Menu

Departing Visions


From: Carla Wills-Brandon, Ph.D.
Story type: 
Location: oakland
Source: Form Submission

Departing or Death Bed Visions: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)  

What is a departing vision (often called a death bed vision)? Most Hospice workers are very familiar with departing or deathbed visions, but sometimes these experiences are difficult to put into words. A death bed vision or DBV is a powerful, comforting experience the dying and their family members often encounter just before death occurs. The dying will report visions of angels, deceased loved ones, or religious figures, moments, hours, days or even weeks, before actual death takes place. These visions typically lessen the fear of dying and make passing an easier transition for all concerned.

Family members at the death bed of a loved one who are not familiar with the death bed vision phenomenon will often ask healthcare workers and Hospice caretakers, "Couldn't these 'visions' just be the by product of a dying brain?

In the 1920s, 1960s and 70s, several researchers asked these exact questions. These researchers decided to put this phenomenon to the test. What they discovered was astounding. The visions of the dying most often were those of deceased relatives. During the vision, deceased relatives would appear to the dying person to offer support, guidance and assistance as death drew near. Interestingly, in some death bed vision accounts, the dying individual received visitations from relatives s/he did not know were already deceased. While scientifically investigating this phenomenon they also discovered that these departing visions have been reported by the dying for centuries. Even President Abraham Lincoln had a death bed vision, just before his own assassination.

When DBVs are reported, Hospice workers and healthcare providers are often confronted with a number of questions from confused family members, such as "What about wishful thinking, related to a fear of death? Maybe my loved one is imagining all of this."

The above would be a simple explanation, but the DBV phenomenon isn’t that cut and dry. One researcher compared the DBVs of dying Americans with those in India. Thousands of nurses and doctors were interviewed and asked what they had witnessed as death drew near. DBVs were often reported. Except for a few religious differences, the DBVs of both cultures were incredibly similar. The consistency of the experiences between those dying in America and those in India has guided me to believe there is more to the DBV experience than wishful thinking. Hospice workers and healthcare providers are also often asked, "How about medication? Medications can certainly induce hallucinations."

Many of the individuals who have reported these visions were not on medications and were, up to the moment of death, very coherent. Those who are on medications have also shared visions similar to those who are not on medications. Finally, well, alert, sober family members and friends of the dying have had DBVs. Along with this, Hospice workers and healthcare providers have also reported DBV experiences.

Are the DBVs of family members, friends and healthcare professionals similar to those of the dying? Interestingly yes! These individuals can also receive visitations from deceased relatives (in some cases they too were not aware the dying person was actually preparing to pass) angels or religious figures. Like the dying, dreams of "heaven" or communication with other worldly figures have been reported by those attending the dying. In many situations, loved ones of the dying will have a visitation from the person who is passing at the moment of death. In other words, a loved one at home, may be awakened from a deep sleep by a feeling, knowing that passing has occurred or even by a vision of the dying person (who is at the hospital or in another location). Many of these individuals then receive a phone call minutes later confirming death.

As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, has understanding DBVs helped you assist those who are in grief? In many cases, bereaved individuals will come to me and say, "I had a rather strange experience just before Uncle Joe passed," or "While Mom was dying, she started talking to all of the dead relatives as if they were right there, in the room with her!" For those who have had such experiences, my own personal and professional involvement with DBVs validates their encounters. My sharing of my experiences and of those I have collected, allows these individuals to feel "normal" about their experiences. These individuals usually walk away from my office feeling very relieved to have found someone who understands.

For those who are dying, DBV information offers them comfort, validates any visions they might have had or may have in the future, and it lessons the fear of death. With individuals seeking answers to questions about death, DBV information often times propels them into resolving their own issues around dying.

Why did you decide to write “One Last Hug Before I Go: The Mystery And Meaning Of Deathbed Visions”? This is my 8th and most important book to date because it is so personal. My son experienced a DBV when his grandfather died. I too had a DBV when my own mother passed. Over the last 20 years I have heard countless accounts of DBVs from not only the dying, but from those who love them. Sadly, I have often been the first person they ever discuss these blessed events with. Fear of societal judgment keeps many of us silent and a lack of validation often creates confusions.

My job as a healthcare provider has been to validate DBVs for those patients of mine who report them, and to then use them for processing grief and developing a sense of spiritual wellness. It is the lack of public awareness about the DBV phenomenon that convinced me to write this book. DBVs are a neglected source of peace and comfort to all those involved. This must change. Today, I have no absolute answers regarding life after death, but I do strongly believe the DBV experience must not continue to be ignored.

Carla Wills-Brandon, Ph.D., is the author of 8 published books with topics ranging from grief to self-esteem, trauma resolution, and spirituality. She has appeared on a number of television programs and lectured across America and the United Kingdom. Ms. Wills-Brandon continues to work in private practice with her husband of 25 years, Michael Brandon, Ph.D. For more information about her latest book,

“One Last Hug Before I Go: The Mystery and Meaning of Deathbed Visions (2000) HCI Publications Email: doreenh@hcibooks.com Telephone 1-800-851-9100 or visit Wills-Brandon’s website at http://www.carla.wills.brandon.net

Carla Wills-Brandon, Ph.D.
Michael Brandon, Ph.D.
http://www.carla.wills.brandon.net
"[I]f you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself. Also, you will have betrayed your community in failing to make your contribution." Rollo May (1909-1994) US psychoanalyst,"The Courage to Create," 1975.