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Life After Death

Surviving A Near Death Experience

Imagine that you’ve just suffered a heart-attack, extreme shock, or some other severe type of injury which has caused you to have an out-of-body experience such as an NDE. During the experience, you see what you perceive life after death to be like. You have a vision where you may be floating above your body, seeing a big white light, or even conversing with someone who you know has already died.

This could be a religious figure, a deceased family member, or a friend who has previously passed on. You have a profound experience of some kind portraying what appears to be what life after death would be like. In fact, you know that’s what this must be. Whether positive or negative, it feels meaningful.

Then, you come back. You’re told you flatlined in the hospital, or maybe someone performed CPR on you. Whichever way it happened, you essentially died for a brief moment, and then came back to life.

You can’t simply forget or suppress what you’ve just encountered—and whether it was a positive or negative experience, you know it meant something. It certainly couldn’t have been a dream—it was way more vivid than that.

Surviving a near death experience can be an intense and profound event in someone’s life. Since it’s not an incredibly common occurrence though, those who experience it can feel somewhat isolated and misunderstood. Some people have a positive experience during their NDE, while others have negative experiences. In both cases, the person often feels like they have left their body in the process.

An NDE is a profound, unique experience. Whether you experienced a traumatic near death experience or an uplifting one, it can leave a huge impact on your state of mind. It’s possible that it might even change you forever.

In this article, you can find in-depth information on what an NDE is like, what the effects are, and the ways you can start moving forward (or help someone you know who had an NDE move forward) after it has happened. You will also learn about the ways you can use your experience to potentially help change others’ outlook on life in a more positive direction.

What Is A Near Death Experience?

Firstly, let’s talk about what exactly a near death experience is. An NDE is characterized as an almost other-worldly experience that happens when someone is close to death, or even when they have been pronounced dead before being brought back.

According to Christof Koch of Scientific American, “Near-death experiences, or NDEs, are triggered during singular life-threatening episodes when the body is injured by blunt trauma, a heart attack, asphyxia, shock, and so on.”

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THEM?

These phenomena aren’t completely understood just yet—it can be hard to study the process since those who have undergone an NDE haven’t been inside an MRI machine while it’s been happening. That would be quite coincidental and convenient if they had, since MRI technology allows doctors to examine the brain and its activity.

Maybe one day that will happen, but until then, here are some aspects that we do know today about near death experiences:

  • Those who have had them are able to remember the details of the experience with unusual clarity and intensity.
  • Some people have been able to recall specific conversations people had while surrounding their body, while they were unconscious and having their NDE.
  • Ingesting psychoactive substances from hallucinogens which relate to the neurotransmitter serotonin, like psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms), LSD, DMT (aka the Spirit Molecule), and 5-MeO-DMT (aka the God Molecule) have caused very similarly reported experiences.

SUPERNATURAL VS. BIOLOGICAL

Overall, there is a lot of superstition around NDE’s. From religious and spiritual standpoints, they’re usually described as visions of the afterlife, given to them by God or whomever they may believe in. From a scientific perspective, the near death experience is thought to be engineered by the human brain as some kind of reaction to physical trauma the person involved was suffering.

While evidence shows that it is indeed an event the brain does create, it doesn’t mean it isn’t real. On the contrary, it’s obviously a very real and lucid experience for those who have had it. In fact, many experiencers have described their NDE as “realer than real”.

So what is the likely cause of these seemingly supernatural experiences? Koch states that, “Like a town that loses power one neighborhood at a time, local regions of the brain go offline one after another.

The mind, whose substrate is whichever neurons remain capable of generating electrical activity, does what it always does: it tells a story shaped by the person’s experience, memory and cultural expectations.

How Often Do Near Death Experiences Happen?

Another important aspect of this phenomenon to note is the consistency of occurrences among the general population. So, how often do near death experiences happen? “About one in 10 patients with cardiac arrest in a hospital setting undergoes such an episode", Koch says.

