Nearing-Death Awareness as Part of the Dying Process

Published March 9, 2020
Loved one comforting hospice family member

Near death awareness is a phenomenon that many close to death will experience. Often mistaken for hallucinations or delirium, near death awareness is a clarity that one's impending death is near.

Understanding Near Death Awareness

Near death awareness (NDA) may occur as a natural part of the dying process. Unlike hallucinations and agitation, which can lack clarity, nearing death awareness comes with distinct clarity and determination. Although it may sound scary, near death awareness tends to come with a calm sense of determination and straightforwardness. Near death awareness seems to be part of the tying up loose ends process that many people embark on prior to passing away. During a near death awareness moment, your loved one may:

  • Speak with deceased individuals
  • See angels or visitors who may visit your loved one and who you are unable to see
  • Speak symbolically about a trip or upcoming travel
  • Have a clear sense that their death is near

Who Can Have Near Death Awareness

Anyone can experience near death awareness. This can include people of all ages with physical and/or brain based issues. Around 50 to 60 percent of those in the process of passing away will experience near death awareness. Part of the dying process that many people experience is a final burst of clarity known as terminal lucidity. This incredible phenomenon can occur even to those who were experiencing brain based issues that impacted their memory, responsiveness, focus, and clarity. Because of this unique ability to experience terminal clarity, even those who were formerly unresponsive can experience near death awareness. Near death awareness can be seen in those who have experienced a short process of passing away, as well as a longer one.

Woman reading to hospice patient

When a Loved One Experiences Near Death Awareness

It may feel scary to see a loved one experiencing near death awareness. Keep in mind that this is a natural process and not everyone will go through this. If you do see a loved one who appears to be speaking symbolically, or about a trip, or notices a deceased friend or family member in the room, the best thing you can do is just go with it. This is part of their process of finding closure in this world and preparing to move on. If you feel uncomfortable or unsure of what to say while your loved one is experiencing this, you can:

  • Validate what they are saying by saying, "I hear what you're saying" or "I understand what you're saying."
  • Ask questions in a caring way like, "What do you see?" or "Would you like to tell me more about that?"
  • Nod and acknowledge what they are saying.
  • Ask if you can hold their hand or touch them before doing so as their skin may feel overly sensitive during this time.
  • Excuse yourself if you feel overwhelmed and do a breathing exercise.
  • Ask another loved one to step in if you feel uncomfortable or scared.

The Process of Passing Away

The process of passing away can come with some major ups and downs, not only for the person in the process, but also for loved ones witnessing this moment. Understanding what a loved one may go through and experience can help you feel a bit more prepared for what you may experience while with them. Be sure to take care of yourself during this time as it can feel incredibly emotionally draining to be there for someone during their unique process of passing away.

Nearing-Death Awareness as Part of the Dying Process