Doctor attending go man in hospital bed
Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
May 24, 2024 ·  4 min read

End-of-life Doctor Discusses What People Say in The Final Days Before Death

Most people fear death and prefer not to think about how they might die. But some people are forced to live while staring death in the face. Take, for instance, people in hospice care (or end-of-life care) who are suffering from advanced incurable illnesses and other problems leading to their imminent death. You may expect the staff to feel horribly depressed as they care for people who are unlikely to survive the year. However, some “end-of-life” doctors and workers find the process inspirational since patients experience a certain catharsis at the end of their lives.

Facing the Fear of Death

Among these is Dr. Christopher Kerr, who says “Dying is this unique vantage point, which changes one’s perspective and perception. It naturally draws you inward. There’s reflection, and often people focus on the best points of having lived and having mattered. And that’s usually our relationships.”

For years, palliative care physician Dr. Kerr and his research team from Hospice & Palliative Care Buffalo have published studies and recorded over 1,500 end-of-life events.

Kerr explains that patients often have dreams that help them make peace with their lives. This may inspire them to reconnect with loved ones, ask for forgiveness, or do other actions that help them feel at ease and more ready to say good-bye.

“We’ve all been harmed in one way or another for having lived, and we seem to get put back together through these experiences,” Kerr said. “And so the life you live gets validated, and inversely, the fear of death seems to lessen.”

However, not all dreams and revelations are serene and comforting. Some can be extremely troubling. “But it’s these dreams that are often the most transformational or meaningful,” he said.

Read More: 5 Most Common Deathbed Regrets, According to Palliative Care Nurse

A Negative End-of-Life Experience

A man sits in a cage, smoking
Photo: Erwi

On the podcast Next Level Soul, Dr Christopher described an example of this phenomenon. “We had a guy in his 40s who had spent most of his life in prison. He had drug addictions, and he had head and neck cancer. He was dreaming, he was joking, he was very jovial… and then he starts crying because he’s having these horrible dreams [that] he’s being stabbed by all the people he’s hurt… and he breaks down.

“But then when he comes out of it, he asked to see a daughter that he wants to express his love towards, and apologise. And after that he died peacefully.”

Parental Reassurance

a mother cuddles a newborn baby
Photo: Hollie Santos 

Another patient was a mother ridden with doubt and guilt since her children had to serve time in prison for drug-related crimes. But she had a very cathartic end-of-life dream, the doctor explains, where “her parents came to her and told her what a good mother she was.”

Read More: Doctor Convinced Without a Doubt That There’s Life After Death

The End-of-Life Revelation for a Veteran

One patient was in the army as a teenager during the invasion of Normandy in 1944. He had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) his entire life as a result. 

He came into our unit at the end of his life… he had such horrific experiences where he’s seeing body parts and bloody water and screams, and he couldn’t rest.” Kerr explains, “You can’t die unless you can sleep. It’s pretty hard to do because you just pass in sleep.” But the man’s PTSD was robbing him of any kind of peace.

One day, he managed to sleep and Kerr asked him about his dreams. “He goes, ‘I had a great dream, where I relived the best day of my life,’ which was the day he got his discharge papers. And I had a really good dream, presumably in Normandy, and a soldier who he didn’t know came up to him and said, ‘No, we’re going to come get you.'”

“Post-Traumatic Growth”

Soon after, the man passed away peacefully in his sleep. Dr. Kerr coined this sort of experience as “post-traumatic growth” where people experience growth from traumatic experiences, and this can occur at any age, even those at the end of life. 

Just because you are dying doesn’t mean you stop living,” he said. “You do some intense living in that latter period.”

Children and Creativity

a little girl in a unicorn costume sits on grass
Photo: sydney Rae

Children have unique end-of-life experiences, the doctor states, because they don’t fully understand death’s finality. They often see animals who reassure them that they are loved and make them feel less alone. “Children are creative and imaginative and can access that part of them,” he said. 

One young girl envisioned a scene of all of her favorite things. “She created a castle for herself… there was a swimming pool, the animals were returned, there’s a piano, there was a window with warm light coming through. When I asked, ‘What does the castle represent?’ she said, ‘A safe place.‘”

Read More: Woman Issues Warning After Husband’s Death Linked To Drinking One Energy Drink A Day


  1. End-of-life doctor reveals what it’s really like in the days before you die – and why it’s nothing to be scared of.” The Sun UK. Isabel Shaw. April 23, 2024
  2. Our End-of-Life Experience Research.” Hospice and Palliative Care Buffalo.
  3. “Why deathbed dreams and visions can be a comfort for the dying — and those left behind.” CBC. Padraig Moran. May 5, 2024