What we have found most striking about the wisdom Ware shares is that nearly all of the regrets that she refers to have to do with relationships, or perhaps more accurately the neglect of them. While many of the dying failed to anticipate until close to the end, the depth of the pain that they would experience in failing to adequately express their appreciation of their loved ones, others were confronted with a different but related issue. They withheld unspoken resentments in order to avoid activating conflict or hard feelings, and in so doing created emotional blocks that prevented them from experiencing and expressing love. These incompletions act as much if not more than the barriers created by withholding love because of distractions or preoccupations with other activities. — Linda/Charlie Bloom









And yet surprisingly The Top Five Regrets of the Dying is not a depressing book. On the contrary, it is inspirational and enlightening. It illuminates ways in which even during the final stage of life, there can be redemption and acceptance through the expression and openhearted exchange of honesty and gratitude. True, some relationships are so damaged at the end that reconciliation between parties is unattainable, but acceptance, compassion, understanding and forgiveness (of self and other) are possible. These are the fundamental elements of emotional healing and that is what those individuals suffering from remorse and regret at the end of their lives are most in need of.

While the pain of taking loved ones for granted over an extended period of time cannot be dissolved by an affirmation or a simple apology, the healing process which starts with an acknowledgment of one’s guilt or regrets is a most powerful step, and also the one to which there may be the greatest resistance to taking. There is something greatly empowering in taking the most difficult step in any process. The steps that follow are usually less painful.

Ware’s book is ultimately about living, not about dying. One of its unspoken messages is that the way we live is the way that we all die, and the way we die is a reflection of how we have lived.   Living with an open heart will produce a very different experience for us than the alternative. Like so many other things in life, it’s never too late to start practicing.

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