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After Death Experiences: Accounts, Research, and Theories

Updated on December 23, 2012
Some people report seeing their own gravestones in after death experiences.
Some people report seeing their own gravestones in after death experiences.

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.

A clinical death occurs when the heart stops beating.
A clinical death occurs when the heart stops beating. | Source

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.

In an NDE, some people might meet friends and relatives who serve as guides.
In an NDE, some people might meet friends and relatives who serve as guides. | Source

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.

Some people experience the sensation of floating or flying.
Some people experience the sensation of floating or flying. | Source

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.

Some people report visiting a grassy meadow in their near death experiences.
Some people report visiting a grassy meadow in their near death experiences. | Source

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.

Some report seeing Christ in an NDE.
Some report seeing Christ in an NDE. | Source

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.

People might experience Hell or Heaven.
People might experience Hell or Heaven. | Source


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?

Some people claim to have visited other planets.
Some people claim to have visited other planets. | Source

Coma Stories

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.

A long tunnel is a common theme.
A long tunnel is a common theme. | Source

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!

Dr. Jeffrey Long on Life After Death:

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    • Jay C OBrien profile image

      Jay C OBrien 

      4 years ago from Houston, TX USA

      Good article.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      4 years ago from East Coast, United States

      I often think about those NDE's and how many people report going through a long dark tunnel to be greeted by loved ones at the end of the tunnel in a bright light. This so reminds me of birth. Are they recalling their own birth? The trip through the birth canal with happy folks in the bright light of the hospital? But I do hope that my loved ones will be waiting for me as I hope they had loving hands to welcome them...

    • Jay C OBrien profile image

      Jay C OBrien 

      4 years ago from Houston, TX USA

      From the Article,

      "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."

      There are many NDE stories like this one. To me this verifies life after death. My question is, Why don't churches teach verified NDE stories as proof of their fundamental assumption?

    • Tami Fite profile image

      Tami Fite 

      7 years ago

      Well written - I am thankful to have faith that God has an eternal existence for us -- I can't imagine considering the alternative -- either sleeping and never waking up or Hell -- being void of Christ would be HELL enough. thanks - voted up -- following.

    • Mmargie1966 profile image


      7 years ago from Gainesville, GA

      Great read, habee! I too, wrote a hub on NDE.

      Voted up!

    • Lilleyth profile image

      Suzanne Sheffield 

      7 years ago from Mid-Atlantic

      A friend of mine, with a medical degree, experienced a NDE...felt the love, Etc. fascinating subject.

    • Sandy Frost profile image

      Sandy Frost 

      7 years ago from India

      Really, such experiences tell us that something is beyond the human intelligence and thinking abilities. Science defines it through it's own ways and spiritualism defines it with it's conceptual theories but reality and truth come to their ends at a final and conclusive point, no matter which theory exactly defines the phenomenon related to these eternal experiences.

      Well, thanks for writing this wonderful hub. Awesome, voted up.

    • HarperDavis profile image


      7 years ago from Midwest

      Very interesting. A clinically died a few years ago but don't actually remember too much. I do remember not being afraid though, and it wasn't a bad feeling at all. I could also hear things. I am a very serious Christian, by the way, and think it just wasn't my time to go.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This is an interesting topic. I have actually read research on this topic and it is truly amazing to read stories of those who came out of their near death experience and actually remember things.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      7 years ago from England

      Hi, I think I believe, if that makes sense. the trouble with me is that I always have to question everything. I do know my friend 'died' of a drugs overdose years ago, someone slipped something in her drink, and she heard the paramedic say, she's gone, but they got her back. they say that the hearing is the last thing to go, so maybe sometimes people do hear what people are saying around them, but the other things? I think I do, it would be lovely wouldn't it?

    • suzzycue profile image

      Susan Britton 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I did have a serious car wreck about 30 years ago. I woke up with those electrode paddles sending electric shocks through my chest, bouncing me up off my bed in the Emergency Ward. Then after that, I slipped into a comma for three days. I had no sense of time passing.I saw no ghosts or heaven or hell but I did awaken with an unnatural sense of calm and to this day I am not afraid to die.

      I believe when you die you go to the same place you go when you sleep.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      7 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Indeed, I don't think there is cross-species reincarnation--too bad, in the case of politicians, who should, as the situation fits, perhaps come back as some animal they were bent upon wiping out.....

    • Smireles profile image

      Sandra Mireles 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Found this hub interesting and enlightening. I am a devout Christian and believe that life continues after death. During my mother's final days last summer so many paranormal happenings occurred in my home with many witnesses that I absolutely believe in out of body experiences and other phenomena. My views on death have certainly changed and I as well as my siblings now have no fear of death at all. You merely move into another dimension where you continue your life. Great hub.

    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 

      7 years ago from UK

      This was fascinating. I will have to come back to it to watch the videos because I don’t have time right now. I have been interested in NDE for a while and I liked how you presented such a balanced view of it, including that scientists have differing opinions. I read about a man who was clinically dead of cancer for over an hour and when he came back to life the cancer was gone.

      I think there is so much we cannot truly know for sure and it pays to keep an open mind. Thanks for such an interesting hub.

    • leros003 profile image


      7 years ago from Orlando, FL

      This is so crazy!!! I am dumbfounded by it :)

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 

      7 years ago from Jamaica

      I am so intrigued with this stop. I haven't had the NDE but have had the outer body experience. I was going to write a hub about it but lost my courage, maybe some time in the future. I have heard of people coming back from the dead and I do believe the experiences are real.

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      7 years ago from Georgia

      fpherj, so glad you stopped by! It really does make a difference when you know and trust the source of a story/account. Thanks!

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      7 years ago from Georgia

      Lizzy, that's really interesting about your cat! I've heard similar accounts about pets. You know, some Christians believe in reincarnation. They don't usually believe humans come back as an insect, but some believe humans can return to earth as other humans to learn new lessons.

    • fpherj48 profile image


      7 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Habee......Fascinating, to say the least. I am totally open-minded about near-death experiences. I've read a bit about them and my interest continues to grow.

      I believe were I to know someone personally, as you do, who has had this experience, this would leave me with no sketicism.

      Your hub is helpful in providing answers to much of my curiosity. Thank you.. UP++

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      7 years ago from Oakley, CA

      I, too, find this a fascinating topic. Although I am not a Christian--in fact, I'm an atheist with pagan leanings, I do believe that our consciousness continues. After all, it is energy, which cannot be destroyed.

      I'm more inclined to believe in reincarnation...especially since our new kitten,(fast outgrowing kittenhood), exhibits SO many of the exact same traits and behaviors, likes and dislikes as the kitty we lost to a mystery illness back in 2008--at the tender age of just 4-1/2 years. She even has the same bob-tail.

      A fellow Hubber, ChristineB, writes on the paranormal, and has told of a proof from an out-of-the-blue statement made by her own kids when they were too young to know of such things as reincarnation. (Not sure if she has that story on here, or if I read it in her newsletter.)

      Voted up, awesome, interesting and shared.


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