Biggest Deathbed Regrets In Life That You Can Change Now

Biggest Deathbed Regrets In Life That You Can Change Now

Don’t put off your dreams too long, they might become your deathbed regrets. Here is my biggest regret and some examples the biggest regrets of life people  have.

By Annie André ⦿ updated January 10, 2024  

We all have regrets: negative emotions that make us feel bad and or sad about a personal choice as we imagine some alternative outcome, usually a better one if we had only done something differently. Here are some examples of life’s biggest regrets as well as some deathbed regrets. What can you learn from your regrets?

My Biggest Regret in Life is…

We all have regrets!

Regrets are negative emotions that make us feel bad or sad about a personal choice as we imagine some alternative outcome, usually a better one, if we had only done something differently.

Regrets are complicated because although they make us feel bad, they can also have a positive effect and teach us life lessons to live by. 

If I knew then what I know now, I would have…

One of my biggest regret in life that taught me an important lesson to live by happened when I was 21 years old.

My father was struck by a car fleeing the scene of a crime in front of the local grocery store, leaving my then 14-year-old brother and me orphans.

deathbed regrets newspaper clipping from my dad's death

I was supposed to wake up and walk with my father that morning, but I had stayed out late with friends the night before and was too tired, so I stayed in bed.

Even though his death was not my fault, I’ve always regretted not waking up and taking that walk with him. Not just because I might have been able to change my father’s fate and prevented him from standing in front of that car but because I regretted not spending more time with him when I had the chance.

But I didn’t realize this regret until after he died.

I have other regrets, such as majoring in Economics instead of graphic art or not continuing to play the violin.

Still, those regrets are different because I can do something about them going forward. Although I can’t bring my father back from the dead, I learned something valuable from his death and by working through my regret.

I need to be more present and spend more time with the people I care about now instead of regretting not having done so after they’re gone. 

Lucille Ball quote about regrets

People most regret the things they didn’t do rather than the things they did do. 

There have been countless studies done about regret.

This study looked at the kinds of regrets we have and found 72 percent of people feel regret related to their ideal selves: not becoming the person we feel we could have become if we had only tried.

In other words, the things we regret most are the things we didn’t do rather than the things we did do.

Examples Of The things we most regret

According to a meta-study that looked at the results of several studies, the areas of life that produce the greatest potential for regret fall into the following categories. ! 

Deathbed regrets by category

Here are some examples for each category of regret. 


  • “Probably the most important piece of advice that I’ve ever gotten is to develop your mind. I left school very young, and I always regretted it.” -Stephanie Seymour.
  • I wish I had gotten a different degree. 
  • I wish I didn’t quit school.


  • I wish I had chosen a career that I enjoyed rather than one that was practical.
  • I regret not changing careers.


  • I wish I hadn’t broken up with my true love. 
  • I wish I had put more effort into my marriage/relationship.
  • I regret having an affair.
  • I wish I had left my abusive relationship sooner.


  • I wish I were a better father or mother, sister or brother.
  • I wish I had spent more time with my children.
  • I regret not having children.


  • I wish I had lived my life the way I wanted instead of how my parents wanted me to live it. 
  • I wish I had gotten help sooner.
  • I regret holding on to grudges.


  • I regret not travelling more.
  • I wish I had taken more vacations.
  • I wish I had learned to play the piano, violin, guitar or some other instrument. 
  • I regret not learning a second language.
  • I wish I had been more adventurous.


  • I wish I hadn’t focussed so much on making money. 
  • I wish I had saved more money.
  • I regret not investing in Apple stock.


  • “I’ve always regretted that I never was able to talk openly with my parents, especially with my father. I’ve heard and read so many things about my family that I can no longer believe anything; every relative I question has a completely different story from the last.” -David Bowie.
  • I wish I had appreciated my parents more.
  • I wish I told the people I care about how I felt.


  • I wish I quit smoking sooner.
  • I wish I took better care of my health and my body.


  • I wish I had stayed in contact with my friends.
  • I wish I had made more of an effort to make friends.


  • “I believed that doing what the other person wanted was love. I did that, and for more than a thousand years, I have regretted it. I don’t want to repeat the same mistake.”- Kim Dong-Joo.
  • I regret not being more present.
  • I wish I were a better person. 


  • I wish I stood up more for other people or causes.
  • I wish I had got more involved in local events and causes.

Pin Free printable wall art of coco chanel quote: I regret nothing but the things I have not done

Deathbed regret: Top 5 Biggest Regrets Of The Dying

 “The most dangerous risk of all-the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.” – Randy Komisar

Sometimes we don’t realize our regrets until it’s too late and we’re on our deathbeds. 

Bonnie Ware is a former nurse who spent a lot of time talking with her dying patients.  She noticed many of them shared the same deathbed regrets and shared her findings in a 2009 blog post that went viral. It was titled “Regrets of the Dying.” 

She also wrote a book on regrets. 

I’ve paraphrased the top five regrets according to Bonnie’s patients, but for the most part, most felt regret over NOT having done something rather than having done something. 

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

Bonnie says this was the most common regret.  It’s easy to look back and see how many unfulfilled dreams you have at the end of your life.

I can’t stress to you how important It is to honour or try to honour some of your dreams.

2) I wish I didn’t work so hard.

Many male patients regretted spending so much of their lives on the corporate treadmill, which caused them to miss their children’s youth or neglect their relationships with their partners and loved ones.

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

Many people suppressed their feelings to keep the peace or to spare other people’s feelings. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became or expressed who they really were.

You can’t control how other people will react to you speaking more honestly, but you will at least have shown your true self and either raise the relationship to a new level or rid yourself of unhealthy relationships.

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

Many of Bonnie’s patients were so caught up in their own lives that they neglected friendships and eventually lost contact over the years, only to find themselves regretting this on their deathbed.

Keep building your friendships and seek out new friends regularly.

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

Many people settle for the life they have rather than the life they want.

If only these people had given themselves permission to pursue their dreams or a version of their dreams rather than sacrificing their happiness and enduring a life they were not completely happy with.

Paulo live your life to the fullest now not later

Don’t Waste Your Time and Energy Regretting Your Past.

 Finding a reason not to do something is so much easier than finding a reason to do it.

  • Stop thinking about what might have been and look at what can be.  Accept them and grow from them. 
  • Live for today: You never know what the future holds for you, so live your life to its fullest, and if you have kids, teach them the same with your actions, not just your words.
  • Be Happy! You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to live your life in such a way that brings you happiness and joy. It would have killed me to know that my father regretted not doing something because he felt guilty or sacrificed for me. It brings me joy to know that he led a happy and fulfilled life.
  • Don’t let the fear of failure stop you! Imagine what could be if you tried!
  • We can’t always live our dreams to a “T,” but we can do our best trying to at least live some version of it. 

You might be interested in reading this book

Karl Pillemer of Cornell University interviewed over 1000 people and shared their stories and wisdom they learned about love, life, and finding happiness.

He shared his findings in his book “30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans” by asking them:

“If you look back over the course of your life, what are the most important lessons you learned that you would like to share with younger people?”

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Biggest regrets in life

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Annie André

Annie André

About the author

I'm Annie André, a bilingual North American with Thai and French Canadian roots. I've lived in France since 2011. When I'm not eating cheese, drinking wine or hanging out with my husband and children, I write articles on my personal blog for intellectually curious people interested in all things France: Life in France, travel to France, French culture, French language, travel and more.


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