‘Terminal Lucidity’ or ‘Rallying’ - Why does it happen?

It’s that burst of energy right before they pass on. So, what is ‘terminal lucidity’ (or ‘rallying’ as it’s more commonly known), and why does it happen? Learn more about the fascinating phenomenon below.
‘Terminal Lucidity’ or ‘Rallying’ - Why does it happen?

‘Terminal lucidity’ or an end-of-life ‘rally’ is when a dying person briefly perks up, sometimes having a surge of lucidity before they pass on. The widely-documented phenomenon is clouded in great mystery; even experts aren’t completely certain why or how it happens, but plenty of medical theories explain why it sometimes does.

Why rallying happens

Psychological theories

On a psychological level, rallying is linked to a feeling of closure, as it allows the dying to say their goodbyes. Often, they may ask for a final meal, such as requesting food from their childhood, or their favourite food – a final hurrah enjoying the things they love or used to love before they pass on.

Physiological theories

Medically, theories exist that suggest there is a physiological reason for terminal lucidity. In a New York Times article from 2018, Dr Craig Blinderman – Associate Professor of Medicine and the Director of the Adult Palliative Medicine Service at the Columbia University Medical Center – hypothesised that as organs start to shut down, they can release a steroid-like compound that briefly awakens the body. He suggested that this is perhaps why the surge of energy (also known as ‘rallying’) appears.

Additionally, experts believe that when a hospice patient is taken off the fluids and medications such as chemotherapy (which has toxic effects), stopping this can restore the body and make the mind more responsive before death.

Spiritual theories

There is also a spiritual element to rallying, which is where people know in their gut when they are about to die. It is then that they suddenly have an inexplicable desire to say goodbye in their last moments.

Signs of rallying

There are many signs that point towards terminal lucidity. For example, your loved one may:

  • Suddenly seem lucid, and physically stronger
  • Wish to prepare a Will or other important end-of-life documents
  • Give away belongings
  • Want to resolve conflicts
  • Ask to speak to a religious leader
  • Look around for misplaced belongings
  • Request to assist with their own funeral plans

Those who work in palliative care suggest that even if a loved one’s request is a little odd, it’s best to accommodate it if you can.

Wrap up

While an end-of-life rally can be difficult for families, this final surge of energy can help the dying person to say their final goodbyes, reflect on their life, and help to process their own death. Medical experts aren’t exactly sure why ‘terminal lucidity’ or ‘rallying’ happens.

Still, if one thing’s for sure, it’s that if you are able to be with your loved one during their final rally, as hard as it can be, try to cherish that time with them, and allow them to find their closure before they pass on.

Planning your funeral might not sound fun, but you can think of it as one big party where your family and friends can find their own closure and say their goodbyes. If you’re ready to dot those i’s and cross those t’s, start planning your funeral with Willed today, so no questions are left out in the open when the time comes. 

Disclaimer: The content of this blog is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. This blog should not be relied upon as legal, financial, accounting or tax advice.

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