Hospice Care/Tears when dying


My father recently passed away after his heart failed and he collapsed. He was resuscitated and in ICU but had suffered brain damage.  He died not long after machines were turned off. My question is that just before he died tears rolled down his face, the same thing happened when my Mum passed away, what is the reason for these tears, were they in pain or was it relief to be at peace?


I would like to first apologize for taking so long to answer your question.  It was difficult to find any scientific information to backup your question either way.
Each persons death is as unique as their birth. No one explanation can fit every situation.  I have found that each person's death experience relates to many different aspects of their life, value, belief systems, unfinished business, personality, faith, and relationships with friends and family.
I could give you many different reasons why I believe some individuals shed tears following their death which has physiological and psychological reasons.
I have seen this happen for patient's that die in pain and in one's that death finally brings peace.  
Tears following death can come from grief, loss, guilt, fear, aloneness, hurt feelings, unfinished business, the unknown and loss of loved ones to only mention a few.  Grief is not just and emotion for the living.  Terminal patients grieve many losses before their final day.
The underlying denominator of how a person will experience their death is directly related to how they lived their life, their relationships, unfinished business, fear of the unknown, faith, accomplishments, beliefs, strengths, weaknesses and guilt.
I have had many patient's and families tell me they just wanted to sit on their loved one's bed and cry but they didn't want to upset the other person.  When in reality crying together promotes healing together.  It gives everyone a chance to show their love for the other person.  Everyone can express their pain, anger, fears etc.
I will share on more thought if you don't mind.  Over the last ten years of nursing I have experienced the same scenario from certain types of families over and over.  The patient is dying, he/she could go at anytime.  The family is called in and they all stay in the room and wait for hours. We call it the death watch and it is just horrors.  
I usually encourage the family (all) of them to take a walk or go for coffee after they have been waiting for more that 2 hours.  They all have the same fear, "what if she goes when we are gone?"  My response is always the same, "Just tell her you where you are going and you will be back in a couple of minutes."
Every without fail as soon as the family leaves I will enter the room and tell the patient, "It's okay they went for coffee and they will be fine."  most of the time the patient dies while the family is gone.  
The reason you ask?  Think about how hard it would be to leave your son or daughter when they are sitting next to you holding your hand.  Knowing that you are about to cause them more pain than imaginable.  It is almost impossible to let go when someone you love so much is sitting by your side, afraid, grieving and not wanting you to go.

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Sydney Humphrey


I can answer, provide information, recommend resources or offer examples relating to the majority of hospice, end of life care, death and dying, pain management and palliative care questions. My role in this forum is to provide help to others in the form of information and education.


My love for hospice started when I was honored with an opportunity to become a volunteer at age 15. My assignments varied from sitting with patients to house cleaning. Within six months I decided hospice was always going to be part of my life. I continued to volunteer while acquiring my Certified Nursing Assistant credentials. Once licensed I then began to work as a CNA for the same hospice agency. I applied to Nursing school with the intent on becoming a hospice nurse. During school I worked as a CNA and continued to volunteer. Upon graduation I secured a position as a Hospice Case Manager immediately. I loved that job and am proud to say I have had the honor of sharing the journey to a peaceful death with over 100 patients and their families. It has made me a better person in every way possible. I eventually moved up the career ladder and starting from the bottom in this industry has given me a unique perspective and allows me to have a higher level of understanding and compassion. I am now an Executive Administrator for a large hospice agency and incredibly happy with my career choice and current position but I do miss the hands on care that was such a big part of my life. As an Administrator I am able to mentor nurses that are new to the field and have watched awareness and respect for this industry grow and thrive.

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization Utah Nurses Association

I am a Certified Hospice and Paliative Care Nurse. I am certified to provide continuing education courses for health care professionals.

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