After Death Experiences: Accounts, Research, and Theories
Near Death Experiences
Have you ever had a near death experience, or NDE, for short? I’ve always been fascinated with near death experiences and life after death. In my spare time, I used to read near death experiences stories and accounts online and in periodicals, but I never imagined that I’d get to hear such accounts firsthand from family members. It’s not that I didn’t believe the after death experiences I read about – it’s just that they seem much more real and believable when you hear them from someone you know and trust. My mom, the most honest person I’ve ever known, shared her NDE with me, as did my sisters-in-law, two other very trustworthy individuals. All three of these women were near death when the phenomena occurred, in a state of clinical death.
Many people who report having near death experiences suffered clinical death. Clinical death is the term often used to describe the cessation of breathing, heartbeat, consciousness, and brain activity. All the body’s organs and tissues are deprived of blood, glucose, and oxygen because blood is not circulating. Once the heart stops pumping blood, unconsciousness occurs in less than one minute.
Thanks to modern CPR, electrode defibrillators, and certain drugs, hormones, and neurotransmitters, clinical death can sometimes be reversed, but time is of the essence. The brain can go only a short amount of time without oxygen before brain damage occurs. Cells in the hippocampus, for example, can die in just ten minutes – at normal temperatures. If the body is medically cooled, or if the patient experienced hypothermia at the time the heart stopped beating, the brain can go for a longer period of time without oxygen.
Near Death Experiences
What are near death experiences? Near death experiences, also called NDE or NDEs, sometimes occur when a person suffers a clinical death or has been brought back from near death. Many such experiences share the same feelings and sights. For example, many people report seeing a bright light and deceased relatives and close friends who offer to help them on their journey. They might also have the sensation of being hurled through a tunnel, floating, or flying. Many also report a feeling of perfect peace and sublime joy. On the other hand, some people who have had near death experiences might report feeling terrified or lost. In some cases, patients claim to have seen Heaven or Hell, other planets, Christ, or God.
Near death experiences aren’t really that rare, especially with advanced medical technology in cardiac resuscitation. Years ago, these patients probably wouldn’t have survived, but now many do. In the United States alone, more than eight million people report having had these experiences, and the number might actually be much higher. Some people might fear being ridiculed for making such claims.
Near Death Experiences Research
Over the past few years, there’s been more and more near death experiences research. The scientific and medical communities seem to be just as fascinated with the topic as the general public is, hence the studies. Unfortunately, the near death experiences research often creates more questions than it does answers.
What do scientists and doctors think of near death experiences? Most have little doubt that patients near death often experience strange recollections associated with the event. The debate is about what these experiences are and what causes them. Some doctors and scientists believe that they’re mere hallucinations caused by DMT, a substance released by the pineal gland when the body is near death. Others think the phenomenon is caused by a dying brain, an oxygen-starved brain, high levels of carbon dioxide, powerful electrical signals, or heightened REM brain activity.
On the other hand, many doctors and a few scientists believe that these experiences are evidence of life after death. A scientific study conducted in the Netherlands, for instance, found a man who died clinically after a heart attack. While he was being resuscitated, a nurse removed his false teeth. When the man recovered, he was able to identify which nurse removed his dentures. Jeffrey Long, an oncology scientist, is convinced that these experiences serve as proof of life after death. He believes that the experiences are too detailed and consistent to not be based on actual events. Also, Dr. Sam Parnia, a critical care and pulmonary physician, doesn’t believe the experiences are caused by low oxygen levels. His tests on patients who had endured near death experiences revealed that the victims did not have diminished blood oxygen. Still, Parnia hasn’t reached a decision on near death experiences and life after death, so he’s still researching.
Near Death Experiences Stories
I’ve heard several near death experiences stories firsthand, from family members who had them. When my mother suffered a heart attack in 1999 and was near death, she had an unusual experience. She said she was floating above her body as it lay in the emergency room. She could see the team of doctors and nurses working on her, and she felt a presence at her back. Something compelled her not to turn around, but she heard a male voice. She asked the entity who all the people were around her, and he answered, “Those are doctors and nurses.” She asked, “What are they doing to me?” The voice answered, “They’re trying to help you. They’re trying to restore your life.”
