- Cancer Information
- Advanced cancer
- Facing end of life
- Common questions about dying
- What will dying be like?
What will dying be like?
It’s common to have misconceptions or fears about what the process of dying is like. Many people say they don’t fear death as much as the unknowns of dying. Having some idea of what to expect can make the process easier. Not being prepared for what might happen can be distressing for you as well as for your family and friends.
If you’ve been with a person who has died, this experience will influence how you feel about dying. It may have left you reassured, thoughtful, sad, angry or scared. You may have been disturbed by some of the physical changes that happened to the person. For example, perhaps it appeared they were having trouble breathing, or they seemed to be in pain or uncomfortable.
It will help to talk to your doctor or to the palliative care staff. They can explain the physical process of dying and reassure you that you will be cared for. You might not be aware of physical changes because you may be drowsy or unconscious.
Modern health care means that people should not die in pain or distress. If you have symptoms that are not well controlled, you can ask your doctor or the palliative care team to help. Learn more about the physical dying process.
When patients ask me about the dying process, I describe it as the physical and emotional experience of gradually becoming weaker and letting go of their attachment to living.
Dr Megan Ritchie, Staff Specialist Palliative Medicine, Palliative Care Service, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, NSW; Gabrielle Asprey, Cancer Support Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Rosemary Cavanough, Consumer; Louise Durham, Nurse Practitioner, Metro South Palliative Care Service, QLD; Tracey Gardner, Senior Psychologist, Cancer Counselling Service, Cancer Council Queensland; Karen Hall, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Linda Nolte, Program Director, Advance Care Planning Australia, VIC; Rowena Robinson, Clinical Advisor, Palliative Care Australia, ACT; Helena Rodi, Program Manager, Advance Care Planning Australia, VIC.
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