However, there are many other occurrences that can cause a person to have an NDE. These include, but are not limited to: complications during childbirth, attempted suicide, blunt head trauma, and more. Cardiac arrests are simply the most commonly recognized situations where people have had NDE’s.

There are more NDE stories than we think. “Thousands of survivors of these harrowing touch-and-go situations tell of leaving their damaged bodies behind and encountering a realm beyond everyday existence, unconstrained by the usual boundaries of space and time,” Koch goes on to explain. This means that there is no shortage of these stories of life after death out there.

More specifically, those who have a negative experience are much less likely to even tell those closest to them, much less publicize it for the world to know about. Expectations have probably been built up that NDE’s are normally so positive, which can cause experiencers of more negative aspects to feel shame and pressure to feel “normal”.

THE NEGATIVE NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCES

When you start looking into near death experience stories, it doesn’t take long to come across those that aren’t so glorious or divine in nature. Instead, they are actually reported to be quite the opposite. It’s unfortunate that there is such a stigma around having scary near death experiences because it leaves those experiencers feeling doubly isolated.

After all, the best way to move beyond your experience is to talk about it and ensure you are processing it fully versus keeping it all in your head. To understand more about the less publicized NDE’s, see the below three kinds of distressing near death experiences one could have.

Void Near Death Experience

These experiences focus on some void or abyss scenario. There’s a whole lot of nothing around them, and they often felt extreme aloneness amidst the vast emptiness. Some may try screaming, but are unable to make any sound. They also might feel time immensely, making it feel they’re floating in nothingness for an eternity.


Inverse Near Death Experience

This just means that the same aspects of other NDE’s which were reported as amazing and serene were interpreted very differently by the experiencer. In this case, those aspects are felt with inverse emotions to those positive reports. The experience is terrifying instead of wondrous.


Hellish Near Death Experience

These stories people have reported are about how you would expect. They consist of terrifying creatures torturing them or other souls around them, like a scene out of what one would imagine Hell might be like if they believed in it.

Luckily, Missouri Medicine states that “Overtly hellish experiences may be the least common type of distressing NDE.” However, those who experience them still must ensure they do not remain in isolation. This makes it even more important that they seek help to deal with the emotions and memories of what they experienced.

Are There After Effects From A Near Death Experience?

There are often lasting effects that can result from having a near death experience. After all, the person who experienced it has basically experienced a temporary, albeit brief, death. Depending on the kind of experience they had during their NDE, the memories of that will also have a lasting impact on their state of mind.

This is especially true since those who have undergone an experience report remembering it with such clarity. Keep reading to find the ways in which people can be affected by their NDE in the long run, listed below.

CHANGE IN PERSONALITY, GOOD OR BAD

Many people who have a near death experience notice a change in their personality following the occurrence. This change ranges from positive changes to negative ones, too. Often experiencers will become more open, loving, and caring to those around them. 

However, they may have also had an epiphany about what relationships they should be keeping in their life. They may feel that they have a clearer understanding of who is deserving of their time, and who isn’t. An NDE could accomplish this because of how profound and real the experience has felt.

CHANGE IN THEIR OUTLOOK ON LIFE

They might get a shift in their perspective. The experiencer often gets a new outlook on life, and therefore has a different perspective going forward. This may send them on a path that is more dedicated to helping others, allow them to live in a much less fearful manner than before, and so on. With negative experiences, they may also become religious or simply more dedicated to living a life full of good deeds.

They could have a change in their core values or beliefs. Again, the person who had the NDE might become more religious or spiritual, or more determined to live a purposeful life than they even were before. In this case their values and/or beliefs would be emphasized.

Alternatively, they might care less about the things they valued and believed in so much before the experience happened. Their values could completely shift. For example, they could have been very materialistic before the NDE, after which they then might choose to live a minimalistic life.

They might also gain a greater appreciation for life. This is a very common feeling to have following an NDE because regardless of whether it was a good or bad experience, the person still essentially got another chance at life. They will likely put more effort into living purposefully than they might have before.

