For most people. your conception of death is based on what you’ve seen on your favorite TV shows or movies. It can run the gamut from waking up in a brightly lit train station and seeing a passed love one who urges you to keep living (a la Harry Potter) to dying a wealthy newspaper magnet whose last word is the name of your childhood sled. Citizen Kane, anyone?
Whatever you imagine your final living seconds, there are actually people who have been labeled “clinically dead” and experienced the other side — even if just for a few seconds — before coming back to life. These survivors shared their afterlife stories on reddit, and while each person’s experience was different, most agreed that death is not something you should be afraid of.
Or in the words of Dumbledore, “Do not pity the dead. Pity the living.” Keep scrolling for first-hand accounts of what death really is like.
1. Staying alive is “exhausting.”
“As you’re dying, you start feeling tired in a way you never have before (or will again, until you die). The sheer act of staying alive is exhausting.
But then it’s all blank until I woke up from a coma a couple weeks later. You don’t even remember the actual moment of death, and it takes weeks for your mind to remember everything leading up to it.
I was in a ton of pain before and after because a couple of my organs were perforated, but dying itself wasn’t painful.
I agree that I’m also not afraid of death. Not even just because of the pain factor, but because it feels less unknown to me and there isn’t time for regret when it happens.”
2. Death is like a “big warm blanket.”
“A black void. Then waking up in ER surrounded by people running around like crazy. I was cold af , but in reality, just room temp. I had to add and say that it was relatively peaceful. Like being wrapped in a big warm blanket.”
3. You’re an “impartial observer.”
“I coded after surgery. I remember being able to see and hear everything and understand what was happening, but I couldn’t physically feel anything. It was deeply unsettling.”
“My heart also stopped after surgery three years ago. I only remember them getting me back and drifting between darkness and seeing the nurses’ panic. Like you mentioned, I felt nothing and was just an impartial observer.
The aftermath was the worst. Realising how close I was to oblivion and recalling the dissociation was horrifying.
People often say, “Oh I’m not worried — she’s a fighter…” when someone gets very ill. But me? I feel like I was just ready to watch myself fade into the dark despite being content and having things to live for.
Unsettling is exactly the right word.”
4. W.W.H.S.D? (What would Homer Simpson do?)
“I was dosed up on morphine, tubes hanging out my face, I had a 1/3 chance of not making it through the night (acute pancreatitis, causing multiple organ failure).
My last two thoughts before I slipped into oblivion — what the football scores would be tomorrow, specifically, that some people would know them, and I would not, because I’d be dead.
And, I’d quite like to watch some old Simpsons right now.
That was it. Nothing about my family, friends.
I’m not even *that* big of a football fan.
Glad I woke up though.”
5. Death is like the “darkest dark and silent silence.”
“I was electrocuted by about 13,800 volts. The doctors say it’s likely the first hit stopped my heart and the second one started it (before I was pulled like a lifeless corpse to safety).
I remember experiencing the darkest dark and the most silent silence. I ceased to care that I was dying; time seemed to change, it could have been hours it seemed. It was only about 30 seconds.
I felt as though I was floating and floated toward something that I eventually realized was my body and reality. Upon joining with whatever it was I was floating towards, I became self-aware in my body and heard the electricity making horrible noises and knew I was in danger.
From there it was a horribly painful experience where I lost most of my toes due to tissue death and had severe electrical burns on all four limbs. More surgeries than I care to count and seeing the round bone ends of my toes that were freshly amputated still haunts me a little.”
6. There’s always a white noise.
“I was dead for a very short period of time, like 30 seconds to a minute. There’s a big misconception about it. It’s not like sleeping at all. I’ll try to explain. There’s always a sort of white noise in the back of my mind. It quiets down when I sleep but it’s still there.
I never noticed it before I died, but I do now. I don’t want to romanticize death, but when I was out, it was like this perfect nothingness. And nothingness is so hard to imagine normally, but once you “experience” it, and they bring you back, part of you wishes you could have stayed.
There’s no positive feelings there, obviously, but it takes away everything bad, too. All your stress, the nightmares, the troubles. All gone. Just nothing exists. It’s beautiful in a way. I’m not suicidal at all, and hope to live the rest of a long and happy life. But I’m very much looking forward to a lack of consciousness when I do eventually pass again, and I can honestly say I don’t fear death anymore.”
7. You never want to leave.
“I don’t know what I experienced while I was dead but when I woke back up (so to speak) I remember wanting to experience it permanently.”
“A friend of mine described death (she was technically dead twice) as being surrounded by darkness and floating with some sort of warm gel-like substance covering her. She never wanted to leave that state.”
