Our time on Earth is but a heartbeat in the eternal scheme of creation, and yet it is the crucial moment of truth, the turning point. It determines how our spirits will exist forever.
—Angie Fenimore 1, NDEr and suicide survivor.
Suicide is not a trivial problem. For example, America 2 is losing around 38000 people to suicide each year.
The World Health Organisation 3 reported in 2013 that:
The NDEs of Suicides
People who have attempted suicide and who have had NDEs report them to have been unpleasant in the main. Here are a couple of typical examples.
Cardiologist Maurice Rawlings 4 quoted a despondent fourteen-year-old girl who had swallowed a bottle of aspirin:
At the time she kept saying, ‘Mama, help me! Make them let go of me! They’re trying to hurt me!’
The doctors tried to apologise for hurting her, but she said it wasn’t the doctors, but ‘Them! Those demons in Hell, they wouldn’t let go of me, they wanted me. I couldn’t get back. It was just awful…’
After the various tubes were removed, I asked her to recall what had happened. She remembered taking the aspirin, but absolutely nothing else! Somewhere in her mind the events may still be suppressed…
She subsequently became a missionary several years later. No despondency. I am told that everywhere she goes she brings exuberance – a contagious feeling.
A medical associate of Dr Maurice Rawlings 4 provides another ‘standard’ account.
At the height of his success no one could have known he was so despondent.
He told me he was searching for more than life had to offer. I didn’t understand him myself. I should have listened because that night I was called to his home in Beverly Hills and found him on the floor with a bullet wound through his mouth.
He revived to consciousness and responded to resuscitation for a while before he died. I asked him if he hurt. He shook his head – No. I told him we were going to try to save him. He nodded in agreement. His last words were, ‘I’m scared! Don’t let me go back to Hell! I can see it now.’
I don’t know what he saw.
Why are the NDEs of suicides generally unpleasant? Only God knows – but we can conjecture.
A possible reason is that the majority of suicides will have been in a traumatised emotional and psychological state when trying to kill themselves, and this state alone may have led them into the Void or some other appropriate section of the Prison for a season of reflection.
There may also be a spiritual explanation for unpleasant NDEs. Thomas Aquinas 5 argued that life is a gift from God, and that it is not man’s prerogative to take it back, but God’s alone. Scripture supports his thoughts by indicating that there is an allotted time to die:
There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under Heaven – a time to give birth and a time to die (Ecclesiastes 3:1,2).
All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16).
While mankind does not have the capacity to increase a lifespan at will, by a free will choice to commit suicide he can shorten it. Consequently, suicide goes against God’s allotted purposes. Moving outside the natural order like this may consign a spirit into a ‘holding’ situation in the Prison.
Suffering and Suicide
This leads us into an ethical minefield. Shouldn’t a disturbed or suffering person have the societal right to take his or her own life? Regardless of our opinions, it appears unwise to do so, especially looking at the unpleasant experiences of NDErs. It seems that there is a difference between what is allowed or possible because of free will, and what is a preferred or appropriate choice to make in God’s eyes.
Contrary to some popular opinion, suffering is not a sufficient reason in scripture for suicide. Paul suffered greatly for the cause of Christ to the point of despair, as in 2Corinthians 1:8, ‘We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself’. Yet he did not commit suicide, later dying a martyr’s death in Rome.
Alice Morrison-Mays 6 provides us with a modern example. Her NDE happened in 1952 and she was never free of pain thereafter. She also became wheelchair bound in later life. Nonetheless, she advised time and again that, ‘There’s still a quality of life available. You just have to be open enough to explore it. You can empower yourself.’
Try questioning from scriptural precedents whether suffering may have importance and even value – did Jesus suffer? Did Father God use this? Did the disciples suffer? Did God use this? Did the early church suffer? Did God use this? No wonder that in the 2nd-century Tertullian 7 wrote that ‘the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church,’ implying that the martyrs’ pain and death by murder, not suicide, led to the conversion to Christ of multitudes of others. That process has continued throughout history and continues in the present day, primarily in certain religious-extremist countries.
On a personal level, although none of us likes or welcomes it, suffering has a role to play in life. In Romans 5:3-5 we see a sequence of learning and growth in suffering endured with prayer and determination:
We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance produces character; and character; hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
NDEs reinforce that every individual has a destiny to fulfil and a ‘mission’ to complete on Earth. Suicide can be a selfish act that prevents personal growth and causes mission failure, to the detriment of others.
If God has consigned a suicide to an unpleasant NDE, and they have received insights from this before returning, it can be a positive turning point in their life. Here are some observations made by PMH Atwater 6:
Near-death survivors from suicide attempts can and often do return with the same sense of mission that any other experiencer of the phenomenon reports. And that mission is usually to tell other potential victims that suicide is not the answer.
For example, this young man (he asked not to be identified) told me: ‘Since then, suicide has never crossed my mind as a way out. It’s a cop-out to me and not the way to Heaven. I wish you luck in your research and hope my experience will help stop someone from taking his own life. It is a terrible waste.’
