shared death experienceHave you ever had the feeling that a loved one was in need, only to receive a telephone call revealing that they had just died? Or perhaps you've had the urge to call yourself to find out how they were doing, or dreamt about them immediately before receiving the call. Sometimes these experiences can be chalked up to coincidence, but other times they possess uncannily accurate details, causing doubt that they occurred by chance. Some people call this type of experience synchronicity, some call it energy resonance or linkage, and some call it empathic or shared death experience. Whatever one chooses to call it, more people (including some ULC ministers) are coming out with their stories about this phenomenon, and more scientists are presenting arguments to support it, challenging long-held assumptions about the relationship between consciousness and the brain.

Perhaps you are one of these people.

Empathic and shared death experiences differ slightly, but share certain fundamental characteristics. Empathic death experiences might be described as events in which a person suddenly senses the feelings of a loved one on the verge of death many miles away, whereas shared death experiences might be described as events in which a person partakes spontaneously in the subjective experience of a loved one dying in their presence. Both types of phenomena involve an emotional and experiential connection between the dying and the living. They are not yet entirely explained by current mainstream scientific assumptions about the nature of physics, reality, and the universe, yet scores of people, like ministers ordained online and others on their own spiritual quest, are coming forward to share their stories, maintaining that the experience was so real and coherent that it cannot be dismissed as an hallucination.

But many scientists cite hallucinations, as well as coincidence, to explain empathic and shared death experiences. Empathic death experiences, they argue, might be mere coincidence: a loved one is on the verge of death, and for no reason other than chance, a person happens to feel concern for that loved one at the very same moment. Shared death experiences, they propound, may be the result of hallucinations caused by stress, anxiety, and grief. A common form of hallucination invoked by skeptics (and, indeed, even some ULC wedding officiants and other clergy members) to explain empathic, shared, and near-death experiences is anoxia---lack of oxygen in the brain. Anoxia often results from cardiac arrest, when the heart stops pumping oxygen-rich blood to the brain, resulting in strange sights, sounds, and emotions. Sometimes chemicals such as endorphin, serotonin, and enkephalin, some of which become secreted in moments of great distress, have also been cited by skeptics to explain such phenomena.

Other scientists and philosophers, however, have challenged the soundness of these claims. Among these individuals are Raymond Moody, author of Glimpses of Eternity: An Investigation into Shared Death Experiences,Sam Parnia, author ofWhat Happens When We Die: A Groundbreaking Study into the Nature of Life and Death, and Pim van Lommel, author of Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near Death Experience_._ Anoxia does create hallucinations, but it is not clear how a perfectly healthy, uninjured person with normal oxygen levels in the brain standing at their loved one's bedside can suffer hallucinations induced by anoxia. Nor does anoxia explain the fact that some people report having their shared or near-death experience as a result of depression, or immediately before suffering an injury which causes anoxia. Additionally, anoxia doesn't explain how patients can be revived only to report incidents in minute detail that took place in the room while they were brain dead. (See the case of Monique Hennequin in van Lommel's book). The above researchers have also argued that hallucinations differ fundamentally in nature from empathic, shared, and near-death experiences. They point out that drug or chemical-induced hallucinations generally involve chaotic, irrational, semi-lucid arrangements of sights, sounds, and emotions, and people who experience hallucinations often forget them soon after they occur, but death-related visions are highly organized, coherent, and extremely lucid, and patients tend to remember them years after they occur, remembering the minutest of details. In other words, such visions are not the stuff of hallucinations---in fact, they feel so real that they seem to be the direct opposite.

