Is there life after death, or is there just blackness to greet us when we die?
The answer to that question depends very much on your upbringing and religious attitude. While no one has a firm answer, there are those who have died on the operating table or come very close to death and then made it back to our world. Their experiences are the best accounts we have of what's waiting for us after the curtains close on our earthly lives.
Reddit often hosts threads asking people to describe experiences or tell stories around certain topics. One of the most popular questions asks users to describe near-death experiences. The responses below are equal parts hopeful, inspiring, and chilling. Read at your own risk.
1. From user CDC_:
I got stung by a nest of wasps right next door to my home. They stung me all over my head, neck, behind my ears -- 39 stings the doctor counted. I got home and was like...I'm okay. I'm cool. Told my mom I got stung by some bees but I thought I was okay. She didn't seem too worried. I decided to go take a shower.
In the shower, I began feeling dizzy and my back started hurting.
I quickly turned the shower off and got my clothes on and began feeling dizzier and dizzier. Then when I came out of the bathroom, my mom looked at me and had a look of horror. Told me to get in the car immediately. My face and head had swollen hugely.
Between my house and the hospital, I started losing consciousness. Everything I saw had a yellow tinge and I suddenly felt very heavy and tired. My breathing got very labored, but I sort of of didn't care. I felt like I was slipping away into sleep.
I remember arriving at the hospital and they didn't even bother with registration. They threw my ass on a gurney and started pushing me back. As I was going back, I remember closing my eyes and thinking, "I guess whatever happens..." And then nothing. Some minutes later, I opened my eyes and a very large man was staring at me. He said, "Bad news. You're gonna feel completely fine within a couple of hours. You probably won't even get out of going to school tomorrow."
He was right.
2. From atheist user KonaHI:
Atheist here. Bright light. I knew there were people waiting for me where the light was coming from over there. Absolute ecstasy was the feeling. Then I remembered I had a newborn baby and was instantly back.
3. User 241410:
I had been very depressed for a while and decided it was time to go. I took a ton of pills and washed them down with a ton of rum. While "dead," I was in a completely dark area all alone. I found myself talking to a mysterious voice who told me he was God.
We talked for what felt like an entire lifetime. He told me my Heaven was this dark secluded area where I could finally be at peace. He ended with telling me that I couldn't stay because I still had business to take care of.
When I woke up, my body felt healthier than ever and I had this peace about me that hasn't gone away. I feel like I can remember what we spoke about, I just can't put it in words. I equate it to trying to describe a new color to someone.
4. BindingsAuthor had this chilling experience:
When I was eight years old, I was run over by a car. I remember walking through this blue tunnel. At the end, there was the white light that everyone talks about. Before I knew it, I was in it. A disembodied hand reached out to me, and it was this warm, welcoming feeling. Still, I knew I didn't want to go. It wasn't as if I was scared of what was waiting on the other side, I just felt it wasn't time to go yet. I remember saying that I wasn't ready yet.
I woke up in the ambulance with the EMT hovering over me. Combined with the darkness of the ambulance, I thought my refusal to go with whoever offered me their hand led me to a fate far worse than just dying.
5. User Axesta:
I got sepsis from tools used over at a dentist. I went to the dentist feeling fine, happy that I finally got the work done that I needed. I went out shopping with my mom and had a lovely time.
Around 7 p.m. I started feeling dizzy. I had just flown in from Japan, so I assumed it was jet lag and fell asleep. I woke up in the middle of the night with a fever and I couldn't lift my head high enough to puke on the floor, so I puked all over myself, the bed, and my lovely concerned dog.
I tried to yell out to my mother but I didn't even have the strength to do that. Luckily, the sound of me vomiting was enough to wake her up. My mother carried me to the car and drove me to the emergency room. Once I arrived at the hospital, I was put on the most uncomfortable bed ever and drifted off. I couldn't stay awake.
That's when I saw nurses and doctors around me injecting me with things and shouting. I remember thinking that it must be serious if a doctor was shouting, as they usually don't show panic. I was lucid enough to laugh internally thinking, "Wow...I must be really sick if I don't even freak out over all of these injections."
And then it happened. I saw my mom crying and I thought, "Holy shit...this must be for real."
And as soon as I thought that, I fell asleep. I say asleep, but I died for exactly two minutes. It really feels like falling asleep, but for me it was beyond peaceful.
As someone that was once suicidal, this was actually a horribly dangerous feeling, as for the first time I got confirmation that dying wasn't all that scary. I woke up seven days later in the hospital. It took me another seven to start eating and they told me that I more than likely got sepsis from infected tools at the dentist.
The scariest part was after that happened, I no longer feared dying. So I consciously try to pull myself out of my depression whenever I feel it coming. But for anyone who's scared that their loved one felt pain in death, I can honestly say it's a very peaceful feeling.