Suicide near-death episodes can lay to rest problems and conflicts, explain away confusions, and emphasize the need to remain embodied.
Experiencers usually return with a feeling that suicide solves nothing, and they are notably renewed and refreshed by that feeling, using their near-death event as a source of courage, strength, and inspiration.
But not all suicide scenarios are positive.
Some are negative, and these can be so negative that they upset the individual more than the original problem that precipitated the suicide. This kind of devastation can be transforming if used as a catalyst to help that person make the kind of changes that comprise constructive, long-term solutions. Such changes can come from an inner awakening, or from the fear that what was experienced may indeed herald the individual’s final fate if something is not done to turn things around.
‘Penalties’ for Suicide
Raymond Moody’s 8 early writings led many to suppose that all NDERs who attempted suicide had unpleasant afterlife experiences. Dr Moody had only a few cases of suicide-induced NDEs to study, and in each case the NDE was characterized as being nasty. Subsequent examples however show this is not always the case, even though the majority of suicides appear to experience unpleasant NDEs. Moody’s analysis nevertheless remains important. He went on to note that returnees reported suicide to be a very undesirable act that might incur a ‘penalty’. This penalty for an act of suicide might include witnessing the suffering this act had caused. In addition, he found that suicide-NDErs agreed their deaths would have solved nothing, and strongly disavowed suicide as a means of returning to the afterlife existence. Overall, the feelings of personal torment became magnified in the afterlife. The majority stated very strongly that they would not consider suicide again.
The implication was: ‘If you leave here a tormented soul, you will be a tormented soul over there too.’ Not only did the problems persist that had precipitated the suicide attempt, but also once in the disembodied state, the subjects were unable personally to do anything about it. Our sample base, however, has expanded in recent years.
Pleasant experiences after Suicide
Deborah Weiler’s 9 description of her encounter with God is ecstatic. Her suicide attempt did not originate in feeling unloved or undervalued, factors in most other suicide attempts. ‘I was loved, treasured, sought after as a friend and cherished – but I had just killed myself. To walk a path so dark that you seek death I wish on no one. I will not judge another’s path home. I can only continue to try to walk mine.’ She took her life in 1984, age 29 years. Here is a shortened version of her memories of God:
All I could see was this huge, brilliant light. All I could feel was love, rolling over me as sunlight warms my skin through on a windy day. I felt examined by it. I focused all my attention on it. What I learned next amazed me. I discovered that the glowing, golden globe of light was alive. It was a ‘self’. It was a living being. We were the same! We were both living beings! This felt like a huge revelation; ‘Hey, it’s another soul!’ It was huge, loving and powerful, strong and gentle all at the same time.
I felt the power the Being appeared to generate and that was sent out from it. It was like standing in the sunlight but, instead of sunshine, LOVE warmed you through to your centre…
Then came to me the first hint of truly understanding the meaning of the word ‘grace’. That Being knew all of everything I ever was and [nevertheless] loved me… Small, confused, dead by my own hand, I was cherished and loved! I was precious to it. I responded to that with my own thoughts to it of my joy in the peace, love and total acceptance it was giving me. I tried to love it back with my little self.
The Being knew I loved it and that I was thankful for its love of me. Then it loved me more. I loved it more. A cycle of pure love between us grew.
Deborah’s experiences in Paradise were effective in turning her life around.
Dr Richard Kent reports the account of Henrietta 10 who committed suicide in the UK, after being jilted by her boyfriend. She met with God in a pleasant venue during her NDE.
I did not see Jesus, only God Almighty. I do not know what He looked like because there was just this warmth and light. Then He spoke and greeted me, and I just said, ‘Hi.’ His next words may sound funny, but I did not think so then. ‘You are early’, He said, to which I responded that I knew, and I was sorry. God then asked me what I was doing there, as it was not my time. Such was His Love that I poured out my heart and told Him I could not go on any longer because I could not stand the pain. ‘I know you cannot,’ He responded, ‘but you cannot come home yet… there are people you need to speak to.’
Although it was brightness in front of me, behind was just darkness. I turned and saw a group of people. Actually it was more like two small circles standing in the form of a figure of eight. God showed me that these people were going to Hell if I did not speak to them. There was no argument on my part; I knew He was telling the truth. I turned round to them again and pleaded with God not to send them to Hell, but to send someone else to speak to them instead of me.
His reply was, ‘I cannot. You are going to have to do it.’
Such an unexpected response from God intimated to Henrietta that her life had an unfulfilled purpose. This suggests that suicide can interfere with the purposes of God and even prevent his perfect will being accomplished. He had chosen Henrietta to speak to those she saw in the vision, who otherwise might be amongst the eternally lost (Matthew 7:14).
I knew there was no arguing over this. I knew that there would be a time when I would speak to these people. Whatever it was I had to say, or whenever it was, or whether I would actually lead them to God, I really did not know. All I knew was that it was my job, and no one else could do this.