The bandying back and forth between cynics and believers can certainly be productive, but insight can also be gleaned by listening to individual anecdotes themselves, which provide more detailed, personal accounts of empathic and shared death experiences. (Undoubtedly, some people ordained online in the ULC Monastery will have their own anecdotes to tell.) Annie Cap, of Canterbury, Kent, shared her story in a recent article in The Daily Mail. Cap was sitting in her home one day when she suddenly felt a sensation of blockage in her airways, as if she couldn't breathe. She felt a sudden urge to call the hospital where her mother lay gravely ill, several thousand miles away, and she spoke with her sister. Still gasping for breath, she was astonished to find out not only that her mother was dying, but that she, too, had been coughing and struggling for air for the past half an hour. Fortunately, Cap was able to tell her mother good-bye before her mother died.

minister has empathic experience with dying motherSo how do we explain such a phenomenon in scientific terms? A recent article in the BBC News reported that a group of psychologists from Edinburgh University and the Medical Research Council in Cambridge reviewed research on near-death experiences, concluding that they were a by-product of a dying brain. But, as mentioned above, this is not corroborated by the story of Monique Hennequin, whose brain was already dead when the incidents she described took place. Moreover, Cap's experience could not have been the result of a dying brain, since her brain wasn't dying when she had it, and yet, like many of us who decide to become a minister to guide others on their journey, somehow she shared an uncannily similar experience to that of her dying mother. Besides, a neuro-physiological correlate to death-related experiences does not constitute a neuro-physiological cause of such experiences. So, research which attempts to explain death-related experiences in terms of the dying brain hypothesis does not wholly account for these experiences.

Perhaps a broader framework for understanding the relationship between the brain and consciousness is needed. While current research by individuals such as van Lommel, etc., does not prove beyond a shadow of a doubt the survival of consciousness after death, or the existence of a sixth sense, it does provide tantalizing evidence that these are possible. Certainly the subject remains open for debate, and eternally mysterious and fascinating for spiritual and scientific seekers alike. A step in the right direction might be to dismantle the artificial division created between scientific and spiritual insight, and consider how the former might inform the latter. We also need to listen to people's stories and validate their need for opening up a dialogue. For this reason, we want to hear your empathic, shared, and near death experience stories. Have you ever had the uncanny urge to call a loved one you felt was in need? Did you experience any kind of synchronicity when you picked up the receiver, dialed the number, and got an answer?

You can get ordained online and share your stories by visiting the ULC Monastery Facebook page or our social network for ministers.


The Daily Mail


  1. Crystal Owens's Avatar Crystal Owens

    I began to experience a sudden deep sense of depression and out of nowhere I start to cry. When the feeling subsides, each time, soon after, I recieve the news that someone (whether it be one of my family members, or someone elses) has just passed away. It scared me the first few times until I realized what was really happening. The part that made me nervous was the not knowing who the news would be about.

  1. Xol's Avatar Xol

    I just received a call that my great aunt (close relationship) passed away during the night. Last night I had a sudden-onset migraine strike me without warning. The pain was so strong I thought I would throw up with any movement. My boyfriend drove us home early from dinner and in my pained stupor I drifted in and out of sleep in the passenger seat. There thoughts of her kept sneaking into the front of my mind. Two hours later the pain disappeared as quickly as it came and I began to cry for her. I knew and it was confirmed when my mother called.

  1. Ryan London's Avatar Ryan London

    On April 21st of 2015 I was on my 2nd day of a new job in downtown Evansville. I had decided to walk downtown for lunch and find a place to eat. When I was walking back to the office I got in ready to start work however I couldn't focus so I went on Facebook. While there I made a page for the "London" family to share news and photos and so on. I had never created a page like this before yet it was very easy to do and within a 30 minutes I had invited every single person on that side of the family. As soon as I finished my phone rang and it was my sister, she was crying and told me that our dad had just died. My dad knew I was into facebook and would often comment on my page about photos or posts I made. I just have to believe that he wanted to make it easy for me to tell everyone that he had passed. It was too, the very first post on that facebook page was that Larry London, my father had just passed away, which everyone started to comment and share the info. Maybe it was just ironic but I'm not so sure.

