Clinical death occurs when the heart stops beating, and despite the persistent idea that "death is final," numerous people come back from being clinically gone. Yet when people who passed on describe the other side, instead of a common experience or reaction, the answers vary greatly from person-to-person. What people see when they expire, if they see anything at all, appears differently depending on the person fighting for their life.
According to research, you're conscious when you expire, so when people describe what the other side is like, they may be on to something. To make sense of the experience, or to alleviate the fears of others, plenty of survivors share their stories of being clinically deceased. Some people's experiences feature the famous "white light" at the end of a tunnel trope; a few descriptions describe the light arriving alongside another guiding figure or hand. But plenty of other out-of-body experiences detail bleak or empty voids, though not all necessarily describe it as a scary or unpleasant ordeal.
Thanks to Reddit, people can share their stories for the community to read and digest for themselves. Each near-death experience recounts a different "afterlife," or at least different variations on the same one. If these experiences tell you anything, it's that what comes after will likely be a mystery to you too until you experience it for yourself.
From Redditor /u/confuciousbundy:
When I was 23, I suffered from pneumonia and blood [contamination] - I [went to the hospital] and [was] hooked up to the machines, but since I decided to be a moron earlier it was nearly too late: For nearly a week, I was convinced I just had a case of the flu and didn't need medicine beyond aspirin, marrow broth, vodka, and a woolen blanket, so when I showed up at the doctor, the nice man with the white coat had me rushed to the emergency ward immediately. There I shot up to 44 degrees Celsius of fever. While my body was basically boiling my brain away, I drifted in and out of sleep before slipping away completely.
When I came to again, I found myself in a large room hewn from white marble - no doors or windows, only a nice fountain purling soothingly in the center. Loitering around this white room were maybe two dozen people, a few of which I recognized as [deceased] relatives of mine - all of them relatives having [passed] from [ending their own lives], through [force] or while young (lots of [these cases] in my family.) The others I could identify as related to me through facial features. Each was on his own, standing alone; they all looked exhausted and disappointed, like people having waited way too long for a train, starting to question whether the train was ever supposed to arrive at all in the first place.
I talked to some of them - hell if I remember anything of those conversations. After a while, my mother came up to me ([ended] herself when I was 14 after spending the years before lodging knives and glass shards in my flesh); she looked at me surprised, put her hand on my shoulder and addressed me with a smile: 'We didn't expect you yet, but that's okay. You can stay with us if you'd like to do so already.' (Our native language is/was German. For those interested, the words I remember in their original were 'Wir haben dich nicht jetzt schon erwartet, aber das macht nichts. Du kannst auch jetzt schon bei uns bleiben wenn du möchtest.').
At that point I freaked out - my mother literally tried to [end] me on several occasions when I was a kid, so an invitation from her did not sound trustworthy.
All I remember from there on is panic, animal panic and naked fear and white light until I jerked back into something akin to consciousness in a hospital bed. Really waking up took a lot of time, however - I was as weak as a newborn kitten, took me six months to get back to full strength.
After a while, I realized that 'My visit in the white room' took two weeks. Makes you scared, knowing you were out for two entire weeks. According to the head of station (the Chief doctor, don't know how you call them in the States), they were not expecting me to wake up anymore - apparently, I've went into respiratory arrest and organ failure (Sorry, don't recall all those Latin expressions) three times while I was out. The third time, cardiac arrest joined the party - at that point, they were expecting me to finally fade out and [pass], no energy left to fight on with, but apparently I soldiered onward. Not going back to the white room for as long as possible, no sir.
So, that's my story. I don't know if my 'visit to the white room' really was my first visit of my eternal home-to-be or just the neural fallout produced by a brain being super-heated by a body running a temperature of 44 degrees Celsius. All I know for certain is that just thinking back to the white room sends shivers through my bones.
From Redditor /u/TheGrayHouse:
I was technically [gone] for about 15 minutes a few months ago. I'm not going to go into detail about how, because I don't really know myself. But during that time I had a vision.
I stood in a large, circular chamber. The walls pulsed with green and purple light. No doors, no windows. Next to me was a man. He was wearing a black trench coat, a fedora, and a full facemask. He was holding a gun in one hand, and his other hand was just emitting bright light. He began telling me 'I had to go back, I'm too young to [go].'
I should add I don't believe in any form of God or religion or anything. I wanted to [be gone]. So this was basically me fighting with my subconscious about whether or not I should live. I now realize [what he offered] were representative of death and life. He gave me a choice. [...] And it was actually my choice to make. I decided to choose [the former]. To just let go and accept it. I thought about how my whole family is gone and I don't really have anyone.
And after that thought I saw another person in the room. It was my girlfriend who convinced me of how my [absence] would affect her. And that's when I decided to wake up. I was in an ambulance and the paramedic said 'Sir, you've been in a terrible accident, and you've been [gone] for about 15 minutes.' Since then there have been times when I regret the decision I made, times when I wish that instead of waking up I had just waited for [the end]. But, for now, I'm still here."
From Redditor /u/dancesrarely:
I was electrocuted in the military. I got zapped and then blown across the room. I opened my eyes over six hours later. I was told what happened. I was told that my heart stopped but I don't know for how long. Very briefly (like a few minutes) from what I understand. Then I was just unconscious.
That was early in the morning. Almost dinner time I opened my eyes and I was in Medical. They explained what happened and other than the pain in my arms had to explain to me what my [ailments] were. I was asked this exact question by the doctor. I told him it was like being asleep. You remember the night before and next thing you know you're awake. No concept of time. No dream. Nothing.
That's honestly the best way I can describe it.
From a deleted user:
What I remember is a vast nothingness; it's hard to describe, as we're always surrounded by something wherever we go.
Suddenly, in this vast nothing was a blinding pinprick of light that got larger. Either I was moving towards it, or it was moving towards me. As it got closer, what appeared to be a single light resolved into first one, then several, then millions upon millions of stars of all shapes, sizes, and colors, along with tons of nebulae.
It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. As I approached the center, it seemed like I was joining a universal consciousness; a being made up of the thoughts, emotions, and experience of everyone and everything that had ever lived.
I'm sure it was all just a hallucination brought on by [what] I had suffered the few days combined with my heart/breathing stopping, but there's a part of me that hopes that what I saw is what really happens when we [pass].