LOSS OF FEAR OF DEATH

One long-lasting effect that people may notice after they have had a near death experience is the loss of a fear of death. According to Very Well Mind, “the 2017 ‘Survey of American Fears’ conducted by Chapman University,1 20.3% of Americans are ‘afraid’ or ‘very afraid’ of dying.” That percentage size suggests that it’s a quite common fear to have.

It’s understandable though, that someone who has had an NDE would gain a sense of peace about what dying must be like, and lose the fear, opposed to suffering the anxiety many people feel about it. In this Psychology Today article, Marilyn A. Mendoza, Ph.D., states that “Perhaps the most common after-effect of an NDE is the loss of the fear of death and a strengthened belief in the afterlife.”

After all, they went through what one potentially would go through in the process leading up to death, so there’s less unexpected and unknown for them now.

FLASHBACKS

Flashbacks are definitely a common long-term effect of NDE’s. This can be especially troubling for those who have had a scary and traumatic near death experience. Flashbacks can make it more difficult move froward with one’s life and reality. The experiences themselves are so vivid and intense that having flashbacks can feel like completely re-living it all over again.

MOOD SWINGS

Since the after effects of near death experiences are so complex and vary among those who have had them—they are as unique as the individual experiencers—having mood swings would be totally possible. It’s hard to know what to expect from someone who has gone through this, and they may switch from one mood to another more quickly than before.

This could have something to do with their new outlook on life, which could drive them to want to change their relationships with people around them. However, it can take time to settle into their new behaviors and beliefs, meaning that there can be lots of going back and forth initially.

THEY CAN BECOME HIGHLY INTUITIVE

Their heightened intuition may give them a better idea for what—or who—to keep in their life. This is a part of what may influence them to cut certain relationships out, and focus more on the ones they deem most valuable and positive.

An NDE can give someone more clarity on what and who deserves their attention in their life, and which things and people are positive influences for them. They may find themselves realizing they need to take more control over the things and human beings they surround themselves with.

FEAR IN TELLING ANYONE ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE

Having fear to talk about the experience is common among those who have had an NDE.  This comes from fear of judgment, mostly. People worry that others will think they’re either crazy, or that it was simply a hallucination they had while under such traumatic stress.

There have actually been reported cases where doctors and nurses advised experiencers to keep their story to themselves because people will think they’ve suffered mental damage if they talk about it with others. These such incidents have all contributed to the fear people sometimes have to talk about their NDE’s, and negative NDE’s doubly so.

What Can You Do To Move Forward After A Near Death Experience?

If you are wondering whether you can move forward after surviving a near death experience, you absolutely can. There are lots of positive ways you can begin to process what you have gone through and move forward with your life. See some of the best-known ways to do so, listed below.

FIND A THERAPIST OR SUPPORT GROUP

Online support groups are especially helpful when you can’t go to in-person group events. These groups do well to help those who have experienced the same thing not feel so alone.

  • The Meetups app has such group meetings. See if you can find one near you.
  • Facebook also has a support network for NDE experiencers.
  • IANDS, or International Association for Near-Death Studies is a non-profit that also has support group resources you can search through.

Therapists are another great resource because they can help you work through the memories you have of your NDE. They can help you deal with flashbacks and also come to terms with the new outlook you may have adopted within your life following you near death experience.

  • Look for grief counsellors on Psychology Today’s list of qualified counsellors. They might have a better understanding of the implications of near death experiences.
  • Consider Better Help to find a therapist that fits your needs, since you can specify what you are looking for from the beginning of your search. You can look for counsellors who have experience talking with those who have had an NDE.

In-person support groups can also help bring you together with those who have had very similar, profound experiences. If not to make friendships, just feeling support from the other attendees would be helpful.

  • You can find these in the same place you would search for online groups—Facebook and the Meetups app are great tools to search with. Just specify in your search that you want to try finding an in-person group.

