The Healing Wisdom NDEs Teach Us About Dying Alone
The Healing Wisdom NDEs Teach Us About Dying Alone
IANDS blog post by Nancy van Alphen, June 24, 2020
The CNN March 29, 2020 headline landed a sucker-punch to our collective psyche just as debilitating as the virus rapidly spreading around the world, and that has today led to the deaths of nearly half-a-million people1.
“The Covid-19 Virus Preys on What Terrifies Us: Dying Alone.”2
Fast-forward four months, and hundreds of similar headlines have deepened our angst. The fear of dying alone is almost as horrifying as dying. Why is that? I venture to say it all comes down to love.
As near-death experiencers will tell you, everything comes down to love. It is the nature of our being, and the force that created and holds everything together (some might term this ‘God’). When we die, we try with all our might to hold onto the last vestiges of that love, seen clearly in the faces of family and friends. We finally get what “it” was all about.
The profoundly good news that NDE wisdom brings us is that like love itself, we never truly die. Further, we likely do not die alone either, despite the headlines. Okay, it’s not exactly like having your close loved ones around…or is it?
A common occurrence among near-death experiencers is seeing previously departed loved ones. Sometimes this happens at the moment of death, sometimes further into the NDE. Couple this with the many stories whispered between hospice nurses about patients talking or reaching out to loved ones shortly before they die. I myself experienced this with my dying aunt. At a time when I hadn’t told many people about my spiritually-transformative experiences, for fear of being labeled, I opened up to her feeling it would bring her comfort. To my surprise, my aunt told me she saw “Daddy” (my grandfather) just outside her backdoor, beckoning her come open it. She said she’d felt him around ever since she’d been diagnosed with cancer and she knew he would be there for her the moment she died.
Maggie Callanan, a long-time hospice nurse and author of Final Gifts and Final Journeys, coined the term “Nearing Death Awareness” after witnessing nearly 2,000 deaths during her career3. What I experienced with my aunt is not uncommon, according to Callanan. She witnessed many patients appear to talk to deceased spouses or other loved ones that others could not see. These exchanges bring comfort and acceptance to patients, making the dying process easier. Callanan implores us not to attribute these musings of the dying as hallucination or confusion. Contrarily, it is usually the living who are confused. A dose of acceptance would go a long way toward making the bereavement process easier, too.
Many hospice nurses and physicians are thankfully beginning to consider that dying isn’t the end, and that end-of-life visitations may be a gift to all of us, helping us remember our true identity as eternal beings.
Barbara Karnes, RN and author of Gone from My Sight, agrees with Callanan’s perspective and pointed out recently in a blog post4 that she believes we do not die alone. Some of her stated observations provide additional support to what NDErs have reported regarding hearing. Karnes writes that “A person can hear even in the moments following death.” There are many examples in the NDE literature of this phenomenon; including hearing jokes made by medical personnel and hearing oneself be declared dead by EMTs. In a particularly fascinating veridical NDE (claims made that were verified to be true), Pam Reynolds found herself floating above her body during an operation in which she should not have been able to hear, and her eyelids were taped shut. She accurately reported conversations, music selections being played, and activities she could see going on in the operating room.
NDEs offer much that point to an eternal existence, but let’s get back to the idea of dying alone.
If deceased relatives don’t immediately greet us upon death, it may be a benevolent being unknown to the NDEr. Some have referred to these beings as angels, others call them spirit guides. Sometimes they are familiar, other times not. But what is clear, is that they are there to help. In many cases, they guide the newly departed through celestial realms to meet with others in the afterlife, such as a religious figure or a council for a life-review. For NDErs whose time had not truly come yet, these benevolent beings can provide physical assistance. Tricia Barker, whose spine had been crushed in an auto accident, found herself out-of-body flanked by two angels. She watched in amazement as they worked through the surgeons trying to save her by zapping healing energy into their backs. True to their promise, she did walk again.
Its often hard for near-death experiencers to plot a timeline of their unearthly excursion. Not surprising since space and time are man-made concepts and only “The Impossible Now”4 truly exists. Perhaps that is why the Light seems to appear at different times for different people. Or perhaps it’s because the Light infuses all things and all beings on the other side of existence. For example, some NDErs and dying hospice patients see the Light right away in the hospital room as they die. Others see it at the proverbial end of the tunnel. Still others see it in the essence of everything they encounter, which brings certainty that God is everywhere and everything.