6. A harrowing experience from user TheDeadManWalks:
I was 15 and had been through about three or four months of chemotherapy. I'd had a nosebleed on and off throughout the day and then after I went to bed, it just kept on going. I couldn't sleep, just had to keep lying there, mopping my nose and sneezing out these rubbery little blood clots. At about 2 a.m. I started to feel sick, so I reached for the container (I always had one by my bed because the meds I was on gave me really bad morning sickness) and threw up. It was a thick, dark red.
After that, I only remember what happened in short bursts. I think my mum had gotten up to go the bathroom and I managed to hit the wall loudly enough for her to hear. She came in and there was blood everywhere, coming out my nose and mouth, all over the bed and on the walls. Then I remember a paramedic being there. I must've collapsed against the wall after that, because next time I came 'round, I was strapped to a stretcher and they were taking me downstairs.
Then I was in the hospital surrounded by about six doctors with these huge lights pointed right at me. One of the doctors cauterized my nose and I definitely felt that. The doctor who did it was so nervous that he pushed the white-hot material right through my septum. I still have the hole today.
The worst part of it all, looking back, is how peaceful it can seem. And that's how it felt when I was in the ICU for a few weeks after that, doped up on ketamine and slipping in and out of life. Being asleep was easy. Being awake meant more pain and less dignity.
So if you want to know what it's like to be that close to death, it's tempting. It's like wanting to hit the snooze button on your alarm. And maybe you do hit it once or twice, but then you remember that you have work or school and that sleep can wait because you've still got shit to do.
7. A trip of a story from user SonOfDavor:
I almost drowned in a pool when I was five. I remember looking up and seeing my mother dismissing the lifeguard because I was "only playing" and his legs starting to break through the water because he knew better.
I can remember with absolute clarity how the water made everything shimmer as I was looking up, and sometimes, I see that shimmer as I'm walking around outside or if the light is really bright.
I can't help but wonder in those moments if my entire life -- all my failures, successes, falling in love with a woman and having two children with her, the love of my life cheating on me -- is just all inside my head during the last few moments before I died, still in that pool.
8. From deag_bullet:
I was in a serious car accident a week before my high school graduation. Without going into all the gory details, I lost so much blood that they declared me dead. Although I do not remember much, between the rescue workers extracting me from my car and waking up three weeks later, I do remember feeling very warm and seeing lights.
I've always believed it was due to medications and moving between areas with different lighting, but I'm open to otherworldly suggestions.
9. The ordeal minusthelela faced at 16 is unreal:
I was 16 years old and encountered tachycardia for the first time. Went to the ER with my mom, not really thinking it was a big deal. I didn't realize how intense the situation was until two cardiologists and several nurses rushed me to what looked like an operating room.
Again, I didn't really know the full extent of what was happening, I felt pretty normal and never had a history of heart issues up until then. However, my mom worked in the medical field for several decades and I could see the utter fear and concern on her face.
Fast forward to the doctors trying to slow my heart down. Last resort was some drug that essentially stops your heart and resets it at a normal beat. Right as they were giving me the drug, they warned me I might feel a heavy weight on my chest.
What an understatement. Felt like someone was squeezing all the air and life out of me. Eventually, the room went black and a feeling of peace came over me like I was going to sleep. I didn't see anything good or bad, just emptiness.
When I awoke, I assumed only a few seconds had passed. Instead, the drug caused my heart to stop for 10 minutes or so. The doctors were trying to revive me.
I'm 27 now and two years ago, I had a second episode. When they gave me the drug, I didn't pass out, but I was forcing myself to stay awake. I didn't want to die again.
10. User Schneidah7 has been unlucky enough to have two near-death experiences:
I've died twice, medically speaking. The first time was due to a motorcycle accident; I passed out while cruising along at about 50 miles per hour and I was thrown into a light pole. I haven't told my family that I was dead when EMS carted me to the hospital. I only have two clear memories of that event. The first is being upside down. The second is hitting the pole and stopping. It hurt a lot.
The only reason I didn't fall asleep was a bizarre moment when I heard someone yelling, "Come on man, get up. Get up. GET UP!" and then someone slapping my helmet, which was basically smushed really hard onto my head. When I opened my eyes, I saw my brother squatting on the pavement next to me. This was odd because my brother had been dead from an overdose for several years. The only other thing I remember is him glancing at his watch and saying something like, "They'll be here soon," and then walking away.
Second incident I don't remember much of, but I was stabbed and nearly bled out. I honestly just felt really tired and wasn't connecting the dots that I was dying. Luckily, a cop happened upon me after I collapsed on the side of the road and called emergency services who then successfully revived me. I was apparently only gone for like 20 or 30 seconds with that one so it doesn't stick in my memory like the first incident.
