At Heaven’s Door: What Shared Journeys to the Afterlife Teach About Dying
AUTHOR: William J. Peters
This book is all about shared death experiences … that is, ONE death, MULTIPLE experiencers …
Sorry, wha … ?? Only one person dies, but others … uh, “share” in it? You’re going to have to explain this one!
I know, right?? This one is relatively new to me too.
I mean, I’ve heard quite a bit about near-death experiences … there’s been lots of research in this field, along with eye-popping accounts by high-profile people published over the past decade. (Here’s one from a previous post.)
But the idea of shared death experiences is much newer. However, it arose from this same field, the term having been coined by the “father of near-death experiences,” Raymond Moody.
Apparently, as he did his near-death research, he kept coming across instances of people sharing in the death of another, so he began to realize it was a “thing.”
So, what is a shared-death experience (SDE)?
All right, what exactly is a “shared death experience” … ?
When we “die,” or as I’ve come to understand it … when we leave the “material” world (drop our body) and move into the “non-material” world (become spirit energy) … it appears some of us “invite” one or more people to, er … come along, so to speak.
Yeah, apparently the “guest” shares in some portion of the experience … maybe sees other dead people, finds themselves in a tunnel to another realm, observes the dying person’s life review, stuff like that … before “coming back down to Earth,” so to speak.
Seriously. And that’s not all! Apparently, the experience often results in a first-hand understanding of some amazing stuff. In particular … that life continues after bodily death, and … we’re reunited with our loved ones.
Wow is right, and interestingly, it turns out this whole “shared death” thing isn’t that uncommon. And now, it’s well documented and researched, courtesy of William J. Peters, the author of this book and founder of the Shared Crossing Project.
So, who is this William J. Peters?
William Peters is a practicing grief and bereavement therapist who specializes as an end-of-life therapist. He holds degrees from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education and University of California, Berkeley.
But his story in this field starts in 2000, when he was volunteering in a hospice environment. As he reveals in his book, he was reading aloud to a patient when he suddenly found himself floating in midair … completely outside of his body.
Now, as if that wasn’t startling enough, he then realized that the patient he was reading to was also floating … looking over at him, smiling.
I guess they both eventually came back down … or at least, Peters did. The patient died not long after, having never regained consciousness.
This experience launched Peters’ search for explanations, and for other people who may have gone through something similar, as he tried to make sense of what had happened to him.
He soon realized his was not an isolated incident … and discovered literally hundreds of experiences, which he has spent the past 20 years collecting, meticulously documenting, organizing, and analyzing.
Enter the Shared Crossing Project
Along the way, in 2011, Peters founded the Shared Crossing Project to begin to share what he was learning. This is an organization dedicated to changing the conversation about “death,” as we’ve been taught to understand it.
More specifically, its purpose is … “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.”
Cool mission statement.
Peters discovered there were other types of experiences that may take place before, during, and after death that don’t qualify as shared death experiences but that are also impactful. So, his organization includes them all, referring to them as “shared crossings.”
And here’s a super interesting finding from their research … experiencers of this phenomenon, in any of its forms, report being “wholly transformed by the experience.”
Although I guess this isn’t surprising when I consider what kind of experience we’re talking about!
Tell me about the book
So, the book … “At Heaven’s Door” … is the culmination of Peters’ research on shared death experiences (SDEs). In it, he reports on the results of the cases he has collected.
It’s an easily readable, fascinating book that provides a sense of the diversity of experiences that occur, their impact, and insights from his analysis. For example …
We hear a variety of accounts, directly from those who have lost children, spouses, parents … and learn how SDEs profoundly changed their lives as they broadened their understanding of what “death” really means.
We learn how SDEs impact on the grieving process. I mean, realizing our loved ones continue to exist … ? Well, that’s going to have an impact on how we grieve for them, right?
We experience how SDEs can heal relationships with the departed … super powerful.
Peters also draws conclusions from his analysis of these cases about why some people have SDEs and others don’t.
And particularly interesting … for the brave of heart among us … he describes how to increase the chances of having one!
Finally, if you, like me, are wondering why haven’t we heard more about this phenomenon that is supposedly not uncommon, and yet so powerful? Well, he addresses this too. The bottom line reason … ?
As with so many experiences outside of our traditional western society teachings, people have been reluctant to share. Sigh.
But maybe we can buck that trend here ….
This isn’t something I’ve experienced personally, even when my husband died. (Although that doesn’t particularly surprise me, since at the time, we were literally running through the halls of a hospital to reach the hospice ward ….)
But I wonder, have any of you experienced anything strange and unexplained around the death of a loved one?
Maybe you’ve shaken it off as a symptom of stress, or “just a dream,” or a hallucination from lack of sleep, or whatever. Maybe you’ve tried to forget it, worried you’re crazy.
But here’s the thing … if you’ve experienced anything odd, even just a knowing your loved one has died before being told, then you too may have had a shared death experience.
If you’re willing, please post about it in the Comments below, and help open the door for others to come forward, as we begin to acknowledge …
There’s A LOT more to this life than meets the eye ….
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