion in our society right now
  • 5 reasons why we are “failing” at compassion
  • The difference between empathy and compassion according to researchers
  • Why overdoing empathy can lead to burnout while practicing compassion can prevent it
  • The positive benefits of compassion practices
  • How and why to begin practicing self-compassion
  • The difference between self-compassion and self-esteem
  • Study results on using the Lovingkindness Meditation (Metta) as a regular practice
  • Mantras to use for self-compassion and Lovingkindness

Links mentioned in this episode:

If you enjoy this content please share it with others and consider leaving a review on iTunes! Thanks again to all supporters on my page at Patreon.com/eolu, especially my newest supporters Stefanie Elkins and Claire Murphy Jones! Your contributions make all the difference!