Cover Image: What Does It Feel Like to Die?

What Does It Feel Like to Die?

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Member Reviews

Scientific and Practical Guide to Death and Dying

As an RN who has seen death firsthand, I was curious about what this book had to offer. The author is a hospice volunteer, so she does have some viable personal insights into death and dying, and she has gone further and talked with medical professionals, some of whom specialize in palliative care, and studied current research into death and dying. She also shares some of her personal experience in dealing with her own mother's death. If one is up for reading the science, I believe that this book would be helpful for those who are newly diagnosed with a terminal illness and for family members touched by such. The book not only looks at the physical aspect dying process itself  (insofar as we can know it) but also at coping with it and getting your affairs in order. You’ll learn a little about the hospice system, which is not as well understood as it could be.

I feel like the book should have actually been several books: one just for the person who is dying, one for family members, one for caregivers, and one that speaks directly to the science of it all. At times, this book does feel like it is trying to be too much to too many types of people, so a specialized set of books would be more helpful. For instance, I believe that a simplified, well-organized version would be fantastic for the person who is actually dying, stressing the situations so they will run across in the physical aspect as well as the mental and financial preparation.

I find myself wondering at the statistic that she gave in the beginning, that 90% of us will die after living with a disease for days, weeks, or years. I don't quite buy that, or at least, wouldn’t put it that way. Life is terminal; we will all die. Chronic diseases give one a higher chance for mortality but don't necessarily cause death directly. After all, say, a person with high blood pressure doesn't necessarily die from it even if they've lived with it for years. Sometimes death is sudden, like in a car crash. However, often it is more of an aggregate of certain factors: age, general health, and chronic diseases (co-morbidities) than a specific terminal illness. 

All in all, though, I do you think this is a very helpful book for those involved in the dying process. you may want to cherry-pick your way through, picking the nuggets that apply to you and your situation.
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What Does It Feel Like to Die?: Inspiring New Insights into the Experience of Dying is a surface look at what happens to our bodies and a deep look at what happens in our minds during those first moments we realize we’re going to die and in the time just before we do die. 
This is the latest book in a long list of “morbid” books I’ve been reading lately. Not sure if I’ve just stumbled on these books by chance or if I’ve had some sort of subconscious morbidity pushing me towards these titles, but I’ve enjoyed every one in varying ways. 
For the first twenty percent I had trouble connecting. I honestly can’t say if it was the writing, the topic, or the fact that it was on a phone. Sometimes reading on a phone makes me read faster and other times it makes me hate technology as a whole so, not much more I can say in that regard. After that, I was pulled into the ideas represented and finished the book quite quickly (after a two-week hiatus). 
I think that there is a book for every situation whether that is nonfiction specifically about the topic or fiction that covers just the same feelings with fairies added in. I think this book is hugely important for anyone who is losing someone and is trying to come to terms with what the end of a life means physically and emotionally. 
I learned that for the most part death is painless. First let me point out that this particular book is about actively dying in a long-term way. This isn’t a book about instantaneous death or death over a week. This is about a terminal illness that can last years with the patient and the family knowing the whole time that the end is edging its way closer with every breath. Other types of death may be painful, but the majority of deaths that take place over time are painless either because the body is shutting down or because the patient has medication to alleviate the pain. 
There is an important chapter on assisted suicide. Some states do allow doctors to prescribe medicine that causes death for patients who are terminal. There is a long process involved, but many patients have gone through the whole process and taken the medicine that allowed them to choose when they were finished. The patient must wait two weeks from the time they decide to do this until the time when the process can truly begin. However, the author makes sure to point out that for most patients this is a process they have been thinking about for months if not years. 
I now know that patients have the full right to stop eating and drinking until it results in death. This is referred to under the acronym VSED (Voluntary Stop Eating and Drinking). It’s not easy because patients tend to get thirsty as they get closer to death (sometimes due to medicine and sometimes due to something doctors can’t fully explain where even hydrated patients feel thirst) but also because some face a lowering of cognizance that leaves them without memory of their choice to stop eating and drinking. And even one small drink can slow the process down by weeks, whereas if the patient is able to abstain death can occur in a few days. It’s important to note that this is legal in every state. I personally agree that a person should be able to choose their time of death if they are terminal and in a declining state. Also, for those worried that starvation would be a painful way to go don’t need to worry. It is described as an overall painless process that becomes less difficult after a few hours. 
This is an important book even if people only read the last part where it discusses pain and legal options for suicide. However, the rest of the book is a close look at the world that people enter into as soon as they learn they are terminal. People have to realize on their own that their lives will be over but that they aren’t over yet. In some cases people realize this multiple times during the dying process because it is too hard to hold onto the full truth at all times without become depressed. 
I would recommend this for readers who have lost someone, are in the process of losing someone, or who just want to know more about the end we will all face at some point.
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The author's painstaking research and attention to detail is obvious in the writing of this book.  The author laid out the information in a manner that allowed the reader to form their own opinion.
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What Does It Feel Like to Die? by Jennie Dear is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early July.