  1. Julie's Avatar Julie

    I may have experienced a shared death experience when my father passed away in August 2014. He and I formed a strong bond when he suffered a stroke in 2004. We grew even closer after my mother, his wife of 50+ years passed in 2009, and then closer still when dad went to live in an extended care facility. On the day of his death, my daughter and I were at his bedside and he actually took his last breath while my brother was talking to him by phone. My brother did not know that dad had passed and had his son get on the phone to share love thru words. After the conversation was over, I sat back down beside him, holding his hand and telling him how much I loved him. The phone conversation, his last breath all took place in a matter of 1-3 minutes. While I was holding his hand and offering words of comfort very suddenly, I became overwhelmed with such a feeling of joy that I had never experienced before. It was a bubbling up from inside of me that overtook my body and then there was a release and the joy was replaced with peace. This happened very quickly, probably mere seconds. I felt very comforted by these feelings and still do. I've never been able to convey my experience to other family members with acknowledgment from them or some semblance of understanding. It's very hard to explain such raw emotion to others. This was a unique experience that perhaps no one else is meant to understand. Something so special. What a privilege and gift bestowed upon me. I'm not even sure if this was truly a SDE. Now that I've heard of this phenomena, I would like to think yes.

    1. Sandra Erickson's Avatar Sandra Erickson

      Hello. I had a very similar experience when my father died. My stepmother, uncles, sister and I were in the hospital room with my father (who had suffered several strokes and was in a coma), talking and laughing about various events in my dad's life. I watched him take his last breath, knowing it was the last, and was at his side, holding his hand, as he exhaled, telling him how much I loved him. I, too, was suddenly overwhelmed with a rush of joy, so exquisite, that I laughed out loud. That feeling was quickly followed, by a profound peace that lasted for days. What a wonderful parting gift to receive.

      Thank you for sharing your experience here.

  1. Renee Tawater's Avatar Renee Tawater

    Back in '07 three days prior to my grandfather passing i had a dream of floating around in his room overlooking him and my mother sitting on a chair next to his bedside. I floated towards him and suddenly seeing what he was seeing. I saw my mother trying to feed him, and as i looked closer i noticed there was a mound of red wasps on the spoon she was holding, and every so often a few would fly off of it. I then could sense his discomfort as he moaned and yelled "stop, no! It stings!" whenever she would attempt to feed him. I floated around a bit more and then everyhing went completely blank. I woke up shrugging it off as just a dream and then slipped back to sleep. I woke up hours later having the urge to go into the kitchen. As i entered the room i noticed my mom on the phone talking with my grandmother, so i decided to sit down next to her to hear the convo. As soon as i sat down she started to talk about her day at the nursing home. She said that it sadly seemed like it wasnt too much longer now as my grandfather was starting to hallucinate. She said that she had a difficult time feeding him as he kept hollering out and saying "stop! It stings!" everytime she would try to give him a spoonful of his food. Well my jaw hit the floor as i was in total shock. I couldn't believe what i was hearing. I was shocked but at the same time oddly comforted as deep down i knew i had witnessed my grandfather on his death bed through an oobe. there is something much more grander than what meets the eye. Even though i've had premonitions since childhood, this particular experience has totally changed my perception in life. Truly humbled and fortunate to have had this experience, and to share it with others.

    1. Renee Tawater's Avatar Renee Tawater

      Oddly comforted as deep down i knew i had witnessed my grandfather on his death bed, and in essence, was there with him. And in that, he was not alone.

