Death’s not the end of it …

“… you’ve got a chance of joining them … death’s not the end of it”.
John, Ways of Being research study participant, 2011

I’m shortly to present the findings from my doctoral research at the upcoming International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS) conference, which is running from 1-5 September.  This is an opportunity to join with fellow researchers, experiencer’s, and other experts who work collectively to raise awareness, to normalise, and to offer support and information about near-death and other extraordinary or other-worldly experiences.

The quote from “John” captures the essence of my research, which is that death is not the end of our existence, and that we do have the chance of joining those close to us who have already died. Anyone, myself included, who has had a near-death experience knows the truth of that.

Over 20 people who had experienced the death of someone close to them chose to share their stories with me while I was undertaking my research.  Being able to present at the conference honours their trust in me as it does their contribution; without them the study would not have been able to be conducted.

The following words encapsulate or embody the nature and meanings of the experiences of the returning deceased which were shared with me during the conversations I had with study participants. In research-speak, it is referred to as ‘the Composite Depiction’, which doesn’t just reflect individual experiences, but qualities of the experience which permeated the whole group.  My research explored after-death contact, specifically, unsought encounters which were experienced randomly and unexpectedly.  In sharing them with you, the reader of this blog, it is my hope that you will perhaps find a sense of connection, maybe wonder, and a sense of rhythm with your own thoughts and feelings about death and the afterlife, or with someone close to you who has died.

It is an event which occurs unexpectedly, randomly, with little warning and which often takes one by surprise.  It appears to occur spontaneously and sometimes as if by coincidence in response to the emotional and psychological needs of the experient at the time. It can happen when sleeping or awake. For those who have never experienced non-material phenomena the event is transformative, while for those who have, the event is confirmative. It can take a variety of forms, but whichever form it takes, it is uniquely personal to the individual because it involves the person close to them who has died. It is something that is done to them, and not by them. 

When it is experienced, it is an event which amongst other purposes serves not only to educate and inform the experient regarding two forms of existence, one material and one non-material, it offers an invitation to understand life and one’s place in the universe from alternate perspectives. A cacophony of Feelings arise in response to this reaching out from the dead to the living and the mind turns inward in a concurrent effort to understand what it is that has taken place. Sometimes it is initially confusing because the mind struggles to conceptualise what that is in terms of what is already known. At other times it is a confirmation of what is already known. The experience causes an internal shift which has a rippling effect in the life of the experient as it does in the visible social and cultural world. The individual acts differently because they think differently. It can lead to psychopsiritual change resulting from the removal of illusory veils of understanding which hitherto blocked or distorted the individual’s perception regarding the nature of some aspects of reality.

Every time it happens, it seems that life is offering an invitation to the individual to consider what they are, as opposed to who they are. Some individuals experience a sense of communion or conjunction with the sacred, as understood by them, while others feel a sense of awe and wonder, and feel blessed by the experience. While for others, there are no words just feelings that cannot be put into words …

Michele T Knight Written by:

Dr Michele Knight is a Social Worker, Social Scientist, researcher and independent scholar. Her interest and research in the end-of-life has its origin in the lived experiences of her own bereavements, her near-death and shared-death events, the returning deceased and attitudinal responses to those experiences. Since 2006, she has been extensively involved in community development, support and advocacy in both a professional and community services/voluntary capacity in the areas of bereavement and grief, hospital pastoral care, and academic lecturing/tutoring. Her PhD, Ways of Being: The alchemy of bereavement and communique, explores the lived experience of bereavement, grief, spirituality and unsought encounters with the returning deceased.

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