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Hospice Nurse Explains Odd End-of-Life Occurrences and Why There's No Cause for Concern

These experiences might seem eerie, but they're very common.

The saying goes that death is a part of life, but many people are so disturbed by the details that our society has largely pushed it away, partitioned it off, shielded it from those who are healthy, or young, or just not troubled by it. For this reason, when death does end up touching a person—as it will, eventually, for all people—they are unprepared for how it works, what it means, or how best to deal with the enormity of the passing of life.

But some educators seek to change all that. “Death doulas” are here, and they are hoping to treat those at the end of their lives with dignity and compassion as well as to educate the public at large so we can all be a little more knowledgeable about this rarefied subject.

In this video, a hospice nurse talks about one thing that she notices a lot of her patients engaging in when the time finally comes.

In the video, she calls it “the death stare” but despite the disturbing name, it is not scary or disturbing.

“You may have visitors when it’s your time to go,” says death educator and counselor Martha Jo Atkins. “As people come very close to death, they often speak less and start reaching, as if to something or someone. One hand goes up, and then it moves in a symphony of motion. A change often sweeps across the person’s face — sometimes the person’s upper body brightens.”

This is similar to the “death stare” that the nurse in the video is describing. She says it is a common occurrence, and if it is not disturbing the patient, it is one that their loved ones and caretakers should not be concerned by, nor seek to stop.

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