Is Dying a Natural Death painful?

Many would agree that a peaceful and painless death surrounded by loved ones (or dying in your sleep) is the best way to depart this life. But, is the death process painful? We’re here to answer the big questions.
Is Dying a Natural Death painful?

In the past, we’ve covered what it means to experience a good death. Now, let’s be real – everyone’s different… but many would agree that dying of natural causes at an old age is a good way to go. We’re talking dying with zero to little pain – just drifting off to sleep. But the question is, is dying a natural death typically painless or painful? First, let’s define a ‘natural death’.

What is a natural death?

A natural death is when a person dies due to old age or a medical condition, as opposed to dying by a tragic accident. And while some people do experience pain with death, others experience no pain at all. It varies from person to person. 

Why do some people experience pain while dying?

Some people may experience minimal to extreme levels of pain during the dying process due to an illness or medical condition. While pain levels will vary, some illnesses do have the potential to be more painful during this time. These illnesses may include:

  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cerebral vascular disease
  • Dementia 
  • Late stage HIV
  • Multiple sclerosis 

… but, those living with these conditions do not always experience pain during the dying process. Everyone is different. Keep in mind that medical professionals are trained to create and oversee end-of-life pain management plans to help those who are dying feel more comfortable and to minimise pain during the dying process.

What does pain management involve?

Pain management may mean that a person is admitted to a hospice or palliative care to make the end-of-life period as restful, warm and comfortable as possible. This may involve an end-of-life planning process, which will involve support from all kinds of healthcare workers, like perhaps a hospice team, death doulas, doctors and more. Alternatively, if someone wants to die at home, this is sometimes possible, too, but it requires planning and preparations. (If this is of interest, you can read our guide to preparing for a loved one to die at home).

How to prepare for the dying process

Whether you or someone you love is going through this stage of life, it may help to understand each step along the way so you can feel prepared for what’s to come. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, know that this is a completely normal (and understandable) response. Be sure to reach out for support. For example, if you’re working with a hospice or a palliative care team, they may be able to recommend counsellors that are trained in this area, and who can help you and your family get through this time in the most positive way possible. 

Wrap up

While we can’t dance around the fact that some people do experience varying levels of pain during the dying process, it helps to know that many experience peaceful, pain-free deaths, too. To face fears around death, it helps to talk openly about them – to friends, family, or trained medical professionals. Dying looks and feels different for everyone, but preparing yourself for a loved one to pass (or for your eventual passing) can help you feel less frightened when the time comes. Ultimately, learning more about the dying process may help to alleviate any overwhelming fears or anxiety that are rising to the surface. And who knows?! Broaching the topic may just help others who are experiencing similar fears, too. 

Further resources

All this talk of dying stirring something inside you? We get it – it’s the urge to get organised. If you’ve got a spare 15 mins, why not create or update your online Will? Get that life admin done and dusted today.

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