Not just the experiences and observations of hospice caregivers from diagnosis to postmortem, but nurses serving as gatekeepers to knowledge about physical decrepitation and what people feel and think as their body shuts down; confronting, reasoning with, and reacting to the diagnosis of a chronic debilitating disease; four trajectories of dying fast (without realizing it, up & down surges between health and decline, or [the most common] long-term illness and a sickness or injury to cause death); dying while in a hospital compared to the palliative care of hospice; guided counseling for self-reckoning, making amends, showing gratitude; and the hastening death through not eating or drinking or pursuing end-of-life means.
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Don't be put off by the title. 

Although this isn't necessarily an easy read, it's actually a heartening and reassuring one, along the lines of Atul Gawande's Being Mortal, Paul Kalanithi's When Breath Becomes Air, and Caitlin Doughty's Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.  

In What Does It Feel Like To Die, Jennie Dear (a long-time hospice volunteer and daughter of a terminal cancer patient) speaks to doctors, nurses, caregivers, families, friends, and patients to cover the four likely trajectories of death, the various settings death commonly takes place in, assisted dying, that death does not usually hurt, and what the last few hours of death look like.  

A few years ago, my Nanna passed away in hospital, and reading Dear's words has made me feel much better about her final days, knowing that she was unlikely to have suffered.  

This is a well-written, well-researched book, which will be hugely comforting to anyone who has ever lost anyone or who is losing someone, as well as people who themselves are living with a terminal illness. 

Thanks to Netgalley and Kensington Books for the digital copy in return for an honest and unbiased review.
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I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.    Thank you NetGalley.

