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Do some people prefer to be alone when they die?

What makes a good death? Is it being surrounded by loved ones or waiting until you’re alone to pass away?

Glenys Caswell, a senior research fellow from the University of Nottingham with a special interest in death, has attempted to tackle this question in a piece she wrote for The Conversation.

The subject of dying alone is usually looked at negatively, and people often feel guilty if they are absent at the time of loved one’s passing.

However, Caswell argues through her years of research and observation on the topic that some people simply prefer to be alone during that time.

“My own research found that while hospice-at-home nurses believe that no one should die alone, they had seen cases where a person died after their family members had left the bedside,” Caswell writes. “The nurses believed that some people just want to be on their own when they are dying.”

Caswell has researched, conducted studies, and written several papers on the subject of death and dying alone.

In one study, she proposes that dying alone at home isn’t the shocking tragedy that many news stories make it out to be, but that it shows a purposeful withdrawal from society on the part of the deceased.

Dying with loved ones near is also cultural, with many in agreement that dying alone is a terrible way to spend one’s last moments. Health care policies, news coverage of celebrity deaths, and representations of death in the media all support these views.

Yet, some people prefer to be alone, and as Caswell points out, especially when dying.

“But we all know people who prefer to be left alone when they are ill. Is it so surprising then that some might wish to be alone when they are dying?”

Whether alone or surrounded by loved ones, a person’s wishes deserve to be respected.  

Caswell emphasizes the importance of talking about these sometimes uncomfortable topics.

Discussing the subject in advance can help stop unnecessary feelings of guilt if family is not present during someone’s passing, and can ensure that a person’s final wishes are met.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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