Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The time of life we call dying

source: The Passing: What to Expect When Witnessing a Loved One's Death

"The time of life we call dying is an extremely difficult part of the life cycle, but a normal part," says palliative-care physician Ira Byock, author of Dying Well. "The nature of it isn't medical, it's experiential."

"Some go gently — you look up and their chest is no longer moving," Byock says. "But for others it's hard to die. It's like an animal shedding its skin, a physical struggle to wriggle out of this life."

The personality of the dying person usually stays consistent to the end.
People tend to die as they lived, says Maggie Callanan, a hospice nurse who's the author of Final Gifts, who has witnessed more than 2,000 deaths. "Nice people get even nicer, manipulators manipulate, funny people die funny," she explains. "We all have ways of navigating through life, and when dying those tendencies are intensified by ten."

"The dying often use symbolic language, especially to indicate an imminent change or a need to go forth—to die," says Callanan. Travel is one of the more common themes, such as talking about modes of transportation or about going somewhere (making a flight, a golfer talking about going golfing).
"The family's reassurances that they'll be all right often bring the peace a dying person needs," Callanan says.

...those who work in hospice think it's the other way around: Passing away often happens minutes after loved ones leave the bedside, as if the dying person is choosing to spare them the final moment. This is especially true, they say, with individuals toward whom the dying person feels protective.
Also common: The dying person seems to hang on to wait for someone to visit or something to be said.

Especially when the route has been long and marked by physical struggle, many people observe that the moments around death itself are calm. "So many people I talk to about dying tell me they wish they could die in their sleep. I'd estimate 95 percent of people dying naturally from illness go into brief coma—like a profound sleep state—before they die," Callanan says. "So the good news is that most of us do die in our sleep."

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