‘My near death experience while pregnant made me leave my husband’

Most of us take our everyday niggles and challenges for granted – carrying on and pushing any doubts about our life choices to the back of our minds. But when writer, podcaster and parent Georgina Scull came close to death aged just 37, her life and her worldview, changed forever.

After taking a long hard look at a lengthly list of regrets, she decided to overhaul her life and confront her own happiness in a bid to live truly on her own terms. Here, she reveals how nearly dying from an ectopic pregnancy that ruptured changed everything – ultimately for the better…

"If you were given a second-chance at life, what would you do with it?

Maybe you’d change jobs, or travel more, or move somewhere completely new and start again. Or maybe you’d become fearless, and grab every single opportunity you could.

In my case, when I was given a second-chance, the honest answer was – not a lot.

I was 37. I’d just had an ectopic pregnancy which ruptured, and I’d nearly died. The surgeon that repaired me said I was about five minutes from death. Looking back, I can’t quite understand why I didn’t jump into action the moment I left the hospital. The truth is, I retreated. I became consumed with worry. Fearful of adding to the long list of regrets I already had; a list that seemed to get longer as the days and months passed by.

The problem was, I felt guilty about feeling this way because, on paper, my life was really good. I had a husband, and a child, and a home. But deep down I also knew that I wasn’t really happy, either: I was married to a lovely man, but one who wasn’t that lovely to me; I was living in a nice house, but a place that didn’t feel like home. Basically, I needed to make some changes.

So, I went to therapy, got active, made new friends but nothing seemed to kick me into gear. And after a few years of this drift, I decided to try something different: to talk to people who were older or dying and find out what they regretted, what they had learnt about life, and what they thought would make a happy one.

I would sit beside them in their living rooms, or over long-distance phone calls, and they would tell me their stories of love, and family, and the regrets they wish they could have rewritten given the luxury of more time. And, although the people I spoke to were all very different, all dying with different regrets, the lessons they had to share were actually very similar: that we shouldn’t spend our lives trying to make other people happy, or trying to live up to their expectations of us; that we need to appreciate and enjoy the everyday moments in life, and not rush through them; and that we all need to have faith in ourselves, and to take a few chances on what we really want.

Having regrets can be viewed as a very negative thing. A sign that we haven’t ‘done’ life correctly, somehow. That we have wasted time, or failed to take control. But, if we can be honest about the things we regret and start to make changes while we still can, then having regrets can be an incredibly positive thing. They are a reminder of how we want to fill our days. And, with the benefit of hindsight, they can remind us of what we really want – and what we don’t – and urge us to take action.

Nearly dying changed me. But the thing that stopped me from drifting and finally clicked me out of screensaver-mode was listening to these stories, and then forcing myself to be honest about my own life. They made me face the fact that my marriage – a relationship that had spanned 22 years – was over. And that no matter how scared it made me feel, it was time to build something new.

They made me realise that we waste so much time looking back towards the past and forwards towards the future, that we miss out on today. That we owe it to ourselves to find a way to enjoy what we have right now, and to be honest about what we really want because no matter how much we try to avoid it, we never know what the future will hold, or how long it will last. That no matter what we do, no matter how healthy we try to be, we will only ever get one go at this. That, at some point, we will all die.

And if we can keep that all in mind, if we can try and remember all that, then in the end, maybe the choices we make along the way will help us to live a better and more fulfilling life. That maybe in our moments of doubt, we need to ask ourselves: are we going to let our fear of failure, or the fear of other people’s judgement, stop us doing what we really want? Or are we really going to live?

My life is different now. Harder, sometimes, but better. I managed to gradually change the things I didn’t like, and learn how to appreciate the things I did. Hearing all these amazing stories helped me to do that. I hope that they will help others, too."

Regrets of the Dying: Stories and Wisdom That Remind us How To Live by Georgina Scull is published in paperback by Wellbeck. It can be purchased from retailers including Amazon and Waterstones.


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