Was this really a near death experience, or was it just a dream? Mom was able to describe the health care team and what they were doing, but she was a registered nurse with decades of experience. This is something she would have known, anyway. The other two near death experiences stories are much more convincing of life after death, in my opinion.
One happened to my sister-in-law. I’ll call her Jane. Jane suffered a clinical death in a doctor’s office, after a violent allergic reaction to an injection she received. For a couple of minutes, she was “dead.” Jane was wearing a brand new pullover sweater, and when she “died,” one of the attending nurses tried to cut away the sweater with a pair of scissors. As the nurse was fumbling with the task, the scissors fell from her hand and went under the hospital bed. Once Jane was revived, she related all this to the staff, and they were amazed. How could she have “seen” that?
Another of my near death experiences stories involves another sister-in-law, from the other side of the family. I’ll call her Marsha. Marsha was in the hospital when her near death experience occurred. She was having a CT scan with contrast. When the dye was injected, she had a severe allergic reaction and suffered clinical death. While she was “out,” she saw her husband and son in the waiting room and could even see what magazines they were reading. Once she was revived, she remembered her “vision” and asked the family about what she had seen, and she was right! They were reading the exact magazines she’d seen them reading.
Life After Death Experiences
Sometimes life after death experiences are even more important than the near death experiences themselves. In other words, many people who experience an NDE claim that it’s life altering. These individuals often have a new attitude towards death, along with a new outlook on life. Many former atheists became religious, or at least spiritual, after experiencing the near death phenomenon. Many patients became more altruistic and found a stronger sense of purpose.
The after death experiences affect each person differently. Many, however, report that they no longer have a fear of death once they’ve had a taste of it. And, in fact, some say that they didn’t want to return to their earthly bodies.
Many coma patients are about as near death as one can get without actually dying. A coma is a period of deep sleep-like unconsciousness, when the patient is unable to react to sounds, sights, pain, or other stimuli. The causes are many and might include head injuries, drugs or alcohol, extreme hypoglycemia, strokes, hypothermia, or high levels of carbon dioxide in the blood. Comatose individuals are also unable to move voluntarily, and some can’t breathe on their own. A coma can last for a few hours to decades. Coma is organized into four categories and eight levels, depending on the type of coma and its severity.
What’s pretty amazing is that some people who were comatose report unusual experiences while they were unconscious. These include seeing Christ, seeing Heaven, seeing their own gravestones, and having pleasant sensations and memories of being in peaceful, beautiful landscapes. Were these just dreams, or were they near death experiences?
I have two coma stories – one from a man I knew for years, and another that involved a friend of a friend. I’ll start with the man I knew personally. Tom was in a diabetic coma for months, and during that time, his mother passed away unexpectedly. When Tom emerged from the coma, his sister began to cry, saying that she had some bad news. Tom said, “I already know. Mama died.” The entire family was shocked that Tom had this knowledge. When they asked him how he knew, he explained that she visited him while he was unconscious, telling him that she was leaving her body.
The other of my coma stories involved a young man named Jim. He was in a motorcycle accident and received traumatic head injury, and as a result, he was in a coma for several days. His fiancée had been a passenger on the motorcycle, and she had suffered extensive injuries. She was rushed immediately to the hospital with Jim, but she died three days later. When Jim woke from his coma, he already knew that his girlfriend had died. When his family asked how he knew, he said that she had come to say goodbye to him.
Life After Death
As a Christian, I’ve always believed in life after death, although I’m not sure about the form it takes. I totally believe that we continue to have some sort of consciousness after the physical body has died. I believe our life force, our spirit, our soul – whatever you want to call it – continues. But where do we go? Do we enter a temporary state of being, until we're once again joined with our flesh? Is life after death another dimension? There’s just so much we don’t know and understand as mere humans. I’m not saying that I believe all near death experiences are real, or that they’re part of the afterlife. I am willing, however, to have an open mind on the subject, and I’ll be interested to learn about the latest studies and findings. I’ve never had an NDE, and I’m not sure I want to. Then again, it would certainly be an eye-opening experience – the adventure of a lifetime!