  1. Veni Priya's Avatar Veni Priya

    Empathic death experience is no coincidence. I have experienced it myself. On an afternoon in 1999,while having lunch in my university campus 300 miles away from my grandad's home, I suddenly had a very strong intuition. My granpa is going to pass away today! And I was shocked with my own intuition and feeling. It was a very sure feeling. I have never experienced anything like that in my life. And as I continued eating, my friend asked if I want to join her for a movie. I would never say no to an invitation like that, but this time, I just blurted out, "I am not feeling good. I want to go back to my hostel." In the hostel, time was ticking very slow. I checked my handphone and there was no miss call. I wanted to know how are things back in my granpa's place. So I decided to casually call an aunt who is staying in a different town from me and granpa. The logic was, if there was anything important, she would probably know it. As I called her up casually, she answered and spoke for a while and then said, "hey, I just got a phone call saying that granpa is serious. I am leaving to see him now." All I thought was, "he has not passed away yet"... Then I just had an evening nap. Got up at around 5, checked handphone, no misscalls. Then I left to the lecture hall for a 2 hr class scheduled that evening. Came back at night and checked the handphone again. Had 30+ misscalls from relatives all over the and few unread messages. And I knew, that my dear grandpa has passed away. :-(

  1. Leucos Lilith S3 Suspension Light's Avatar Leucos Lilith S3 Suspension Light

    Leucos Lilith S3 Suspension Light

    Place decorative pieces out of the way, this is not the time be arranging your collections

  1. Cave Mould's Avatar Cave Mould

    I`m not a religious or spiritual person in particular. I am more scientific minded, but I also believe the universe is way more complex than we imagine. Here is my anecdotal story, for what it is worth. About 3 or 4 years ago, I participated in a barbecue event in a town where I used to live, where my family were present, and several people who were relations of the person carrying out the barbecue. This person was a friend of my wife and I did not really know him. I drank his beer, ate his food, and admired his ramshackle garden constructions and made a minor mental note of how untidy his house was but how he had a lot of friends. He lived in a rural area. After the barbecue, I never visited the guy again, and never spoke to him. I don't use social media, and similarly, my wife never mentioned him or his family. There was nothing particularly memorable about the event, and in general, my recollection of previous events in my life are infrequent. 3 or 4 years pass and I don't give the guy a second thought. Not one. I am walking home from work and I find myself recalling the barbecue, and trying to remember where it was and who it was with, whether it was with my wife, or from a time earlier in my life. Nothing particular triggered this memory, I walk the same route every day. It just popped into my head. I just found myself mentally drawn to that particular time-stamp in my history. More, trying to remember the event, than trying to picture the scene itself and the details. An hour later I arrive home. 30 minutes later my wife is talking with her friend on the phone, who is friends of the person who held the barbecue. She was saying "that is sad etc" and I found out someone had died. My wife told me the guy from the barbecue had returned to his original country some years ago, and had died of heart attack. I asked when he died and she asked to the friend when it happened and she told me "about one hour and a half ago". So, you tell me. What are the chances of that being a co-incidence... that in 4 years or so I don't give the guy a second thought, and on the exact moment he dies, I find myself reminded of the one time I met him, for no reason at all.

    1. Matt's Avatar Matt

      This happened many years ago. My mother collapsed on a holiday suddenly with no sign of illness, when she returned home she discovered that her own mother had died suddenly after collapsing from a heart attack. It turns out the shared collapse had happened on the same day and at almost the same time of day!

  1. CT's Avatar CT

    I certainly experienced this with the tsunami that took so many lives Christmas morning. I experienced drowning and struggling to survive at least 7 times while that tragedy was happening. I was on a different continent and didn't know what was happening to me. I was so exhausted when it finally ended and so mad. I didn't know what had happened to me and it was Christmas morning with my baby girl. I didn't know of the tsunami until a week later because I never watched the news. It was and is a real phenomenon. I still don't understand what my purpose was. But my mom had haunting dreams for almost 2 years of a great disaster and the only thing she could take from them was the name Sumatra. Which of course resulted in very little on a Google search before this disaster.

