Perhaps for most of us the fear of death is one of the biggest challenges to overcome in this life. Often people will say they do not fear death itself but the physical pain and suffering that often accompanies the end-of-life experience. With the advent of palliative care, a new medical specialty focusing on pain management, there should be less fear of the physical pain that can come with terminal illness. In today’s hospital and hospice experiences almost no person will be left without an option to control pain and suffering as they prepare to make their transition out of this world. But for a lot of people the fear of what might come next is also a concern. Those that hold certain religious beliefs often find comfort in the idea of heaven where they can be reunited with loved ones who have died before them. Current research proves that this might be a more real experience than what was previously assumed to be a comforting belief of an afterlife.
Author and journalist Judy Bachrach decided to look into the subject of near-death experiences. The result is in her book Glimpsing Heaven. Her conclusion from her inquiries: “there are simply, as some of the doctors and scientists I’ve interviewed point out, too many experiencers and too many experiences to discount.”
How many? Pim Van Lommel a Dutch cardiologist and NDE researcher says that in the last 50 years over 25 million people worldwide have reported NDEs. A 1982 Gallup poll found eight million Americans reporting them. As Bachrach comments: “Not every self-proclaimed death traveler could be an arrant liar or deeply unbalanced or both.” If you want to hear accounts by “travelers” who are evidently balanced, mature, and intelligent, you can easily find them on YouTube.
One of the best know researchers in the near death field is Dr. Raymond Moody, whose ground breaking book Life After Life altered the way we have come to understand what might happen after we die. In my interviews with Dr. Moody for my book, Soul Service: A Hospice Guide to the Emotional and Spiritual Care for the Dying (Balboa Press, 2013) www.soulservice.info he felt that much more education was needed about near death experiences, that they should not be connected to mental illness. Doctors and nurses as well as family members should be able to listen to the patients who have experienced them. In the almost all of the thirty interviews I did for Soul Service, the hospice workers and volunteers had many stories to share about attending to the dying person and how the terminal patient described seeing dead relatives and loved ones who were coming to greet them.
Since the majority of near death experiences were positive for the people who have experienced them, it should be comforting for the dying person and their family to release the fear that can accompany the experience. When my late sister-in-law died after a brief struggle with brain cancer, she was able to describe that she left her body several times prior to death and was greeted by beings of light who gave off a very loving persona. This feeling of being in an incredible loving place with beings of light who are transmitting a powerful presence of love it one of the more common features of the near death experience. Often those who have returned after one of these experiences did not want to return into their bodies.
Although we will never know for certain what the actual after life holds for us, it can be a comfort and a relief for many who are about to make their final transition to know that what most likely awaits is a loving place with a chance to again be reunites with loved ones. That can erase a lot of the fear of the journey.