I"m sure that most would view the title and not want to read something so morbid or troubling.. but this was absolutely a great read.     it was interesting to hear about all the different aspects of death... the hospice, and more.      i'd recommend this to anyone who may help with the grieving process as well.
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I think this book would do well in helping someone in the grieving process. As someone who has only recently become acquainted with death on a large scale, this book definitely made me feel better (after a few cries.)
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Who would ever think I'd be here reviewing a book about dying 2 days before I take on this journey with major back surgery but life is funny and always comes full circle.
Ok, well "People die the way they lived" and for me this book touched on many important topics including the administering of the 'knock out drugs' and those meant to prevent further suffering in their final times such as morphine and the amounts to be given that are often hard to distinguish for professionals in a medical setting.
It reminds you that mistakes can happen, that everything doesn't just transfer over, and that life always continues on.
Life is precious and to be around loved ones is the greatest blessing in our final stages and if you're lucky to have that than it makes going to another place easier.
The entire hospice viewpoints, the care provided, the challenges that are faced, the medical terminology utilized and processed, the families concerns for their loved ones all of it was written in an easy to read insightful loving way.
It always makes for a smooth transition after getting that final diagnosis of terminal that one can find compassion, empathy, and support. 
So this was in a way that 'comfort' blanket we could all use!
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Very cool and interesting topic. I think the author explored it well. I was looking for a little something that was missing, although I can’t put my finger on it. But I enjoyed it nonetheless.
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Death is usually not a topic we all want to think about - but it's inevitable, and I'm hoping that by reading as many books about it as I can, I will be prepared when the time comes. Yes, it sounds morbid, but I figure that was how I prepared for getting married and giving birth, so I might as well keep to the same trend. I've read a lot of memoirs about dying, as well as another book very similar to this one, and they are all very tender and generally comforting. Dear, an experienced hospice volunteer, goes into great detail about the different stages of dying and how we know when our loved ones have reached them. She also describes the different "death trajectories," which was also new for me. The way we die changes based on the reasons for our death. Dear shares personal stories, mostly from her time with her dying mother, and writes in an engaging style.
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“What Does It Feel Like to Die?: Inspiring New Insights into the Experience of Dying” by Jennie Dear may seem like the last book I would want to read only a few weeks after my husband died of Stage 4 lung cancer in our home on hospice. But I am so glad that I did read it. So many questions I had about my husband’s experience, and our experience as his family, were answered. The author did meticulous research into the things that patients experience at the end of their lives. What she learned has been presented in a conversational, straightforward, yet sensitive manner. 

There were times that I had to put the book down to process my memories and what I was learning, but I eagerly picked it up again to learn more. The author moves from the “existential slap” of a terminal diagnosis to the last few hours of life. In between, she covers topics such as patterns in how we die, whether it hurts to die, how to die well, and even “checking out early” which tackles the sensitive subject of assisted suicide. 

The bibliography of “What Does It Feel Like to Die?” is huge! There was no repetition and she never used technical language without clearly explaining things in terms that we can all understand. I really appreciated the down to earth way she wrote about the death process and how we can make it easier on patients and family members. She gathered experts in the field of dying and presented a lot of information that I wish I had known sooner, but I’m glad I have now. 

During my husband’s death, many people had questions about why certain things were happening. Often someone would present their thoughts on what the answer was. If we had had the information in this book, it could have alleviated many fears and concerns that we had. One of the biggest of these was the death rattle. What is it and what causes it? You will be surprised and also say “Ah, that makes sense!” when you read the explanation for it in “What Does It Feel Like to Die?”

For me, one of the most fascinating topics in the book was the subject of “terminal delirium,” which my husband experienced. In fact, it states in “What Does It Feel Like to Die?” that 60-88% of hospice patients experience it at some point. 

We will all die one day, and before we do, we will likely also experience the death of a loved one. “What Does It Feel Like to Die?” is a treasure chest of information about the process, written in an extremely palatable way. I would highly recommend it to everyone—(teens and older). If you have ever experienced someone’s death, this will surely answer any lingering questions you may have about what happened.

“What Does It Feel Like to Die?” will be released June 25th, 2019. Until then, you can preorder your copy, in order to get it as soon as it comes out. Thank you to NetGalley, Kensington Books, and Citadel for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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It's hard to pass up a book with a title like this--c'mon, everyone would like to know what it's like (that doesn't work around it often). Dear asks the same questions you do, and wanted to know what science says about it, how those who've had careers in the field can contribute to the subject matter (consistencies, myths, etc.), so, ultimately, we can do one or more of the following: Approach death with a less fear, understand the process for the benefit of ourselves and others, and to work to stop the suppression of the inevitable event in our minds, as if its some kind of taboo. I'm sure I'm just scratching the surfaces of what one *could* do with the information in this book. 

You're likely to start reading with an expectation that the feelings encompassing one's final moments are all that's spoken about here, but there's a bit extra: A decent portion of the book is dedicated to helping us readers understand coping mechanisms for death, a brief education on the current status of the Hospice system (along with nursing homes), how to prepare (the best that you can, of course) for your own death, and much, much more. 

