What Is a Deathbed Confession?

Alex Tree

A deathbed confession is a confession made by a dying person shortly before his or her death. Deathbed confessions are not always made on an actual bed or the location where the person dies. Some religions strongly believe in confessing one’s sins before dying, while sometimes being under the impression that confessing helps the sinner live longer. In some cases, a deathbed confession turns into a deathbed conversion, wherein the dying person admits that he or she was secretly always of a certain religion or has decided to be converted then and there. Deathbed confessions can be about anything, but are often a long-kept secret about an uncomfortable topic.

A deathbed confession may be meant to cleanse a person's conscious of a past infidelity.
A deathbed confession may be meant to cleanse a person's conscious of a past infidelity.

Deathbed confessions can take place anywhere. Generally, they take place where people most often die, such as in hospice care, hospitals, or at home. Such confessions are likely not as dramatic as television makes them out to be. For example, a person does not have to die immediately after confessing or even the same week. A deathbed confession is simply a confession a person makes when he or she truly believes death is close, even if it is not.

A confession made by a dying person is known as a deathbed confession.
A confession made by a dying person is known as a deathbed confession.

Sometimes religion plays a strong role in encouraging people to confess before dying. Depending on the religion, the dying person may be asking a god for forgiveness or more time. Among some, it is thought that a person who refuses to confess his or her sins is more likely to die. Those who confess their sins and live may reason that their god showed mercy and allowed them to continue living.

People near death often report seeing a bright light.
People near death often report seeing a bright light.

Occasionally a deathbed confession involves adopting a new religion, confessing a long-term religion, or letting go of religion altogether, which is called a deathbed conversion. Many people claim that certain famous figures confessed to being of a particular religion shortly before dying. Likewise, prominent atheists were also said to have deathbed conversions. The accuracy of these claims is debatable, however.

Deathbed confessions may occur days, weeks or even months before the person passes away.
Deathbed confessions may occur days, weeks or even months before the person passes away.

Although a deathbed confession can be about anything, it likely refers to something uncomfortable to live with. For instance, a man may not want his wife to know that he cheated on her while he is alive but may confess prior to death. In addition to affairs, people often reveal crimes, illegitimate children, and generally anything that weighs on their conscience. Deathbed confessions are not always completely negative; in fact, some facts are concealed simply because they are awkward or difficult to discuss.

Deathbed confessions are usually given by people to close relatives and loved ones.
Deathbed confessions are usually given by people to close relatives and loved ones.

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