It can be difficult to know exactly when someone is going to die, or has died. This page details some of the most common signs. 

This page takes around 2 minutes to read.

Physical signs of dying


The following symptoms are often a sign that the person is about to die: 

  • They might close their eyes frequently or they might be half-open
  • Facial muscles may relax and the jaw can drop
  • Skin can become very pale
  • Breathing can alternate between loud rasping breaths and quiet breathing.
  • Towards the end, dying people will often only breathe periodically, with an intake of breath followed by no breath for several seconds. This can be upsetting to witness as the person seems to stop breathing only to start again. There might be one or two last gasps a minute or so after what seemed like the last breath, before breathing eventually stops.

When someone dies


The moment of someone's death is often very profound, even when you have expected it for a long time. You might want to talk to someone or call family and friends to let them know. You might prefer to be alone.

Some people feel overwhelmed with sadness, for others it can take days, weeks or months to process how they feel.

If you have been caring for the person you might feel exhausted, and the relief and finality of the moment of death can take you by surprise.

Every person’s experience of dying and bereavement is unique. However you are feeling, there are organisations and resources to help you. If you think you could benefit from bereavement support visit our page on how to find bereavement services.