October 13, 2015 10:00 am

I’m sure many of us have hopes of dying peacefully and painlessly. So, just to s*** all over those hopes here are some descriptions of how it (supposedly) feels to die gruesomely. 

Blogger Granneman explains that in a broad sense death is usually due to a lack of oxygen to the brain. People ultimately die because their neurons are deprived of oxygen, leading to the cessation of electrical activity in the brain.

If the flow of oxygenated blood to the brain is stopped, you have about 10 seconds before losing consciousness.

Before your final bow in those seconds the exact mode of death can affect the subtleties of the experience…so without further ado, let’s explore some modes…

how it feels to die


how it feels to die

Once panicking begins there will be a classic “surface struggle” and the odd gasps for air if possible. Studies with New York lifeguards in the 1950’s and 60’s found that the surface struggle lasts 20 – 60 seconds.

After victims submerge they hold their breath. This typically lasts 30 to 90 seconds. Inhaling, spluttering, coughing, and more inhaling will then take place. Water in the lungs blocks gas exchange in delicate tissues.

Inhaling water also triggers the airway to seal shut. There is a feeling of tearing and a burning sensation in the chest as water flows down the airway. Finally, you’ll enter a feeling of tranquility and calmness. Congrats and welcome to death.

Burning to Death:

how it feels to die

This is torture. Firstly, hot smoke and flames burn the throat and airways, making it hard to breathe. Burns then inflict immediate and intense pain through stimulation of the nociceptors (pain nerves in the skin).

Burns also trigger a rapid inflammatory response, which heightens your sensitivity to pain.

Toxic gases will also fuck you up as much as the burns. Carbon monoxide will likely cause headaches, drowsiness, and unconsciousness within minutes as you burn. Yeah nah you’re not waking up from this one.


how it feels to die

Although beheading is a gruesome way to jump off the planet it can be one of the quickest and easiest ways to go. However, you’re dependent on the executioner. If they’re skilled then it’s no worries, if they suck, you’re in a world of dread.

If it’s a clean cut you’re decapitated head will be conscious for about an estimated 7 seconds.

One time when it wasn’t a clean cut was for Mary Queen of Scots in 1587. The axeman took three attempts to severe her head, but couldn’t do it (blunt axe maybe) so had to finish the job by stabbing her to death.

In 1541 Margaret Pole refused to lay down on the block so the executioner missed her neck and left a giant gash in her shoulder. She ran down the street screaming and had to be struck 11 times before dying.

Hanged to Death:

how it feels to die

This is all about putting pressure on the windpipe and the arteries to the brain. It can cause unconsciousness in 10 seconds, but will take longer if the noose is incorrectly sited.

Witnesses of public hangings have described people as “dancing” in pain at the end of the rope, struggling violently as they asphyxiated. Death ensues after many minutes in this instance, sometimes up to 15 minutes.

As this form of execution became uncool to watch hangmen started using longer ropes, so your neck would just snap after being dropped, far less “dancing”. However, sometimes this backfired and ended up being more gruesome because the noose could rip a head off.

Explosive Decompression to Death:

how it feels to die

There has been one fatal depressurisation accident in space. This occurred on the Russian Soyuz-11 mission in 1971. The men were found dead upon crashing back into Earth’s atmosphere.

Apparently, when external air pressure drops suddenly, the lungs respond by expanding and this tears gas exchange tissues. It can be worse if you hold your breath and don’t exhale, although your skin will prevent you from bursting, oxygen will ooze out through your heart/lungs.

Your blood flow can stop entirely after one minute.

Human survivors (pilots who lose cabin pressure or NASA technicians in vacuum chambers) report an initial pain, like being punched in the chest, and may recall a feeling of air being sucked from their lungs. Before losing consciousness around 15 seconds they remember struggling to inhale.


Death is still pretty scary, but if you think of it in the broad sense…that the cause of death always = no more oxygenated blood to the brain, then its all the same thing. Right? Right, you guys?

You may just have to tough it out in some circumstances.

It generally seems best if you just succumb to it, like that time Liam Neeson helped the bloke in The Grey settle down and transition into death.

Go with the flow…

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This post was written by Nadia Vella