Chapter 5: The moment of death

Being present at the moment of death

The palliative care expert says
Dr. Mike Harlos, palliative care physician, discusses when you are not present at the moment of death.(3:22)Video transcript
I've been there
Bonnie talks about leaving the room after her husband died. (3:22)Video transcript
Dianne remembers the moment of death.(3:22)Video transcript

Many people wish to be present when someone important to them dies. Fatigue, distance, and obligations such as work and parenting may prevent this.

Even if you are able to stay with the dying person around the clock, he or she may die during the two minutes you have slipped out of the room. Some people believe this is a choice on the part of the dying person - their wish for privacy or to spare the feelings of those they love. There is no way of knowing, of course. What we do know is that pressuring ourselves not to miss the moment of death is common.

It is important to remember that your relationship is much more than being there at the moment of death. We can only do our best within human limitations and the constraints of our situation.

While you may not be physically in the room at that moment, you are present in spirit.