- Cancer Information
- Advanced cancer
- Facing end of life
- Common questions about dying
- What is dying going to be like?
What is dying going to be like?
You may start to think about what the last few days or hours of your life will be like. It’s common to have fears about the process of dying. But many people say they worry about the unknowns of dying more than actually fearing death. Having some idea of what to expect can help some people. Not being prepared, or imagining what might happen, can be distressing for you and for your family and friends too.
If you have been with someone when they died, the 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. Perhaps it appeared that they were having trouble breathing, or they seemed to be in pain or uncomfortable.
Talk about what you can expect
When you feel ready, it may help to talk to a doctor or palliative care staff. They can explain the physical process of dying and reassure you that you will be cared for. You may not be aware of physical changes if you are drowsy or unconscious.
Make a plan with your health care or palliative care team
Ask what support they will provide for symptoms, and discuss it with your family, for reassurance and support. You may also have specific concerns. For example, if they know you are worried about pain, they can talk to you about what options there are and prepare a pain management plan. Knowing you will have relief may help to put your mind at ease.
Control pain and distress
Modern health care means that pain can usually be well controlled. If you have symptoms of pain or distress, you or your family can ask your doctor for help. Learn about the physical process of dying in more detail.
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.Nurse
Podcast: Living with Dying
Prof Jane Phillips, Head, School of Nursing and Professor, Centre for Healthcare Transformation, Queensland University of Technology and Emerita Professor Palliative Nursing, University of Technology Sydney, NSW; Prof Meera Agar, Palliative Care Physician, Professor of Palliative Medicine, University of Technology Sydney, IMPACCT, Sydney, NSW; Sandra Anderson, Consumer; A/Prof Megan Best, The University of Notre Dame Australia and The University of Sydney, NSW; Prof Lauren Breen, Psychologist and Discipline Lead, Psychology, Curtin University, WA; David Dawes, Manager, Spiritual Care Department, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Rob Ferguson, Consumer; Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar, Counsellor, Psychotherapist and Social Worker, One Life Counselling & Psychotherapy, NSW; Justine Hatton, Senior Social Worker, Southern Adelaide Palliative Services, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; Caitlin MacDonagh, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Palliative Care, Royal North Shore Hospital, Northern Sydney Local Health District, NSW; McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer; Palliative Care Australia; Belinda Reinhold, Acting Lead Palliative Care, Cancer Council QLD; Xanthe Sansome, National Program Director, Advance Care Planning Australia; Kirsty Trebilcock, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA.
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