Do Eyes Open Before Death

Why Do Eyes Open Before Death?

Last updated on January 31st, 2024

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Losing a loved one is a difficult experience that no one faces lightly.. In their final moments, sometimes small details like whether their eyes were open or closed can leave family and friends wondering. In this article, we will explore some of the common myths and realities surrounding eyes being open before death.

The old woman’s family was unsettled by her death with open eyes, as they wondered what her final moments may have entailed. 

Medical Reasons for Eyes Being Open

There are some medical explanations for why someone may have their eyes open after passing away. 

  • Rigor Mortis: Can cause stiffening of the eyelids within a few hours as the facial muscles lock up after death. 
  • Additionally, without blinking to lubricate them, the eyes will gradually dry out and shrink over time, making it difficult for the eyelids to fully close. 
  • Both of these natural processes resulting from the body’s lack of life functions can leave a deceased individual appearing as though their eyes remain open.   
  • Medical condition – In some cases, a pre-existing medical condition may have caused the eyelids to be paralyzed and unable to close before death occurred. Conditions like strokes, brain injuries or muscle diseases could potentially leave the eyes open before death.

So from a purely medical standpoint, eyes being open at the time of death or shortly after does not necessarily mean the person experienced anything frightening in their final moments. It is often simply a normal part of the body’s process after life has ceased.

Myths and Misconceptions

While medical science can explain eyes being open from a physiological perspective, there are still some persistent myths and ideas that have developed culturally:

  • They saw their death coming – It is a common belief that if someone’s eyes are open, it means they witnessed or knew their death was near. However, there is no evidence that eyes being open is connected to awareness or consciousness near death.
  • Their soul is trapped – Some spiritual traditions believe the soul cannot fully depart if the eyes are not closed. But there is no scientific basis that closing the eyelids impacts anything related to souls or the afterlife.
  • They experienced terror at the end – Another myth is that open eyes must mean the person felt fear or horror as they passed. As discussed earlier, the eyes may open due simply to normal biological changes after death has occurred.

So unless there are eyewitness accounts of the actual dying moments, it cannot be definitively said what someone was thinking, feeling or aware of based only on their eyes being open after death. 

Myths have developed perhaps as a way for the living to find meaning in the unknown, but the medical reality is usually more straightforward. Studies have shown that death with open eyes is often simply caused by normal physiological changes in the body as it shuts down, rather than indicating anything about the experiences of the deceased person.   

What Families Can Do

If a loved one does pass away with their eyes open, out of respect for tradition or one’s own beliefs, families have some options:

  • Close the eyes – Gently closing the eyelids is acceptable and common practice out of care and respect for the deceased.
  • Request eye caps – Some funeral homes provide paper or cloth eye caps that can be placed over the eyes. This offers a more dignified appearance for visitations or viewings.
  • Explain to others – Educating other family and friends about the normal medical reasons eyes may be open can help dispel anxiety over its meaning.
  • Focus on their life – Remembering positive memories and qualities of the person’s life is healthier than speculating about their final moments. The details of death are usually beyond what can ever be known with certainty.

In the end, whether someone’s eyes are open or closed should not define how they are grieved or honored. Letting go of assumptions and myths allows loved ones to focus on celebrating a life well lived, rather than being hung up on trivial physical details left behind after life’s end.

When to Seek Counseling

If finding a loved one’s death with open eyes causes severe, ongoing emotional distress, it may help to speak to a counselor. They can provide perspective on:

  • The reality of why eyes open medically – Learning facts can help dispel irrational fears.
  • Normal grieving process – Distress over physical details may be a sign one needs support moving past initial shock and denial phases.
  • Healthy remembrance – Focusing on the person’s essence, not final image.
  • Coping strategies – Such as keeping a journal, talking to others, doing relaxing activities.

While an unsettling image, a counselor can reassure you that the medical reasons for eyes being open have nothing to do with consciousness, awareness or the soul.

Eyes Open Before Death – Common Causes

The passing of a loved one can often leave lingering questions. One detail that sometimes surprises people is finding a deceased individual with their eyes remaining open. While unsettling, there are usually rational physiological explanations. 

Physical Changes in the Body

  • Damage to the Central Nervous System-Conditions like strokes, brain injuries or neurological diseases may impact the nerves controlling eyelid muscles. This prevents blinking and closing of the eyes after death.
  • Muscle Relaxation After Life Departs– As the body begins to shut down during the dying process, muscles relax and gradually lose their ability to function. Eyelids rely on muscle tension to remain shut.  
  • Eyes Left Unblinking as Death Approaches– Near the final moments, eyes may remain staring ahead as life slips away. Without blinking’s lubrication, the eyes are left exposed once vital signs cease.

What Else Might Happen?

  • Changes in Vision: Tunneling or Blurring- Low oxygen flow in the brain as death nears can distort sight, either tunneling it or making things hazy. 
  • Pupils Expand at the Moment of Passing- As the heart stops beating, pupils commonly dilate to their fullest size due to changes in brain and nerve activity.
  • Eyes Gradually Lose Clarity After Death– In the hours and days after, eyes naturally dull as moisture evaporates and they begin to take on a glazed appearance.  
  • Sclera Takes on a Deeper Hue– The whites of the eyes darken to a more yellowish tone as cells break down following life’s end.
  • Final Gift: Organ Donation Post Mortem– If compatible, a person’s corneas can provide sight to those in need even after death.   


While finding a loved one with their eyes open after death can be distressing, it is important to remember that from a medical perspective this is often simply due to normal physiological changes the body undergoes. While it may raise questions about a person’s final moments that can never truly be answered, focusing too heavily on superficial physical details risks obscuring what really mattered – the life they lived and the memories they created. 

Though unsettling images may linger, taking the time to understand the reality behind such occurrences can help in finding closure and allowing mourning to move past initial shock and denial. Most of all, a deceased individual with open eyes should not define how their loved ones choose to remember them. Instead, focus on celebrating who they were and the impact they had, rather than getting hung up on the minor mysteries of mortality.   

Kaashimukhti, famous funeral and cremation service provider in India offer customisable features and 24*7 round the clock service. You can book a call for their funeral services at 9845819660

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