TALK WITH A CLOSE FAMILY MEMBER OR FRIEND

You can also confide in your friends or family. Talk to people who you know won’t resort to judging you. Your most open-minded and supportive loved ones might help you make sense of what you have experienced.

WRITE A BOOK ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE

As some have done in the recent past, you could even consider writing a novel about your NDE. If you feel it has inspired you greatly, why not get that inspiration out onto paper? You could write it as an auto-biography, or you could even use your experience to turn it into a fictional story with characters you create.

This would be a great way to positively impact those around you, too. They could certainly find some great takeaways, or at the very least, thought-provoking aspects of your near death experience. 

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT

Getting involved in the community could mean doing more volunteer work in light of your experience and the things it may have shifted within your life values. Many people experience a desire to help more people their NDE.

Community service would be a great way to do so, and it can help you to move forward as you create even more purpose in your life.

RELIGIOUS ENGAGEMENT

Sometimes, getting involved in your church will help you move forward after life-changing experiences such as NDE’s. Religious engagement gives one a sense of community, togetherness, and meaning. This can be incredibly refreshing after having such a profound experience, and coming so close to death.

MEMORIALIZE YOUR PAST LIFE

If you choose to see this as another chance at a new life, it might help you move forward to memorialize your “death”. There are lots of different ways you can memorialize yourself, so choose the style the fits you the best and take control over your path going forward.

GET OUTSIDE FOR EXERCISE & FRESH AIR

Going outside to spend time in nature is a great mood enhancer, and so is exercise. You could even start getting involved with community events and groups like outdoor races and such. These are all positive things that can help you move forward. 

TAKE UP A HOBBY

Hobbies can help you add things to your new life going forward. They can keep your mind occupied, help you connect with others, and also provide an outlet for your creativity.

The options are endless and varied but a few hobby ideas might be:

  • Painting, sculpting, photography or filmmaking
  • Gardening, knitting or collecting items
  • Blogging or scrapbooking
  • Learning to play an instrument

GIVE YOURSELF TIME TO HEAL & RECOVER

No matter what ways you choose to try and move forward with your life, you should make sure that you’re also giving yourself time to heal and recover after the incident.

Meditation and journaling can be instrumental in helping you to release pent up emotions, fears or simply let go of anything negative. Sometimes putting things in writing also helps to put things in perspective. Going on walks and yoga or any type of exercise can be crucial in helping you to recover. Releasing that energy and finding a healthy outlet is good for the mind, the body and the soul.

Spending time with loved ones and taking time off of work may also be a necessity in your recovery process. This gives you time for gentle reflection without being rushed to do tasks associated with your career. If you have kids, having someone watch them for some time while you recover and reflect.

How Can I Help A Family Member Or Friend That Has Had A Near Death Experience?

If you know someone who has had an NDE, you might be wondering what the best ways are that you can help and be there to support them. Check out some ways you can help them move forward and heal, listed below.

LISTEN

Make sure you’re there when they need someone to talk to about their experience. Let them do most of the talking if they want to open up about it. The power of being a good listener is very underrated, especially when someone is trying to move forward after a tragedy.


BE UNDERSTANDING

Above all else, be understanding. One of the biggest reasons people who have had near death experiences suffer is because they feel like those around them will judge them in some way. When your loved one is ready to open up to you and tell you about their experience, remain open-minded and understanding. Try to be as empathetic as you can.

Never call them crazy or make them feel like you don’t believe them. Even if you are more scientifically-minded than you are religious or spiritual, don’t try to rationalize their experience.

Let them be honest about what it was like for them, and what it means to them, without fear of judgment or belittlement. They may feel they have gone through a loss of their old life, so be supportive.


OFFER TO GO WITH THEM ON A WALK

Walks can be low-pressure ways to have deep conversations. That’s because it leaves less expectations. Your loved one can talk if they want to, but you can also walk in silence together just enjoying the outdoors and the exercise.