It might seem macabre to go ahead and think about getting your affairs in order, but, when you think about it (and Dear certainly helps to illustrate this), *not* doing so is the more ludicrous action. The experience of death, as experiences are wont to be, are not one-dimensional, nor can they be brief. The flux one could experience when facing their last moments, whether that be over the course of hours or years, but there are similarities, and schooling yourself as much as possible on what lies ahead might well prove to be beneficial to someone--whether that's you or not. 

So yes, the book does certainly tackle the subject of what your body is likely experiencing when you're actively dying (a "good death", as is described here), but there's a lead-up to it, a buy-in, if you will (other than the buy-in you already did by purchasing the book), of interesting and, at times, captivating words on how we embrace this process with optimum dignity, peace, information, consideration, reverence. 

It calls to the forefront some serious consideration on how deeply we burrow ourselves into our daily schedules, commonly out of touch with the fact that we are alive and kicking for a seriously limited time. Dear's work beckons us to consider (and enjoy) our existence on our own time, before some unfortunate affair forces us to do so. 

Many thanks to NetGalley, Kensington Books, and Citadel for the advance read.
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Jennie Dear, hospice volunteer, professor, and journalist combines extensive research and her experience as a volunteer and daughter of a dying mother to present a fascinating look at the death process. It’s not always a quick heart attack or a long ordeal with a terminal illness; frequently, people just become so frail that a small illness is fatal. (In the past, many would not have even lived to this point, benefiting from modern medicine.)  Also presented is “the idea that great good can come from great suffering is ancient…threading its way through many of the great religions.” Psychologists refer to it as post traumatic growth, defined as “the experience of positive change that occurs as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life crises.”  Don’t be put off by the title—this book is not depressing at all, and offers an enlightening and well-researched exploration of death, which is still a largely taboo subject in American society.
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What Does It Feel Like to Die offers a lot of information and advice on our last days as we die. The writer was a hospice volunteer and gives us her first hand accounts of what she saw. Death should not be such a taboo subject since all of us must face it.
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Very good book on hospice, what it is and how it operates. It is also a very good read on dying and various things associated with it. I really enjoyed this book and will recommend it highly. Thanks to Netgalley, the author and the publisher for the arc of this book in return for my honest review. Receiving the book in this manner had no bearing on my review.
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In the United States, death is a close to being a taboo subject. We exist in culture of denial, each of us believing we are in a state of quasi-immortality. We hide our sick and dying behind closed doors in sterile homes and hospitals, and avoid discussing death and the experience of dying as much as possible. Jennie Dear's mission in What Does It Feel Like to Die? is to pull back the curtain on death and rationally discuss it with her readers. It is a mission that Dear succeeds in. 

As a hospice volunteer, Dear has all of the requisite experience to be the one to bring the conversation to the fore. She has seen many distressing, beautiful, and frustrating things during her tenure as a volunteer, and also brings firsthand experience of her mother's death from cancer. Her writing as such comes off as clear, knowing, and levelheaded. Her intent is not to cause fear or dread, but to inform and cause comfort in knowing what to expect during end of life care. Dear covers a myriad of topics surrounding death, such as the physical experience, medications used by doctors and nurses to alleviate pain, growth and transformation of patients diagnosed with a fatal disease, therapy options, and what to expect in your last days/hours. 

The majority of the book is captivating and eye-opening. While I, as a 30 year old man who hopes to enjoy many more years of life, could not entirely relate to or find much use at the moment in the sections about therapy options, that isn't to say it won't one day be useful. For me, that is the overarching theme of this book: it's something that anyone can pick up and find use in. For a culture so obsessed with youth and the ephemeral, we need brave authors like Dear who are willing to provide the means to educate ourselves in a subject that all of us one day will have to get familiar with. 

***I was given a copy of this book by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Kensington Books.**
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