Seeing loved ones before death?

  1. 0
    Hi everyone. I've spent the last few hours reading the 'nursing ghost stories' thread, and along those lines.... how many of your patients see/talk to their loved ones before they pass away?

    I'm a third semester student so I don't have any nursing experiences to share, but my 74 year old grandmother (Gran), whom I love immeasurably, is losing her battle with breast cancer. She was diagnosed with stage IV last year, and to be honest, I didn't think that I would have the joy of another year with her. I have, and for that I am more grateful than I can ever put into words. Along with the cancer, she has a laundry list of other health problems, and she is on dozens of meds. We know that the cancer has metastasized to her bones and her spine, and a new onset of symptoms is suggestive of metastases to her CSF as well. She isn't "on death's door" quite yet, but I don't think we have much time left with her.

    For the last four or five months, Gran has been seeing her mother (my great-grandmother, Mim, who died in 2005). Not just glimpses of her -- according to Gran, Mim is living with her. She said that she sees her every single day, and that most of the time Mim will talk with her for hours. At other times, Mim will not look at or acknowledge Gran; she'll just stand beside her, which bothers Gran tremendously. Mim was the only dead loved one that Gran would see, until recently. Her husband (who passed away in 2006) visits her, although infrequently, and they also talk. Those 'visits' don't cause Gran any distress.

    I am a logical person, and I realize that Gran's age, conditions and meds most likely account for the hallucinations. But in my heart, in a place where logic does not thrive for long, I feel that she is truly seeing her mother and her husband. I've heard about people seeing dead loved ones in the days before they pass, but this has been ongoing for months. I guess I'm just trying to understand -- if you are a spiritual person, but a logical, analytical person as well, where do you draw the line between medical hallucination and spiritual occurrence?

    I don't mean to ramble on... I've read these boards for a while and post rarely, but you all seem like such a good group of people. I would love to hear your experiences with things like this and your thoughts on them.

    (... and thank you for sticking with a long post!)

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  2. 31 Comments...

  3. 2
    I believe they are there. I have seen only positive, welcoming experiences for those involved.
    carebearsRN and Honey_Bee like this.
  4. 0
    hi,

    well when my grandmother died.. i wasn't there, but my dad was for her last days... she lived in another country so he was with her for about a week before she died. he came back died and then i went to her funeral..

    anyway.. he said that she would start saying weird things in general... like go tell your aunt (ruth) to get the water ready for coffee, but aunt ruth has been dead for years. or she would see her children, but in child form not as adults... she was mostly hallucinating... she never mentioned my grandfather who passed away when my dad was 5... she didn't say that she saw or talked to anyway... it was just very clear hallucinations....

    on another note, my dad knew a little old woman that right before she died she would cover herself in dirt, walked around throwing dirt over herself.. i guess she was saying that she was ready to be buried.


    my mom mom on the other hand said that she saw death... not really sure what she meant by it, but we were all at the hospital and she had been getting surgery, and she was there for a week, and said that death told her that it would be back latter...
    latter came about a week latter, she had another surgery, and she came out ok.. but on her way upstairs... she passed away, my family was already waiting for her in the upstairs room, when the police officer told them to go back downstairs, that she had just passed. it happened in a matter of 2 minutes.

    it's weird that neither of my grandmothers mentioned their husband, both my grandads had already been dead a long time.

    sorry to make such a long post, but i guess it just on how the person will go. My cousin before he was murdered.. mentioned to his mother that he new, all the family would be together soon for something.. it's like he had a premonition, however chosed not to tell my aunt that he would be shot.. again it happened about a week before actually passing away...

