The dying process is unique to each individual. The actual date or time of death is unpredictable. When a person enters the final stage of the dying process, two different dynamics at work are closely inter-related and interdependent.
First, the body begins to shut down physically, a process that ends when all the physical systems cease to function. Usually, these changes are orderly and progressive, and do not require invasive interventions as a medical emergency. These physical changes are natural ways in which the body prepares itself to stop, and the most appropriate kinds of responses are comfort measures. Be aware that your loved one's physical changes might happen rapidly or the changes might not happen at all.
The second dynamic of the dying process is at work emotionally and spiritually, and is a very different dynamic. The spirit of the dying person begins the final process of release from the body, its immediate environment and all attachments. This release also tends to follow its own priorities, such as resolving unfinished business of a practical nature, reconciling close relationships and/or receiving permission to "let go" from family members. These events are a normal, natural way in which the spirit prepares to move from this realm of existence into the next, and the appropriate responses are those that support and encourage this release and transition.
These two processes need to happen in a way appropriate for the values, beliefs and lifestyle of the dying person so that death can occur as a peaceful release. As you prepare for this event, remember that this is not a time to try to change your loved one; rather, give him or her your acceptance, support and comfort.