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What Happens After We Die?

making sense of life & death Aug 31, 2018

“When we understand about death, we understand a lot more about life.”

This was the key message I heard from Barbara Bartolome when she shared the story of her near-death experience at a event hosted by a local chapter of the International Association of Near Death Studies (IANDS). Barbara is one of millions of “experiencers” around the world who died and then came back to life. Experiencers have insight about what happens when we die and are still alive to share what they know.

Check in with yourself

Now before I go any further, check in with yourself. Are you nodding your head or shaking it? Are you rolling your eyes, or are your eyes wide open because you want to read on? Whatever your reaction, please do read on. Barbara has a vivid experience to share. The fact that her experience has so many similarities to the millions of other near-death experiences documented across cultures fascinates me. Personally, I find near-death-experience stories hard to ignore.

When Barbara was preparing for surgery to repair a ruptured disc in her spine something went wrong. She lost consciousness and eventually her heartline flattened. The next thing she knew she was “on the ceiling” above her body, watching what unfolded in the room as the technicians and doctors tried to bring her back to life. While her body was panicking, she—like most other experiencers report—was not scared at all. In fact she felt wrapped in love and acceptance. Also, as many others report, there was another presence, a “Being,” next to her on the ceiling. Although she couldn’t identify that presence, she described it as something that had been a part of her for eternity.  

As she lay dead on the table, one of the doctors reached his arm back and pounded his fist into her chest. Barbara explained to the audience that she felt no pain because “I wasn’t in my body.”

An important choice to make

At that point in her life, Barbara had a baby and a child to care for. She was also in an abusive marriage. In what seemed like a slowing down of time, she and the Being talked about her need to live so she could take care of her children. The Being then calmly asked her what she planned to do about her marriage. All the negativity of her marriage and all the things she had tried to do to make it better, flashed before her like a life review. She then realized that it wasn’t her husband that needed to change, it was her. The moment she promised the Being that she would be brave enough to leave her husband, her eyes opened and she was looking up the arm of the doctor who was pounding her chest.

“Oh brother!”

That was the doctor’s reaction when Barbara explained her experience even after she recited everything that happened in the room while she was “dead.” The disbelief and dismissiveness of the doctor and others silenced Barbara for years.

Messages from the other side

When she finally opened up about her experience twelve years later, Barbara learned that she was not alone. She also learned about something called “after effects.” Like Barbara, many experiencers have the ability to foresee danger and receive messages about how to live their lives. She explains these phenomena as “messages from the other side.” She says the messages are there for all of us, but few people are open enough to hear them.

There was so much more to Barbara’s story than I’m recounting here. (She tells a short version of her story here and a longer version here.)  While sitting in the audience, I had a strange desire to have my own near-death experience. I yearn to feel as peaceful as Barbara about what’s going to happen to me when I die and to feel guided from the other side until then.   

As the Founder and Director of the Santa Barbara Chapter of the International Association of Near Death Studies (IANDS), Barbara believes that the more we understand about death, the more we understand about life. Her mission is to help others understand what she understands, even without dying!

What about you?

What do you think happens after we die?

What experiences have you had that others can learn from?