Unusual or unexplainable events, such as a near-death (NDE) or out-of-body experience (OBE), often happen in response to physical or emotional trauma. These types of spiritually transformative experiences are fairly common and cross all socio-cultural conditions. (See NDERF, IANDS, SAI)
One of the challenges with these experiences is that phenomenon deniers often try to explain them away with various objections. “It’s the function of a dying brain”; “they were hallucinating as a result of the trauma”; “the medicine given to them created delusions”. While NDE researchers such as Raymond Moody and Bruce Greyson handily address these objections, deniers still exist and can be very aggressive in expressing their opinions.
What deniers have trouble explaining is the situation where a healthy doctor, palliative care nurse, hospice volunteer, friend or family, and the dying patient experience a shared crossing (SC).
If you’ve never heard of a shared crossing, shared-death experience (SDE) or death-watch experience (DWE), you are in for a revelation!
End-of-life experiences (ELE’s) are varied and personal
These experiences can occur at the beside or be remote. They can happen at the time of a final breath, or at a time surrounding a death transition. So what are they exactly? What makes them so challenging for deniers? To understand ELE’s such as SDE’s, SC’s, or DWE’s, let’s hear from an experiencer, I’ll call Sarah.
“I was sitting at the beside of my mother in hospice and suddenly I felt this lifting feeling in my chest, and heard a high-pitched tone. At the same time, I could see this mist rising from my mother’s body, which had her shape and translucent features. We both lifted higher and higher until we were in a dark space, which felt divine, surrounded by twinkling stars. The next thing I knew, a circle opened in the void of darkness and I could see a garden through the opening. The mist that I believed to be my mom moved toward the opening and floated into this extra-ordinarily beautiful setting. I can’t even describe the colours or the plants growing there – it was nothing like a garden on earth. I felt pressure push me back as I tried to pass through the opening and into the garden. I had a strong desire to be there as well, almost like this was where all the love of the universe lived. For whatever reason, I couldn’t go into the garden. Soon, my mom’s translucent body turned to me and waved. It was as if she was saying “I’m alright, don’t worry about me”. She then turned back, and moved further through the serene and indescribable landscape. Within seconds, the high-pitched tone was gone, and I felt a thud in my chest. I was back on the chair beside mom’s hospital bed. I looked at mom, and knew she had passed. I called the nurse, who confirmed mom’s death. The whole experience was astonishingly beautiful – the mist, the dark void, the garden, and the feeling of love. I felt at peace knowing she was OK, and I really don’t fear death anymore.”
The Shared Crossing Project and Research Initiative
If you think this is unusual, you must visit www.sharedcrossing.com. Researcher William Peters founded Shared Crossing “to help create a world where death is honored and where the mysteries surrounding life, death, and possibilities of an afterlife can be openly discussed and explored”.
Since 2011 William has been collecting accounts of shared crossings very much like Sarah’s description above. Individuals who are sound of mind, not on drugs, not in a physically traumatic situation, have shared crossings. If deniers still interject and say that the person was in an emotionally traumatic situation with the impending death of a loved one, William points to the many accounts which come from doctors, nurses, and volunteers. Once these accounts are fully explored, the team at Shared Crossing code and evaluate the data.
In 2021, research from the Shared Crossing Project was published in the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, followed by a 2022 paper published in OMEGA – Journal of Death and Dying (links below).
This preliminary research, with a small sample size, is just the beginning. William and his lead researcher Michael Kinsella have told me the Shared Crossing team have a back-log of interview transcripts and recordings to code. Additionally, they have only had the opportunity to reach out to their personal and professional connections, mostly in the US. As experiencers learn about the project in other states and countries, the capacity for the project with undoubtedly grow, as will the strength of the research.
Highlights from Shared Crossing Research webpage
- 64% of SDE accounts were reported by individuals who were physically distant from the dying patient or loved one
- 41% of people reported having more than one SDE
- 64% of people reported engaging in some sort of introspective or contemplative practice
- 79% of people reporting an SDE also reported having experienced additional kinds of death-related phenomena, including post death visions and visitations as well as direct post-death communication.
These types of statistics, if validated in future research, may warrant additional studies focussed on just one of these findings. For example, it is fascinating that 41% report having more than one SDE. Are there individual experiencer characteristics shared by these multi-SD experiencers? Are there strong similarities between each of their experiences? And on, and on. My mind contemplates myriad questions and probabilities.
If you’ve had a similar experience and you want to become part of the research, visit www.sharedcrossing.com/research.
The Shared Crossing Project provides courses and workshops. Currently, they are offering a course in accompanying loved ones through to the end of life: “Learn how you and your loved ones can prepare for the best end of life possible…and even share in the journey beyond the veil with grace, love and wonder.” If you are interested in reading about it, check out Williams’ book: www.sharedcrossing.com/williampeters.
We all share the end-of-life
Why is this so important to me that I would spend my time learning and writing about end-of-life experiences? Because end-of-life is something we all share! You, me and everyone who sets a tiny little foot on earth. I have heard many stories of horrible end-of-life experiences. It is my wish that those negative experiences could be eliminated for families, friends, physicians, nurses, volunteers, and particularly for the person (or pet) ready to transition.
There is ample research (fMRI’s) to demonstrate how storytelling can impact the brain of the listener. The strong influence of personal accounts alter brain chemistry, creating a powerful impact on decisions and actions of listeners. Those who share their SDE’s, NDE’s, OBE’s, STE’s have the ability to change the understanding and perspective of those who hear about their experiences. People don’t even have to have an SDE to alter their beliefs or worldview. Each time an SDE is recounted, it opens the opportunity for someone else to find comfort and relief in accounts of those who travel beyond the veil.
If you are facing a terminal illness, these SDE accounts may bring you peace. You may be sitting with someone facing end-of-life, hearing about SDE’s may make for a less traumatic bereavement. Are you interested in planning your own eventual end-of-life transition? These experiencer lessons may provide a loss of fear of death, or a knowing that your consciousness will live on. By becoming an active listener, you may feel that everything will be OK; that death is not an end, but merely a transition. Shared death research confirms the undeniable benefits of peace; and the experience of reduced fear, anxiety, trauma and grief, related to death of self or others.
Wherever you are in life, death is present. As a young person, you may know someone in your school who chose to take their own life. In your early careers, someone you work with may die of a fatal accident. Grandparents and loved ones dear to you may pass along the way. The important thing to remember is they are still with you. Thanks to NDE, OBE, STE, SDE research, you can be comforted knowing your friends and loved ones are part of a great force of loving energy that can never be destroyed.