Not being there at the moment of death

I lose my maternal grandmother on Wednesday. She has been unwell for some time and in a home since April. The last 10 days she took to bed, stopped eating as much, but woke from her naps to chat a little and have a coffee. I understood in advance that her death may happen slowly or quite quickly as she had heart failure and secondary kidney failure. I asked my mum and uncle to let me know if we got a heads up because if I had the opportunity to be there I would.
I visited her on Tuesday lunchtime and I could see her hands were quite purple and cold. I saw a nurse outside and now wish I’d spoken to her because I think a bit of me knew this was likely not a good sign. At 5.30 the next morning my family called to say they had had a call to say she’d passed.

I keep rehashing the whole thing in my mind. Should I have asked the nurse what stage we were at, should I have encourage my Mum or uncle to get down there to say bye. My uncle hasn’t been since the week prior and so I don’t think he quite knew that she was declining. The care home said she was peaceful but I wonder what that last few hours was like for her or was she just asleep and then they found she had passed.

I told my Mum how I felt and she said I couldn’t have done any more it could have happened at any point as she had been on end of life care for a while and it was obvious she’d go and some point likely in her sleep. But I can’t help but feel we could have been there.

I also feel silly as I DID have time with her the day prior, I got to give her a hug and a kiss and tell her to rest her eyes before I left. Some people don’t even get this so I’m not sure why I’m focusing so much on the negative.


Hello @Ems12345,

I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your grandmother. It sounds as though things are very tough at the moment and it’s understandable that you wanted to be with her when she passed.

I’m glad that you’ve been able to share how you are feeling here and I hope that you find the community a good source of support. Everyone here has experienced the loss of a loved one and will understand some of what you are going through.

I’m sure someone will be along to offer their support, but I wanted to share a few Sue Ryder resources with you that may help you right now.

Take care - keep reaching out,


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Hi there. It’s natural you are going to feel this way, tormenting yourself “what if”. It’s unfortunate if you can’t be there at the moment, but this happens so often. Sometimes I even think they actually wait to pass until we are not there. Sounds like she was in a similar position to my mum who had kidney disease and heart failure, but caught a cold and was very low on oxygen and although they wanted her to go to hospital, she was just too weak and wouldn’t have known where she was. I still keep thinking “what if she had oxygen sooner, she could still be here!”. Luckily the home did call me at 4.30am and I got there in time. She was taking final breaths, her eyes were open, and I did chat to her but didn’t really expect the time would be literally so close. Within half an hour she was gone. I was with her when she passed. I’m really not sure that she realized I was there, but it was comforting. I’m sorry that you couldn’t have been with her. Be thankful that you saw her the day before, and I’m sure her passing would have been extremely peaceful. I’m sure, sometimes, in those last day/hours, they are sometimes not aware of what is happening. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Big hugs. xx

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@Ems12345 It’s a tricky one isn’t it. You want to be there when a loved one needs you the most & will forever wonder what their last moments were like when you can’t. I walked in on my Dad dying unexpectedly in hospital & it was awful to witness, being led to a room as they told me what they were trying. I’ll always wonder if he knew I was there. I think you can drive yourself mad with the what ifs & the guilt. You shared a lovely moment with your Grandmother the day before & I think that is what you should remember. Perhaps she just felt it was the right time to go. Best wishes, moving forward.


Thank you @youareunbelievable for your kind words and I am sorry about your dear Mum.
It does sound like a similar position. I am glad you got there on time. I think my Grans was quite quick in the end. When I saw her the day prior and she was still talking and drinking a little tea I thought we may have a few more days. I’m a way I’m glad it didn’t longer into days and days of unconsciousness etc. I have also been trying to think of it from another perspective which is that I think my Gran was a very proud lady and she probably wouldn’t have wanted me there at the final moment, she would have told me to clear off if she could.


Thank you @Cee for your kind words and I am sorry to hear about your Dad and the experience you went through. I think part of grief can be ruminating over what’s happened, it’s our brains way of trying to control the incontrollable and I try to remind myself that I did what was best on the day and that ultimately I cannot control the death of a loved one. It was her time. Thank goodness I went the day prior and had the moment I did. Perhaps that’s what was enough for her and she gave in that night.