Journal of Near-Death Studies

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 71-85

First online:

Shared Near-Death and Related Illness Experiences: Steps on an Unscheduled Journey

  • Glennys HowarthAffiliated withUniversity of Bath, Bath
  • , Allan KellehearAffiliated withLa Trobe University Email author 

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This paper discusses the key social features in shared journeys into near-death experiences (NDEs) and related illness experiences of other people. Of special interest in this paper is the way that those persons who are not ill or near death account for their sharing of these experiences. These are often people who are caregivers or intimates of NDErs or dying people but who claim to share part of the NDE or dying experience. We provide case examples to illustrate the essential psychological and social experiences that these people undergo during their joint experiences with NDErs and other seriously ill people. From an analysis of the recurrent themes emergent in these joint experiences we identify and discuss the major conceptual steps in the creation of their personal explanations: (1) Exit the Familiar, (2) Extraordinary Experiences, (3) Extraordinary Experiences End, (4) What Happened to Me? (5) The World Responds, and (6) The Return of the Native. In the final analysis, the processes that these people undergo in the search for explanations is similar in most respects to those at the center of near-death and other related illness experiences.

near-death experiences empathy illness dying social reintegration