GIFT THEM WITH A SPECIAL MEMORIAL KEEPSAKE

This is an out-of-the box kind of idea that your friend or family member might actually love. The piece of memorial jewelry you choose could represent the “old them” who they might feel passed away when they had their NDE. Many people who go through the after effects near death experiences may bring tend to feel as if their past self has died, and that they’ve been given another chance at life. It’s as if they’ve been reborn.

Therefore, the gift of a memorial keepsake jewelry item would be fitting to symbolize this. Some of the options include a  memorial bracelet such as these fingerprint jewelry options, memorial fingerprint rings which you can find on Jewelry Keepsakes.

Another jewelry item that could be meaningful are fingerprint keepsake items. These come in varieties with birthstones which can make the gift more personal and symbolic.

You can choose any other memorial jewelry types that might feel appropriate to what they have gone through, and that will help them move forward with their life.


OFFER TO HELP THEM FIND A THERAPIST OR SUPPORT GROUP

It may also be beneficial to your loved one if you offer to help them find a great therapist or appropriate support group they can attend. This will double the amount of support they feel, making it easier to move forward.

How Can I Coach Or Help Others After My Experience?

If you have a drive to positively benefit those around you after having experienced an NDE, there are a few ways you could do this. Firstly, you could consider writing about your experience to educate and inspire others regarding the things that various NDE’s entail. This may also reach those who have been afraid to speak to others about it.

You could do this on a smaller scale as well by just telling your friends and family about the experience and what it means to you—and potentially what it could mean for them. If you know people who are very afraid of death, you might be able to ease their anxiety by telling them your story.

Known Stories Of People Who Experienced A Near Death Experience

There are many more stories of near death experiencers, but most of them choose to remain nameless when details of their story are published online for studies. Nevertheless, there are countless articles that will pop up when you search for NDE stories. Here are some of the more well-known notable ones.

Ernest Hemingway: Hemingway has one of the most popular stories of an NDE. He was badly injured by a bomb shell that exploded during his service in World War I. He wrote a letter describing the classic characteristics of NDE’s, then later built off that experience to write his short story, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.”

Colton Burpo: He was just four years old when his appendix burst and came very close to death while lying in the hospital. After telling his parents of his otherworldly experience a few months later (and mentioning things he couldn’t possibly have known to make up at his age), the story gained traction enough to become a movie called “Heaven Is For Real.”

Pam Reynolds: Pam Reynolds Lowery (1956 – 2010), from Atlanta, Georgia, was an American singer-songwriter. In 1991, at the age of 35, she stated that she had a near-death experience (NDE) during a brain operation, as explained on Wikipedia.

Eben Alexander: He’s actually a doctor who says he had an NDE. He wrote a book about it called “Proof of Heaven”.

Francis Beaufort: Going back as far as the Middle Ages, Francis Beaufort had an NDE and is one of the first known to experience this.  Reville writes thatFrancis Beaufort (the Beaufort wind scale), a British Navy admiral and Irishman, reported a vivid NDE in 1791, when he almost drowned.”

Life After Death Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding life after death and near death experiences.

Can you get depression after a near death experience?

Yes—this is a normal symptom for some who have had an NDE. If the experience was distressing, it would be quite understandable to become depressed following the event. This is especially true if the experiencer feels like they can’t talk to anyone about what they saw or felt.

Should I share my near death experience with friends and family?

Although it can be a challenge for some, it’s very possible to overcome the trauma of an NDE—and opening up to your loved ones about it can help. Studies have actually shown that those who suppress the experience and don’t talk about it with anyone tend to see flashbacks and endure stress for a longer amount of time.

In fact, the article from Missouri Medicine explains that, “A notorious reluctance to report a distressing NDE may lead to long-lasting trauma for individuals as well as limiting the data on occurrence.”

What are the symptoms of near death experiences?

Listed below are some symptoms, or stages, of a near death experience according to an article on Scielo (including negative and positive ones):

Ineffability, overwhelming feelings of peace or, inversely, feelings of fear or torment. Symptoms may also include hearing a noise, or some kind of “otherworldly music”, seeing a tunnel and a sensation of being out of the body. There may be meeting nonphysical beings such as a "Being of Light”, a kind of life review or a border or point of no return, curtain, etc.

