What will death be like

What is death like?

Everyone will have a different experience of dying – it’s part of what makes us unique. When you have a terminal illness, there will come a time when you start thinking more about the actual process of dying and the moments of death, and what they will be like. These are things which you may have been putting off thinking about, but you might find that talking with your family, friends and care team about the process of dying will help to reassure you and take away some of the fears or worries you may have.

How will I know when I’m dying?

Improving standards of care and effective treatment mean that you can live a relatively active lifestyle during the earlier stages of your illness, but over time you will start to feel more tired and gradually be able to do less.

Dr Kathryn Mannix, a Consultant in Palliative Medicine from Newcastle, explains that it is important to listen to these feelings of tiredness and to make sure that you rest and recharge as often as you need to. When you are coming closer to death, Dr Mannix says “sleeping becomes just as important as eating and drinking.”

You might be worried that going to sleep means you might not wake up again. Dr Mannix has found this a common concern among her patients but she reassures them that “becoming unconscious doesn’t feel like going to sleep.”

She says: “If you are at a point in your illness where you feel tired enough to sleep, then you’re well enough to wake up again after that sleep. It is so important to take, relish and use sleep as an opportunity to recharge your batteries and plan the next thing to look forward to on the other side of that sleep.”

Longer and deeper sleep

As you feel more tired, your sleep will become longer and deeper, and this will help you to feel more rested and able to do more during the times in which you are awake. It’s natural to come in and out of this deep sleep, and towards the end you’ll be in this unconscious sleep almost all the time.

This change happens very gradually, and you can let your mind and body get used to it during the course of your illness.