Why do dying people reach upward? - page 2

by Jo Dirt 49,755 Views | 39 Comments

I've noticed that when it gets toward the end for people (not necessarily the VERY end, but maybe the last month or so when they have started really going downhill) they will hold their arms upward once in awhile and then let... Read More


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    I was working in CCU a few years back and my patient was coding. The patient was unconscious. All of a sudden this patient started to sit up and took her right arm and started to reach up toward the ceiling. It was quite an eerie feeling in that we all stopped what we were doing and looked at her. It really seemed like she was reaching out to someone. She did die. I often think about that incident.
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    I would wager that "heaven" being commonly associated with 'up' has something to do with it. Lots of metabolic and chemical processes going on, a dying person's need to feel that there is something of an after life... lots of reasons. Interesting question, but I don't think anecdotal experiences (as many as there may be) prove that any such place exists.
    danissa likes this.
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    Quote from motorcycle mama
    That is funny, because my father-in-law was an atheist and was not talking about or to dead people. We were having a difficult time with him, he did not want to cooperate and while we were trying to reason with him he just sat there and closed his eyes, then stretched his arms toward the sky and flopped them down at his sides.
    Just because we don't believe in something doesn't mean it's not real or true
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    Interesting post and I do see it many times over in my work as a Hospice Case Manager.

    It quite often gives the patient comfort when they are reaching up and smiling. Speaking to loved ones who have died before them.

    Now there is reaching and grabbing in an agitated state for which then it is a different ball game and they need to be treated for terminal agitation.
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    Quote from pattycakeRN
    I would wager that "heaven" being commonly associated with 'up' has something to do with it. Lots of metabolic and chemical processes going on, a dying person's need to feel that there is something of an after life... lots of reasons. Interesting question, but I don't think anecdotal experiences (as many as there may be) prove that any such place exists.
    Makes you think, though. What purpose would it serve, biologically speaking, to see dead relatives? And why does pretty much every patient I've worked with in hospice see someone we can't see, regardless of their culture or religious beliefs? We can explain how it works, but we can't explain the why......I'm the ultimate agnostic, and I sure wonder what all that is about........I am not easily able to explain it away as purely chemical processes. What survival purpose do such experiences serve?
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    The book "Final Gifts" by Maggie Callanah and Patricia Kelley talks about "Nearing Death Awareness", the process of dying. It talks about the behaviors of dying people, which frequently are misinterpreted as dementia and/or ignored.

    "In the final hours, days or weeks of life, dying people often make statements or gestures that seem to make no sense."

    It is a fascinating book.

    steph
    BlueRidgeHomeRN likes this.
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    Maybe people derived their ideas about heaven, religion, etc., from the behavior of the dying.

    Maybe dying people aren't able to muster enough strength to move their legs, so they move their arms instead.

    I like the idea that some people are comforted by their visions when they are dying.
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    The higher the arm, the closer to God!
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    Quote from pattycakeRN
    I would wager that "heaven" being commonly associated with 'up' has something to do with it. Lots of metabolic and chemical processes going on, a dying person's need to feel that there is something of an after life... lots of reasons. Interesting question, but I don't think anecdotal experiences (as many as there may be) prove that any such place exists.
    I agree. In the (anecdotal) examples I am thinking of, there were no cries to Aunt Beulah or God or anyone else. A lot of times, these people are nonresponsive or appear to be in their own little world. Not everyone who is a nonbeliever has a death bed conversion, yet this behavior is similar among many dying people I have been around whether they believe or not.

    Funny, though, the most religious woman I have ever seen died recently in the nursing home. She did not, in fact, exhibit this behavior. She did not have any death bed visions. She was not hysterical with fear but right up until she lost consciousness she did not want to be alone and would tell us she did not want to die. She died quietly and uneventfully with no hint of seeing anything on the other side.

    I don't think Carl Sagan had all the answers to life but I agree with something he said: better to know the hard truth than a comforting fantasy. I don't know why a lot of them raise their arms, but I have pretty much ruled out any spiritual reasons. It's just not something you can measure and verify. I'm not trying to rain on anyone's parade but the more charlatans I see the more cynical I get and I've yet to see any credible, concrete proof of an after life.
    But that is another topic.

    Thank you for the replies, though. I appreciate the time people are taking to give their insight.
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    It is okay to be a nonbeliever, but it is also okay to be a believer. I don't think anyone was really trying to offer proof as much as just their own point of view. For those with faith, that is all the proof they need, and for those who are not inclined toward religiousness or spirituality, all the proof in the world won't induce faith in any case, as I doubt it would be recognized. What is a comforting fantasy to some is concrete evidence to another.


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