The process of dying

Lots of people are struggling with what happened at the deathbed of their loved ones.

“her/his last words are still sounding in my head since I can not make anything out of it.”

Another person still struggles with the fact that no drinks/fluids were offered to the dying person in their last hours.


A person with advanced illness goes through many changes over an extended period of time, with a set of clear changes occurring in the final stage. These are not signs of a medical emergency but parts of a natural process that does not need to be disturbed.

You can expect the following physical changes :

  • Sleepiness and loss of consciousness : As death nears, people usually become very drowsy, sleeping more and becoming hard to wake. They may also be less able to communicate. Eventually, they may reach a point where they can no longer be awakened. We do not know what their level of awareness might be. Even when you loved one seems unresponsive, he or she might very well sense your presence, whether you are sitting quietly nearby, holding hands or speaking.
  • Cooling : Hands, arms, feet and legs begin to cool as the circulation of blood decreases. Changes in circulation also cause the skin to become discoloured in spots. This is normal.
  • Confusion : A person near death may become disoriented or agitated. This can occur as less blood flows to the brain or because of other physical changes. When a person is no longer conscious, delirium can take the form of restlessness, moaning, groaning and grimacing. These signs of agitation are not usually signs of pain. Pain does not develop suddenly in the last hours of life when it has been under control up until that point.
  • Reduced intake of food and fluid : The person who is dying may want little of no food or drink, a change that may begin days or weeks before the final hours of life. No harm will come from this and there is no need to force the issue. In fact, forcing a dying person to eat or drink can actually cause discomfort.
  • Loss of ability to swallow : Swallowing becomes more difficult as weakness increases. As saliva and other secretions build up, you may hear a gurgling or rattling sound with each breath the dying person takes. Changing the person’s position may improve drainage and reduce the disconcerting noises.
  • Loss of bowel and bladder control : As muscles weaken, the person who is dying may no longer be able to control bowel and bladders functions.
  • Changes in breathing : Breathing patters begin to change near death. Periods of shallow and deep breathing may alternate over short periods of time. During this time a person may not breathe at all for as long as ten to twenty seconds. This is normal and not a sign of distress.

You can expect the following Emotional and Spiritual changes :

  • Withdrawal : In preparing to disconnect from the world we know, a person who is very close to death may want few people around or simply to be left alone. this is not a rejection of the loving family and friends who wish to be close to the person at this time. Rather, it may indicate the dying person has already taken all the support that he/she needed and is ready to leave this world.
  • Visions : We all go through life relying on the evidence of our senses and we are quick to reject the things that do not fit with our experience. So when someone close to death says that a long-dead relative has spoken to them, we are likely to dismiss that what they are saying, But it is helpful to accept that what the person sees is real to them whether we believe in it or not. These experiences are a common part of the spirit’s release from this life and often bring comfort, making the transition easier.
  • Confusing statements : Sometimes people close to death say things that seem to make no sense, or indicate they are unaware of their true condition. These statements are often very much about the fact of dying, although they may come in a sort of code. the dying person who asks where the car keys are hidden or worries about a train to catch may be talking about a different journey, namely the departure from life to death. They may be asking you to accept the fact that the departure time has come. If you unlock the code of a confusing statement and see your loved one is ready to let of of life, the most helpful thing you can do is give them permission to let go.

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