As a clinician, who faces death and traumatic experiences with my patients on a regular basis, and an educator to clinicians who are among the dying on a daily basis, there is one common theme I encounter day after day; namely, a “fear” of dying. I have found that this fear is rooted not in the dying process, but rather, fear of the unknown – an unknown perception of what happens to “me” when and after I die, when my physical body ceases to function and live. Those patients who have a religious belief, find some comfort in the security blanket they carry, if they believe a special resting place, a notion of a positive and beautiful area, a loving grand father figure, mother figure, and family/friends to embrace them, or even reincarnation and coming back to meet old friends and family again; yet, this is often not enough. Many others simply cannot put a finger on their particular death anxiety, which acts like weighted chains around them in their current living and dying process. For myself, I can genuinely express that I do not have a fear of “dying,” since in my “knowing” (existential-spiritual comprehension) it is only a transition from one state to another. This is likened to such when a liquid boils and turns to vapor, there is a physical property change, yet matter is neither created or destroyed, it simply transforms, even when our physical eyes cannot see.
My “knowing” is often comforting to my patients and colleagues, simply as a consolation that someone else feels secure and safe in this understanding even if they do not, just as a child feels safe in the arms of their parent when they are confused and uncertain. Yet, I would like to explore this topic of Near-Death Experiences in a greater depth, to be able to offer more knowledge and understanding of many others’ experiences, to bridge the gaps of fear of the unknown, the security blanket knowing, and the inner existential, knowing awareness.
What is Near-Death Experience (NDE)?
A Near-Death Experience (NDE) is the (reported) recollection of all the impressions gained during a special state of consciousness, which includes some specific elements such as witnessing a tunnel, a light, a panoramic life review, deceased persons, or one’s own resuscitation (Van Lommel, 2010, p. 7)
The depth and breadth of the unique experience an individual has, and attempts to put into discernible elements and language, is often difficult to do and explain. The Near-Death Experience will always be as unique as our fingerprints are. However, it is helpful to understand and learn about the significant contributions researchers have made in distinguishing components, characteristics, and categories to offer a framework and language for NDEs, for researchers, clinicians, lay people, and experiencers. The following NDE classifications are expounded upon in Dr. Pim von Lommel’s Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience (2010):
Moody’s Twelve Elements (psychiatrist, 1975)
- Ineffability of the experience.
- Feeling of peace, quiet and no pain.
- Awareness of death of physical body.
- Out-of-Body (OBE) experience being able to witness resuscitation, operation, and others.
- Dark space, tunnel experience, being drawn toward a light.
- Perception of unearthly environment, magnificent landscape, sensory-filled experience.
- Meeting and/or communicating with deceased persons.
- Brilliant light or “Being” of light emanating unconditional love and acceptance.
- Panoramic life review from birth, experiencing self and others in each scene.