How many of your patients see/talk to their loved ones before they pass away?

May 14, 2011

Hi everyone. I’ve spent the last few hours reading the ‘nursing ghost stories’ thread, and along those lines…. how many of your patients see/talk to their loved ones before they pass away?

I’m a third semester student so I don’t have any nursing experiences to share, but my 74 year old grandmother (Gran), whom I love immeasurably, is losing her battle with breast cancer. She was diagnosed with stage IV last year, and to be honest, I didn’t think that I would have the joy of another year with her. I have, and for that I am more grateful than I can ever put into words. Along with the cancer, she has a laundry list of other health problems, and she is on dozens of meds. We know that the cancer has metastasized to her bones and her spine, and a new onset of symptoms is suggestive of metastases to her CSF as well. She isn’t “on death’s door” quite yet, but I don’t think we have much time left with her.

For the last four or five months, Gran has been seeing her mother (my great-grandmother, Mim, who died in 2005). Not just glimpses of her — according to Gran, Mim is living with her. She said that she sees her every single day, and that most of the time Mim will talk with her for hours. At other times, Mim will not look at or acknowledge Gran; she’ll just stand beside her, which bothers Gran tremendously. Mim was the only dead loved one that Gran would see, until recently. Her husband (who passed away in 2006) visits her, although infrequently, and they also talk. Those ‘visits’ don’t cause Gran any distress.

I am a logical person, and I realize that Gran’s age, conditions and meds most likely account for the hallucinations. But in my heart, in a place where logic does not thrive for long, I feel that she is truly seeing her mother and her husband. I’ve heard about people seeing dead loved ones in the days before they pass, but this has been ongoing for months. I guess I’m just trying to understand — if you are a spiritual person, but a logical, analytical person as well, where do you draw the line between medical hallucination and spiritual occurrence?

I don’t mean to ramble on… I’ve read these boards for a while and post rarely, but you all seem like such a good group of people. I would love to hear your experiences with things like this and your thoughts on them.

– Posted by Keila; Allnurses

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