11. Vexelius thinks they literally came face to face with death. Check this out:
I was six or seven years old when I got infected by an aggressive strain of salmonella. After two days with a very high fever and nonstop vomiting, my vision began to blur. Suddenly, everything went black. I could hear my parents and the doctor's voice saying that I wasn't going to make it. I heard cries and something like a rattling, metallic sound.
And then I stopped hearing their voices.
After a while, it felt like I was in a dark room and my eyes had started to become used to the lack of light, because I started to see some shapes again. I could see the bed, the pillows, and a girl who was sitting on the bed a few inches in front of me.
I heard her voice. She told me that she came from a faraway land filled with wonders and amazing things, and that I belonged there. Then I started shaking uncontrollably. I vomited again and woke up.
Everyone was convinced that I was going to die, but I was feeling better. Within a week, I recovered, but the fever was so high that I lost my hair.
Later, I told my parents about the strange dream that I had while I was sick, and they told me that for a moment, I got completely limp and my skin started to get very pale. Even the doctor believed that I wasn't going to wake up. My mom told me that maybe the girl I saw in my dreams was Death and somehow allowed me to live in exchange for my hair.
12. From user dyingthrowawayyy:
A few years ago, a doctor took me off my antidepressants and put me on medication that really put my mood all over the place. I would sleep 16 hours a day and could barely function when I was awake. Unfortunately, I was also in a very bad relationship with someone who did not understand or support me emotionally. Essentially, we broke up and I was somewhat okay at first, but I was so unstable that I broke and started taking handfuls of prescription medications. I took about 140 pills.
I called my ex and begged him to come over because I knew I needed help. I fell asleep soon after he came over. I woke up because of scratching at my window but I did not investigate. I went to the bathroom and started to have a shower but threw up in the sink. None of the pills came out.
My ex drove me to the hospital and when we reached the emergency admitting, I immediately went into seizures. I came to briefly when the doctors were cutting off my clothes, but I went unconscious after that. At some point, I entered a strange, dreamlike state.
Things started turning blue and falling away or dissolving, then eventually everything went dark. I woke up in the hospital bed two days after I had been admitted. I was in the ICU for another two days before I was sent to a rehabilitation center for three weeks. I'm doing a lot better now, back on proper meds, productive and pretty happy.
I hope that no one reading this is having suicidal thoughts, but if you are, know you are not alone. Try to get help and ride out the worst feelings. The hardest thing about waking up was seeing my mom so upset. Not to be cliche, but people love you and care about you. You matter and you are capable of great things.
13. Redditor sol-enli-win had an encounter with a strange man in a hat:
I was about five, in pain from a migraine. My mother tried to calm me down and then gave me a chewable painkiller of some sort. As soon as that thing touched my tongue, I heaved as I had been crying pretty heavily beforehand and it got caught in my throat.
I was clinically dead for over six minutes as they tried to dislodge it and had it not been for my grandmother frantically running outside to wave down the ambulance they had called, I wouldn't be here today.
What I saw I will never forget.
Small golden doors closed to me. Light behind them but no way in. Next to me, however, stood a man in a [top hat] with a long-tailed suit coat (also black).
He has haunted me ever since.
14. User punkwalrus' failed suicide turned into a very different experience:
Failed suicide attempt around age 13.
Once I passed the "point of no return," I was overcome by this calm. I saw myself as I floated over my body. Then I sort of flipped over and was going down this tunnel of light.
At the end was a barrier. I remember touching this film and I knew I had touched some kind of all-encompassing omnipotence. I suddenly knew everything, and for a nerd like me, that was all I ever wanted. I remembered two things.
The first is when you know everything, you lose the concept of what a question is. You don't even ask questions. There is no preface to knowledge anymore. Knowledge is not something you seek. You are the knowledge.
Second, I knew I had to go back and keep living. I knew and I carried back to my body the feeling that I had to keep living even if I did not understand why yet.
Waking up, I felt so small, like my mind could not fit in this tiny mortal coil. And I was so distraught at being alive, I wailed and mourned that I was forced to endure my utter contempt. My life got better, but sometimes, I feel like death is this place in space and time where the ultimate comfort dwells.
15. Finally, there's this tale from paulwhiskie:
In 2005, I broke my radius and my ulna to the point where the back of my hand could touch my bicep. The unofficial report from my doctor was that they had trouble placing the breathing tube and I flatlined on the table. I obviously had no idea my heart stopped during the surgery, but when I woke up, I had memories of floating around with pink bubbles all around me. In a few bubbles were my grandma, grandpa, and uncle, who had all died earlier in 2005. They kept saying, "It's not your time."
How do you feel now? Do any of these stories change your outlook on what to expect when you die? I know they did for me.