People may experience coming back to life and then telling others about the experience. The experience can have profound effects on your life and the lives of those around you. There may be a new viewpoint on death, whether more positive or more fearful, and certain knowledge not acquired through normal perception, such as conversation that were being had during their attempted resuscitation by others.

Is there life after death?

No one can say this for sure, even despite all the accounts of near death experiences that have surfaced over recent years (and the studies now being done). However, one should choose to believe in whatever gives them the most peace in their life.

What does a near death experience feel like?

While most reported NDE’s are said to feel tranquil and painless, some experiences are not so positive. Those have been said to be quite traumatic and scary. This BBC article actually lays out the details of a study that distinguishes the apparent seven kinds of NDE’s you can have. They are:

  • Fear
  • Seeing animals or plants
  • Bright light
  • Violence and persecution
  • Deja-vu
  • Seeing family
  • Recalling events post-cardiac arrest

How do you overcome the trauma of a near death experience?

Working with a therapist can be incredibly helpful for those who have had an NDE. There are also lots of books out there that were written by others who have had this experience. Support groups are also helpful for experiencers. They can help to minimize that sense of isolation they might feel from others. Plenty of online groups are available as well.

It’s possible a therapist can actually refer you to some great support groups out there. Regardless of where you get the support, don’t keep it to yourself. It might weigh on your mind more than you realize it does.

Can you have an NDE during shock, even if you don't almost die? 

Yes. This Irish Times article written by William Reville states that, “Near death experience (NDE) is precipitated by life-threatening experiences such as heart attack, blunt trauma, shock, asphyxia and so on.” If your life feels threatened, you may have a kind of NDE—it just may not be to the same level of intensity as someone who flatlines, for example.

There have been reports of near death experiences from so many different people who were injured or whose lives were threatened in so many different ways. Although there are quite a few similarities between many cases, each experience is clearly also unique.

Why do some people have positive NDE's while others have a more negative experience?

This isn’t entirely understood just yet, but we do know a few things. According to this Missouri Medicine article, “A literature review covering thirty years of research concludes that as many as one in five NDEs may be predominantly distressing 10”.

Another important fact to note is that it wouldn’t make sense that the type of NDE—positive or negative—that someone has depends on whether they’re a good person or not. The article explains clearly that “NDEs cross so many clinical circumstances and demographic bases, there is no way to predict who will have what type of NDE.

No evidence supports the conventional assumption that “good” people get pleasant NDEs and “bad” people have distressing ones. Saints have reported extremely disturbing NDEs,11, pp. 63–75 while felons and suicide attempters have encountered bliss.12, pp. 41–44

Could it just be the work of the imagination?

There was actually a study in 2017 where researchers at the University of Virginia looked into whether near death experiences could be chocked up to a simple byproduct of imagination. The results were pretty fascinating, as the Scientific American describes below.

“The researchers administered a questionnaire to 122 people who reported NDEs. They asked them to compare memories of their experiences with those of both real and imagined events from about the same time. The results suggest that the NDEs were recalled with greater vividness and detail than either real or imagined situations were. In short, the NDEs were remembered as being ‘realer than real.’” 

Living Life After A Near Death Experience

The near death experience makes for quite a profound experience, but here’s the question: is it a side-effect of a brain that’s shutting down, or is it a spiritual phenomenon that proves there is life after death? We can’t say for sure just yet, but more research is being done on NDE’s to hopefully one day prove what exactly is behind the intense journeys people have undergone. 

Until then, we can only try using their stories as a way to instill hope in those around us, and in ourselves. Hearing of the peaceful and positive experiences can be comforting. However, regardless of whether they were negative or positive, to hear of people getting a second chance at life is certainly inspirational to all.

Further reading:

April 17, 2021 by Jeri K. Augustus