The Moment of Death

Breathing patterns near death usually have long pauses after an exhale, it is sometimes difficult to tell if the person is still living.  When there is no following inhale, and no heartbeat, the person has died.  If the individual is in a facility or if a visiting healthcare provider is nearby, they may listen to the chest to confirm that there is no longer a heartbeat.

There has probably been much activity, thought, and emotion, preparing for this moment and what it might look like.  Sometimes there have been years of caregiving, of meticulously managing many aspects of your loved one’s life and doing your best to keep this event at bay.  Whether you have been expecting this moment for a long time or it has come upon you all too quickly, you will probably feel some degree of shock. Do not be alarmed or feel guilty if death comes as a comfort or relief that a loved one’s suffering is now over, even though you are deeply sad at your loss.

It is important to remember that when your loved one has died, there is no need to rush.  There will be a lot of activity in the coming days, so take your time and sit with the body of your family member or friend, experiencing the emotions you are feeling.  Share this moment with others who may be present, finding comfort in each other.  Pause to breathe, perhaps say a prayer, meditate, or reflect on your loved one’s life with gratitude.

For some of us, saying important things to a loved one, like admitting a wrong and apologizing or telling them how you feel about them, takes courage.  If you didn’t have the opportunity to speak from your heart when they were living, if you had the opportunity but weren’t feeling brave enough, or if they were resistant to that conversation, now may be the time to say what needs saying.  Perhaps you could ask the others in the room for some privacy.  Learning to sit still in that moment with all you are feeling may spare you from the burden of regret.

Then, the healing can begin.