  1. Kate's Avatar Kate

    I had a very bizarre incident occur in July of 1987. On a beautiful Saturday afternoon, out of nowhere, I had the undeniable feeling that I was dying and would not live to see the following Saturday. This feeling persisted and became so bad that on Monday, I went to my doctor, who checked me and said I was not dying (I was a very healthy 32 year old) and that somehow it must be psychological. He prescribed me anti-anxiety meds. Monday afternoon I called our local crisis center that dealt with suicides, etc. and the woman there gave me the phone number of a psychiatric counselor. I met with the woman Monday evening and we talked for 2 hours. She was very lovely and she assured me that it was some unresolved psychological issue, and I was not dying. The following day, Tuesday, the feelings were still persisting. That evening around 6 PM I went to the local grocery store, when very suddenly, the feeling of dying just went away. I felt a palpable weight lift off my shoulders. Just like that! I was relieved I wasn't dying. Then...… two days later, Thursday, my dad happened to bring home a newspaper from another part of the state where we had lived 20 years earlier, when I was still a child. He was reading the obituaries when he suddenly told me he saw the obituary of my dearest, first childhood friend. He had died on Tuesday. His funeral was to be on Friday. My mother and I attended. His parents were surprised to see us, and asked how were we notified. It was such a fluke that my father had bought that paper. Apparently my friend, who I hadn't seen or talked to in 20 years since we moved, had become very sick in the preceding several months; unfortunately, he would never recover. I do believe that my friend's energy was traveling in the last days before he died, and that is why I felt as if I would be dead very soon. The feeling went away suddenly on Tuesday, the day he passed.... and I was able to attend his funeral. I will cherish that experience for the rest of my life.

  1. Ryane's Avatar Ryane

    On a recent evening, I became very sad and decided to go for a drive. I found myself obsessively thinking about a boy I knew from high school, my first true love. He had been recovering from a serious injury for several months, but was making progress and improving.

    On the drive I started weeping uncontrollably. Part of me imagined myself driving 600 miles to pay a visit to him, even though I hadn't seen him in 20 years, and our relationship didn't end well. For some reason, I felt the need to care for him.

    The drive was peaceful and beautiful. I saw herds of deer running everywhere.

    I returned home, still crying, and had a long talk with my husband about how lonely I felt. I kept flashing back to the emotional connection I had with my first love.

    I woke up to a text from someone who was close to my high school boyfriend. It read, "please call me." I knew immediately that he was dead. I called him back and he said "**** died last night."

    I don't know how to explain it.

  1. Vicky L Johnson's Avatar Vicky L Johnson

    The day my son died, I found myself praying the same prayer over and over like a broken record for GOD to please send his mighty Arc Angels to protect my son John . I even stopped and asked myself why I was repeating myself and felt a bit guilty for not including my other son in my prayer.. Then I was JOLTED up from a deep sleep later that night, crying and trembling, but had not had a night mare. I looked at the clock it was 11:32 p.m. I received a phone call at 12:40 a.m. saying my son John had been in a horrible car accident and he was deceased. The coroners report listed his tume of death to be at 11:58. The time the police had arrived at the scene and found him. He actually transitioned at 11:32, and I know this to be true... I just wish I would have maybe paid closer attention to what God was trying to tell me earlier that day, and maybe could have stopped him from going anywhere that evening...

  1. Amy Wingate's Avatar Amy Wingate

    My father was in the hospital, the family knew he was coming to the end of this part of the journey. I visited him on the Sunday prior, at the time I was an about 2 hours away. The following Wednesday I decided to go shopping around noon. The driveway was long and gravel. When I reached the top, I just stopped. I can’t explain the sensation, for about 20 seconds I could not move, then I cried for no apparent reason. The crying only lasted a minute and I felt overwhelming tired and kinda motion sick. I drove back to the house and told my boyfriend I had to lay down that I was suddenly feeling unwell. I woke 45m-1hr later with 4 voicemails. My Dad had passed. This will sound crazy but the day after I started craving brown liquor. I don’t drink but I really wanted a plain shot of liquor. My Dad was an alcoholic, when he turned 50 he went to treatment and remained sober the rest of this life. Subsequently the urge went away a few days later. At a social function a month later I had a Crown and coke to see what would happen. It was amazing, I did not feel guilty or afraid of alcohol for the first time in my life and I am almost 50. It completely relaxed me. And 1 was all I had.

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