8. Visits from the other side.
“Anaphylaxis, wasn’t breathing, I considered all the hallucinations I experienced likely due to hypoxic episode until I told my Mom what I saw. A middle-aged man who wasn’t in scrubs standing still at the end of my bed while all staff were running around and doing their business.
I was having a non-verbal conversation with him and he was telling me to calm down, focus on breathing. He wore a tropical style button down shirt, one of those old school news boys hats and had a very pleasant demeanor. Mom showed me a photo of my grampa that I never had seen before, and it was the guy at the foot of my bed, and he died before I was even born.”
“Former co-worker of mine died during heart surgery. I think she was out for 90 seconds or close to it. She wasn’t religious or anything. She said that she remembered being in the room and seeing her dead uncle and cousin standing at the far end of the room watching everything going on.
Fun fact: she shared this information during an icebreaker “give us a fun fact about yourself.” She didn’t remember seeing a light or anything, just seeing her dead relatives at the end of the room.”
9. Out of body experience.
“I saw my grandpa. We talked for a while and he said I could go back with him, or stay. I looked down and saw myself in that hospital bed with my brother holding my hand. He felt it turn cold and I never saw him cry that way before. Went back into my body and felt more pain than I knew in my life. Been a year of recovery and I lost most of my memory but I’m happy.
(Skull fracture/traumatic brain injury from heat exhaustion)
Edit: Here’s a link with a pic of my brothers reaction when I woke up and when my mom played music for me trying to get me to wake up.”
10. A walk through a field of flowers.
“Not necessarily”clinically dead” but I was pronounced dead two times in the same night after a car accident I was in when I was 16. My great grandma pulled me out of the car and we walked through this really peaceful field of flowers. When I woke up two weeks later she was sitting on the edge of my bed and told me to tell my mom that everything was going to be okay.
My great grandma died when I was 10 and before that she had been bedridden after a stroke. I never saw her walk or heard her talk in my entire life. It was amazing and beautiful.”
11. You’re just a spectator.
“I was 6-7 years old and one day I got rushed to the hospital by my parents because they heard me breathing really loud and hard. The last thing I remembered were faces of the doctors and nurses above me while I was lying on my back. Then I flatlined.
The weirdest, unexplainable thing happened then and there — I suddenly could see the whole scene as a spectator, like I was a floating spirit in that room. I could see myself getting revived, saw my mom crying and my dad comforting her. Then, I saw a white entity shaped like my body, falling through the ceiling and slowly, like a leaf on the wind, falling down to eventually land inside my body. That’s when that experience ended.
I was put in a medically induced coma, and I woke up after some days, I don’t remember. I had stuff plugged into me, an IV, red glowing elastic ring on my finger etc. Anyway, I later mentioned to the doctors that I saw it all, I saw them using the defibrillators, my parents etc. No one really believed me and told me that I was probably dreaming and biasing my memories due to watching tv, but I know what I saw!”
12. Reunited with your first love.
“This happened well before my gf and I got together but she intentionally overdosed on methadone and was clinically dead briefly at the hospital.
She said she could see the doctors and her husband in the room from above and then she found herself in a meadow with her first boyfriend just talking like nothing had happened.
Then she felt herself getting pulled out of there abruptly and suddenly sprang up with her eyes wide open and she was back to life.”
13. Harry, is that you?
“I don’t share it much but I’ve had four heart surgeries, and in my first and third one I coded. You had to be conscious for these surgeries to get your heart to react appropriately. The first time it was just nothingness. Black. Just nothing. I can’t even explain how long it felt like nothingness. And then I remember waking up with them over me saying we lost you for a second there, are you okay?
The second time is the hard one to share. I woke up in a type of subway feeling thing but everything was white. The subway, the tunnel walls we were speeding through. I didn’t have a body per say, it felt like I was the subway at times, and the. At times it was like i was just looking out a window at the tunnel wall. It came to a stop and it was just black nothingness again. And then I heard a voice of a much older man.
He said “Are you ready to go?” And I just had nothing. Like I didn’t know how to speak. “We’re going now if you’re ready…” And something inside me felt so ready to go. Like I was a magnet to it… this unknown destination in the black nothingness ahead. I remember finally saying “o..ok”. He said another time with a slightly different tone. “We’ll be leaving here. You are ready to go?”
And finally something in me snapped, and I remembered I had a life, and people I’d leave behind. And my first thought was “I can’t leave my girlfriend. I couldn’t do that. And my Mom and Dad. My puppies. I can’t leave any of them. My family, my friends..”
And I made a decision I couldn’t leave. I didn’t even have to say it. Once I decided I couldn’t leave and I was for sure staying I woke up and came to consciousness with the medical team all around me.”