Near death experiences (NDE) are scary to even think of – particularly the ‘death’ part. The fact that one day our heart will stop beating and our brain will stop functioning is a frightening thought.
Death is never a pleasant thing to discuss. We all live this life on earth in a way that enjoy it to the fullest with whatever we have.
But there are those unfortunate few who are taken away from us either too early or just eventually.
Over the years, I have encountered patients approaching the end of their lives. I have even been at their bedside when they passed away. However long we work as doctors, it is always heartbreaking to see a good life pass.
There are some who reach the end, only to be resuscitated and brought back to life. These people who undergo a ‘near death’ experience always have a story to tell about what they experienced.
A few years ago, a dear patient of ours suffered a cardiac arrest as a large blood clot had formed in the blood vessels of her lungs. The strain was so much that the heart just stopped.
She was fortunately in a hospital at the time, and the cardiac resuscitation team worked tirelessly for nearly 90 minutes and brought her back to life. She made an excellent recovery and was discharged home.
Fast forward a few years, and she is now hale and hearty and living her life as she was before this tragedy occurred.
I asked her about her ‘near death’ experience, and she was kind enough to tell me what she felt at the time.
‘I was at complete peace’ she says. ‘It was like all my troubles were over and I felt a calmness like never before’.
I asked her about whether she saw a bright light or some of the other descriptions people have given, but she said she did not.
Near death experiences are never really the same.
I remember talking to an elderly man in the UK after he was successfully resuscitated following a cardiac arrest. He described being ‘separated’ from his body and looking down at the team who was treating him.
He even went so far as to say that he did not want to return to his body and wanted the medical team to stop.
That conversation really got to me that day. The fact that we were trying to save his life, but his ‘soul’ which had separated from his being did not want to return was quite disturbing.
Understanding Near Death Experiences
Believe it or not, there is an International Association For Near Death Studies that details various aspects of near death experiences.
They define a near death experience as ‘a profound psychological event that may occur to a person close to death or, if not near death, in a situation of physical or emotional crisis’.
In 1989, a paper published in the British Medical Journal discussed near death experiences from a scientific perspective.
It describes 3 different types of experiences –
1. Cognitive – This is where the person experiences an alteration in time or has flashbacks of specific parts of their life.
2. Affective – The individual experiences a feeling of complete peace or ultimate joy
3. Transcendental – Here they see a ‘heaven’ that is full of friends and relatives who have already passed and welcoming them.
Many a time, the feeling experienced is backed by the pre-existing faith they have and what they believe death to be like.
However, the experience can even alter faith, and bring in a new sense of belief. The after effects can be quite powerful.
What People Experience
There are a number of emotions and states that have been described by those who have undergone a near death experience. I have listed some of these in a table below.
These are just a few that have been described. No two experiences are really the same.
The After Effects
So how do people feel after they have had a near death experience?
Many report losing their fear of dying. In fact, some are ‘reborn’ with a feeling of love, kindness and forgiveness in them.
On the other hand, those who have had fearful or frightening experiences interpret these as a warning from a higher power. They do all they can to change the way they live.
Some have even gone to the extent of changing their faith and religion.
Interestingly, a small group of people may alter their choice of music.
These after effects are very real. Some family members think that the person is faking it, and usually cannot believe how they have turned out.
Children Can Have Them Too
Children can have near death experiences too.
According to a study, almost 85% of children needing resuscitation have a near death experience.
In another observation, 76% have children who have these experiences feel love and comfort. Around 3% feel absolute fear. 2% felt they had acquired a special knowledge.
Near death experiences are very real and can be life altering. Descriptions vary from person to person.
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