    it's like tying up things in the last few days, to get out what needs to be said.
  5. 6
    I have been witness to a few deaths on our ward...and the memory that sticks in my mind is how the face relaxes and seems so peaceful when people do pass from this earth. I have also had an elderly lady ask me in the middle of a night shift how she should slip away in the night as she had made peace with her family...I sat at her bedside holding her hand and asked her to tell me some favourite stories from her life...about 2 minutes into the story of how she met her husband she took a deep breath and passed away...very peaceful.
    leslie :-D, LaurenBoog, carebearsRN, and 3 others like this.
  6. 2
    I worked LTC for 11 years and saw many people die.
    I recall patients physically reaching their arms out as if to attempt to touch someone only they could see. They would talk to long dead family members as though they were in the room.
    My grandmother had a "little boy" who would "play about the bed". We wondered if it weren't an uncle who passed as an infant.
    It is an odd thing.
    MassED and Honey_Bee like this.
  7. 2
    It doesn't border on the supernatural, but I was present when my grandfather passed. He was dying from lung cancer and was at home with hospice care. The entire family (and we have a very long extended family) took turns coming out to sit with him. My father had been estranged from the family in general and his dad in particular and so refused to come see him, so I went to represent this part of the family. The nurse who was present told me my grandfather was on morphine for discomfort and to ease his labored breathing. She said he may or may not respond to me as he had been in and out for the past few days. Now, i had always been told I was a dead ringer for my father and I never paid it no mind. I went into my grandfathers room to sit and hold his hand when he snapped awake, smiled and said "Larry, you came" he then closed his eyes and passed shortly after smiling. Larry is my Father's name and my relatives kept saying how he had been asking for my father for the past few days and was just holding on to see if he would visit.
    leslie :-D and MassED like this.
  8. 3
    I work in LTC, and have had many strange things happen. The one that stays with me the most is a resident I had that NEVER came out of her room, for any reason. One night she came running down the hallway, eyes were wild, screaming "the angel of death is in my room, please help me!"It took a looong time to calm her down, and some good old xanax, but when we took her back to her room, she said" oh I'm O.K. now, he apologized to me because he said he had the wrong room".I asked her where he went and she pointed to the room next door.I worked the next night, and didn't think too much more about it, until my tech came running to tell me Mrs. so and so had passed on. It was a resident we weren't really expecting to go at that time. Guess which room she was in? Yup, in the room where my other resident had said the "angel of death" had gone the night before!Still gives me the creeps to think about it!
    carebearsRN, Hygiene Queen, and MassED like this.
  9. 0
    i definitely think there’s something to it. i had a case one night, where my patient lived alone. her children lived nearby, so they would come and visit daily. on the second night i was working, her daughter sat down by her bed. and she started telling me all about her mother's life, from the time she first met her husband. she then said that she had a son who had died in a car accident. she told me his name and that he was only 18 years old. and that her mother never got over it, because he was always her favorite (of her four children).

    so anyway, the family left around 10pm, once my patient fell asleep. around 2 in the morning, my patient suddenly awoke. she was staring straight up at the ceiling, and started reaching up. she was very anxious and trying to speak, but not bringing any words out. so i went over to her and started trying to comfort her. i asked if she was in pain, she shook her head no. whatever i asked, she kept shaking her head no. she just continued reaching up with both arms, trying to remove her covers, like she wanted to get out of bed.

    i couldn't calm her down no matter what i tried. and i was confused about her behavior, because she had a history of being calm and quiet, always sleeping through the night. finally, i asked her if someone was there. she shook her head yes. i asked who, and she whispered the name of her dead son.

    i could feel the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. i was scared, especially since it was just the two of us in that big house. so i just sat down next to her bed and watched her. she eventually calmed down. i was told she died the next evening, and i couldn't help but think that her son really did come to visit her the night before.
  10. 0
    Quote from Keila
    (... and thank you for sticking with a long post!)
    This is a great subject and worth looking into.

    I personally think the sightings are manifestations from within the person having them. No supernatural forces needed.

    This phenomena is a very good lesson lesson in confirmation bias. I think many, if not all of us have worked with patients seeing any number of strange things. Some say elephants are walking through their room, some say the police were there and took their things, some say that the charge nurse's head has been replaced with an iguana head. On and on and on.

    We easily dismiss these types of sightings to the person's condition and forget about them immediately. But, when they start seeing dead relatives, suddenly they are taken very seriously. This doesn't make any sense when you think about it.

    You really can't have one without the other. If the conversations with dead relatives sounds reasonable, then the charge nurse having an iguana head is just as reasonable. But it really isn't, is it? These cases are just as much about the caregiver or family member seeing what they want to see.

    My comments are only directed toward whether the relatives visitations are actually from beyond the grave. (They are not.) It does not affect how I treat the person having them. Having an elephant stomp through your room must be a frightening thing and if a person reports that, I will do my best to comfort them as appropriate. Same goes for when they are convinced dead relatives are standing by their bed. Neither apparition is real, but the person having them is cared for appropriately in both cases.
  11. 3
    If it is 'just hallucinations,' how come no matter what culture, or spiritual background, pretty much everyone who goes through the process of dying slowly has the same hallucinations of loved ones coming to them? That's the part that defies logic for me. There seems to be something to it that is not just hallucinating.


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