One thing most NDErs agree on is the Light is real and it is intelligent. It can also take on any shape or appearance it wishes. While I’m not particularly religious, my STEs have led me to believe whole-heartedly that the Light (which I equate as being God) is always with us, and in fact is us. This idea and concept of separate but one is hard to grasp, but when one encounters the fullness of the light, not only do they feel “home,” but they claim it impossible to feel alone. PMH Atwater stated to me personally that the Light is the most common phenomenon shared by NDErs; and they all felt it in the same way – as unconditional love.
If that’s not enough evidentiary information that we don’t die alone, let’s go back to the land of the living for a moment. There is a wonderful group of researchers out there who form the “Shared Crossing Research Initiative.”5 Their aim is to promote graceful dying “characterized by a conscious, connected, and loving end-of-life experience accompanied by a shared crossing.” They teach techniques that increase the possibility of a living person escorting a dying loved one to the other side. This is called a “shared death experience” (SDE), and they do occur naturally as well. Principals of this group will moderate the “Healing Perspectives on Dying Alone” panel during the IANDS Virtual Conference. They will also reflect on results of a years-long study that points to the reality of SDEs.
I had the pleasure of being interviewed by two main researchers of the organization several years back, Dr. Michael Kinsella and William Peters. Years before my STEs, I had an after-death communication (ADC) with my mother who had passed two-days earlier. She appeared to me glowing, at a younger age, and in a white robe. Please note that I knew nothing at the time about these commonalities regarding how deceased loved ones appear in spirit. My mother had been angry for years over ongoing issues, but when I saw her, she exuded joy! I said to her telepathically (another commonality), “Mom, you’re not angry anymore!” She replied, “That’s not possible here.” The visitation ended at that, and though I told myself this is how a grief-stricken brain deals with loss, it was so real I could no longer cry over her death.
While I did not help my mom cross over, per se, I do count this as an SDE. Apparently, the researchers did too, or they would not have interviewed me. Details aside, there are those who have had – naturally or through pre-planning – shared death experiences. These can occur with the still living person either within proximity, or a world away from their dying loved one.
Posted on the Shared Crossing Research Initiative website is the testimonial of a woman who attended training sessions for increasingly the chances of having an SDE with her ailing mother:
She said, “I want to share with you something that happened to me on the night my mother died.” She continued, “I was sleeping in the next room when mom died, but I remember getting pulled out of my bed and seeing in the distance a girl with blonde hair. I thought it was my daughter but when I got close, I could see it was my mother. She turned, smiled and said, ‘I love you and want you to see that I’ll be fine. Now go back and care for your children. I will be with you always.’ Cindy went on. “I then awoke back in my bed. I went into my mom’s room and saw that she had indeed died. An indescribable peace came over me, followed by gratitude.
As Barbara Karnes states in her blog post, “Dying is scary and challenging to our idea of how life is supposed to be. …When dying reaches into your personal sphere (and it eventually will), I hope these thoughts bring some comfort.”
Finally, it’s worth noting that many NDErs are greeted by their deceased pets on the other side. Sometimes pets show up immediately, other times they may greet the departed in “Heaven’s waiting room.” There are enough testimonies of this to certainly make me smile. If I take my mother’s statement into account that anger is “not possible here,” coupled with NDErs descriptions of a place of unconditional love, then I have to logically and spiritually assess that YES indeed, my Charlie (my sweet little Cairn Terrier whose ears never went up), and my childhood best friend, Kernel, will be there with tails wagging to plant slobbery kisses all over my face!
The wisdom brought back by near-death experiencers regarding our eternal existence and the idea that we are never truly alone, even at death, is compelling. Seeing loved ones departed and not; angels and spirit guides; pets; and especially, the Light of Unconditional Love can alleviate the grief and fear we have supposedly dying alone. While none of this is news to near-death experiencers or those who circulate in spiritual communities, it is a message that still needs disseminating. My hope is that it reaches those who have lost loved ones due to Covid-19 and mistakenly felt they were alone. To the spiritual beginner, these may be hard truths to swallow, but I invite you to open your mind and say “ahhh” to let a new kind of healing begin.
The upcoming IANDS Virtual Conference has a plethora of speakers who will share many more detailed experiences, and research that continues to support claims that we are never truly alone, and we likely don’t die alone… even if it may appear that way.
- World Health Organization (WHO); https://covid19.who.int/; accessed June 23, 2020 (exact count: 469,587 worldwide deaths)
- CNN News, March 29, 2020; https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/29/world/funerals…; accessed June 23, 2020
- Interview with Maggie Callanan; https://maggiecallanan.com/news.htm…; accessed June 23, 2020
- Barbara Karnes, RN blogpost, April 2020 https://bkbooks.com/blogs/something-to-think-about…; accessed June 23, 2020
- Shared Crossing Project website https://www.sharedcrossing.com/sandys-story.html; accessed June 23, 2020