Chapter 1: When death happens

At the time of death

He knew I was with him holding his hand at the end, and this brings me a great sense of peace.

How will you know that death has occurred?

The most significant sign is that the person’s breathing has stopped. Other signs include:

  • The face muscles will have relaxed, and there is no movement anywhere.
  • The pulse cannot be felt, and there is no heartbeat. 
  • The person’s body becomes cool to the touch, although that will take a few hours.

Give yourself some time

Regardless of where the person has died, you may want some final time to “be with them,”.. Healthcare providers will usually give you some time and the space you need. If the death was at home, and no healthcare providers were present at the time of death, you will need to notify them as soon as possible.

What may help

Your healthcare provider or palliative care team member will likely already have advised you of what happens next. However, if they haven’t, and you know the person who is ill is very close to dying, be sure to ask. This will help you prepare and will be one less thing to worry about once death has occurred.

*The process may vary for each province or territory.