Demystifying the Process of Dying

As an aging body approaches death and begins slowly shutting down, many changes occur which often frighten those experiencing and witnessing the final days of a human life for the first time. We tend to fear things we don’t understand and because death is considered a “taboo” subject, most people don’t share what they observed after witnessing their loved one pass on. Generally, a person’s first “lesson” in death isn’t received until they are at the side of a spouse or parent who is dying, or until they are dying themselves and do not know what to expect from their final hours. In a person’s last few days, circulation begins to decrease throughout the body as blood flow is reserved for the most vital organs. Circulation having decreased, the dying person may feel increasingly cool to the touch on their hands, arms, feet and eventually legs. The brain, at this point, is no longer considered a “vital organ” and will receive less blood flow, which may lead to mental changes such as confusion and hallucinations. These hallucinations however, may be less of a “mental shift” due to lack of blood flow and more of a spiritual experience as the soul detaches from this Earth. Often times, as people reach their final days they begin having “visions”, claiming to have been visited by or spoken with deceased loved ones. Usually the “visions” are very real for the person experiencing them and comforting in the process of crossing over. Irregular breathing patterns may also be observed in a dying person. Shallow breathing is common, as is no breathing at all for periods of time usually lasting 5-30 seconds, but can last up to one minute. Due to the kidneys and other organs, which have been deemed “not vital”, operating at minimum capacity, someone reaching death may produce less urine than expected that is darker than normal. The “death rattle” can be a particularly disturbing end of life event for most family members and friends who witness a loved one pass. Death rattles can begin 2-3 days prior to death and is caused by build up of fluids (saliva, bronchial secretions) in the upper chest. Dying persons who have difficulty swallowing may also have excess fluids in the back of the throat. The “death rattle” produces a bizarre gurgling sound, which is similar to a rattling, hence the name. Once the heart and lungs stop functioning and brain activity ceases causing a loss of sentient personality, a person is considered to be clinically dead. In clinical death, brain cells begin scrambling to use of the last of the body’s oxygen supply, causing irreversible damage to themselves in the process. Aproximately 4-6 minutes after clinical death occurs, biological death follows. It is after biological death that resucitation becomes impossible.
Come back tomorrow to learn some weird things our bodies continue to do after we die!
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