What Do You Feel Right Before Death? This Is What We Know…

February 2, 2018

Death is an enigma. It is simply impossible to definitively answer the question. Accepting and assimilating the idea of an absolute end is not an easy thing to do.

That’s why this is a topic that generates fear, apprehension or, at the very least, curiosity. And even though we know very little about it, it’s an experience we’ll all inevitably go through some day.

The first answers about death were provided by religion. Maybe death (the topic no one has been able to give testify on) is precisely one of the reasons religion was born and is still around.

Many different types of religion accept the existence of a spirit or a beyond that transcends biological life. It’s believed that this gives way to a parallel world, invisible, imperceptible, but there waiting for all of us. Or at least for those who gain entry.

“Death is something we shouldn’t fear because while we exist, death does not. And when death comes into being, we cease to be.”
-Antonio Machado-

Science has also made its own attempt to decipher this enigma. Although many scientists have religious beliefs, science has formally approached man as a concretely biological being.

Science believes the existence of man does not go beyond the last heartbeat. Quantum physics has explored other perspectives, such as parallel universes, but to this day it’s all mere hypothesis.

Nevertheless, there have been advances in the comprehension of the various physical and psychic process surrounding death. To broaden our understanding of these aspects, a study was conducted in the United States and the results were very interesting.

A study about death

Many of us have wondered at some point, what do you feel right before death? What does the moment you leave life feel like? Does it hurt? Will I suffer?

Will I be flooded with fear over having to take that step into the unknown? Do you really see your whole life flash before your eyes?

Figure flying clinging to a feather.

To answer these questions, a group of researchers from the University of North Carolina conducted an experiment lead by professor Kurt Gray. They studied two groups of people who were very close to death.

The first group was composed of terminally ill patients. The second group was formed by prisoners sentenced to death.

The members of the first group were asked to start a blog and to share their feeling for a period of at least three months. Each blog needed to include at least 10 posts.

Simultaneously, something similar was asked of a subgroup of volunteers. These people were asked to imagine they had been diagnosed with cancer and to write about it.

The study collected the last words of the second group of people, formed by prisoners on death row.

In both cases, the goal was to evaluate the feelings and emotions that emerge when one is close to death. The researchers also wanted to identify if their inner worlds changed as their final moments approached.

The interesting results of the study

A team of psychologists was in charge of analyzing the content of the first group, along with the parallel subgroup. They elaborated their conclusions based on the words the individuals used to describe or allude to their emotions.

From this starting point, they were able to arrive at some interesting results. The first result was that the terminally ill patients expressed more positive emotions than the group of volunteers. Likewise, the closer the individual was to death, the more positive their messages became.

Man walking towards the gates of heaven.

With the convicts on death row, something similar happened. Their last words were not focused on pain, regret or hatred towards the authorities that had dealt the sentence.

On the contrary, their words were full of love, understanding and emotion. Within both groups, allusions to religion and family stood out.

Professor Kurt Gray was the leader of the investigation. He concluded that “the process of dying is less sad and terrifying, and happier than you would think.”

Even though death itself is a concept of much anguish and fear due to the uncertainty that surrounds it (beyond each person’s faith), when it comes time to confront it consciously, people tend to evolve. So much so, that they end up perceiving their own death as constructive and  meaningful

As it would seem, humankind’s ability to adapt is enormous and is fully expressed in certain moments, like death. Psychologically and physiologically, people develop mechanisms that allow them to confront the reality of the end with wisdom.

That’s why Gray states with full conviction that “death is inevitable, but suffering isn’t.”