As I turned, saying I agreed to go back, it hit me just what I was going back to, and again I told God that I could not go back because I could not stand the pain…
After her return, Henrietta discovered that she had been pregnant at the time of her attempted suicide, and it dawned on her that had she died then of course the baby would have died too. She believes the second group of people she saw during her interview with God, the second circle forming the ‘figure of 8’, are those to whom her child rather than herself will speak. It comforts her to believe that while her child was conceived in distressing circumstances, God’s love and plans pertain to that child none-the-less:
My daughter is now just turned 11, and she has brought so many people to know Jesus, it is amazing. Every time she tells me about someone else she has spoken to, I jump for joy – because I remember that group.
Some pleasant NDEs have been in people where mental illness led to the suicide. Where mental illness derives from a physical disorder of the brain, it ceases at death, in the same way that blind or deaf people have their brain-centred senses restored in the spirit world. Similarly with those who were suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions caused by a malfunctioning of the brain: their imperfect brains have been left on Earth, and they taste a new beginning.
We might speculate about those whose life ends through euthanasia or assisted suicide. As yet I have seen no accounts by any returnees to help me explore afterlife experiences of those who make this choice or have it made for them. Of interest, Holland was the first country in the world in the year 2000 to legalise euthanasia and cardiologist Pim van Lommel 10 is their most prominent NDE researcher. Convinced now regarding the afterlife and the survival of the consciousness, he has cautioned 11:
The conclusion that consciousness can be experienced independently of brain function might well induce a huge change in the scientific paradigm in western medicine, and could have practical implications in actual medical and ethical problems such as the care for comatose or dying patients, euthanasia, abortion, and the removal of organs for transplantation from somebody in the dying process with a beating heart in a warm body but a diagnosis of brain death.
There are still more questions than answers, but, based on the aforementioned theoretical aspects of the obviously experienced continuity of our consciousness, we finally should consider the possibility that death, like birth, may well be a mere passing from one state of consciousness to another.
It appears that, one way or another, many NDErs do not escape the consequences of their suicide. Dr George Ritchie 12 describes seeing, during his NDE, the anguished Earth-bound spirits of suicide victims.
In one house a younger man followed an older one from room to room.
‘I’m sorry, Pa!’ he kept saying. ’I didn’t know what it would do to Mama! I didn’t understand.’
But though I could hear him clearly, it was obvious that the man he was speaking to could not. The old man was carrying a tray into a room where an elderly woman sat in bed.
‘I’m sorry, Pa,’ the young man said again. ‘I’m sorry, Mama.’
Endlessly, over and over, to ears that could not hear.
Several times we paused before similar scenes –
A boy trailing a teenaged girl through the corridors of a school:
‘I’m sorry, Nancy!’
A middle-aged woman begging a gray-haired man to forgive her.
‘What are they so sorry for, Jesus?’ I pleaded. ‘Why do they keep talking to people who can’t hear them?’
Then from the light beside me came the thought:
‘They are suicides, chained to every consequence of their act.’
These scenes shook up Ritchie and remained etched in his memory. When later contemplating suicide himself, he knew that no situation on Earth was worth the misery of those spirits that he had witnessed during his NDE. Nor had they escaped from their situations as they had hoped; instead, they had become chained to them.
It is noteworthy that this unpleasant experience seen by Ritchie did not take part in the Void or another Prison section of Hades. It involved an Earth-bound experience, although the sense of captivity was almost as great.
Some suicides begin with an unpleasant NDE that changes venues as lessons are learnt within it. Tamara Laroux’s 13 NDE illustrates this process.
Tamara, as a troubled 15-year-old, shot herself. She called out ‘God forgive me!’ just before pulling the trigger.
She went first to the Prison section of Hades and experienced the torment there, becoming a ‘being of fear and pain’. She felt total isolation despite being amongst a sea of thousands of others, because she perceived that they were all experiencing feelings similar to her own. Just by looking at someone, she could sense his or her thoughts, feelings of hopelessness, and details of earlier sins and behaviours. Then a giant hand scooped her out of that place and carried her over a yawning gulf separating Prison from Paradise.
Why had she been rescued from the Prison? She supposes because of her desperate cry to God as she pulled the trigger.
Other suicides may be moved from one section of the Prison to another. A number describe beginning in the Void before moving on to a section apparently designed specifically for suicides. We find both venues described by Annabel Chaplin 14. She states that suicides are in the Void for a very long time, before moving on to a ‘Land of Despair’. She describes this as an alien and strange place enveloped by a dull, heavy foreboding.
Victims resided in the still air, completely bent over with their heads buried in mud and covered with dark shrouds. There was no communication with the victims immersed in their own bleak world of gloom and who were unaware of anything but their self-imposed misery – perhaps this was ‘his own place’ to which Judas was consigned (Acts 1:25). New arrivals were powerless to reverse their descent to this awful place, even as they recognized their fate and struggled against it.
Annabel hoped that the souls who had repented ‘long enough’ would fulfil their need for repentance and could eventually find their way back to the light. We would all join her in that hope.
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