From the Vault: Shared Journeys to the Afterlife

October 3, 2022
Experience & Engagement Team

Shared passing, or Shared Death Experience (SDE), is an experience in which loved ones, caregivers, or people in the proximity of the dying person feel they are sharing the dying person’s transition to a benevolent afterlife. And as we’ll see, these people don’t need to be in the same room as the transitioning person! 

Why study Shared Death Experiences?

Just like with other phenomena related to the survival of consciousness, the point of studying SDEs is to understand the associated therapeutic benefits. 

IONS invited William Peters (M.A., M. Ed., and MFT) and Peter Fenwick (M.D.) who are both involved in researching SDEs for an interesting webinar in the ConnectIONS Live series. This webinar is from the IONS membership vault – IONS members have access to the full library of webinars to watch anytime. 

Peters is the founder of the Shared Crossing Project where over 200 cases have been studied. The findings in the webinar refer to this project.

Shared Journeys to the Afterlife: Recap

Here’s a summary of what the Shared Journeys to the Afterlife webinar covered! Watch the full webinar to get the whole story and listen to the discussion and Q&A at the end – as well as first-hand recounts by SDE participants.

The Concept of Passing – Different from Mainstream Medicine

Around the 14-minute mark, William Peters talks about how death is not happening in an instant, as science suggests, but rather over a time span of several hours. Multiple phenomena take place on different timescales before and after death:

Approaching death

  • Pre-death premonitions 
  • Pre-death visions and visitations 
  • Terminal lucidity

Before and after:

  • Shared-Death Experiences
  • Synchronicities


  • Direct post-death communication
  • Post-death visions and visitations

The time span for these phenomena varies between the investigated cases. On average, they take place a year before and a year after death.

Pre-death visions and visitations often start a few weeks before the precise moment of death. During these experiences, a familiar person on the other side – or an unknown person or being – shows up to help prepare the dying person. 

Terminal lucidity refers to people who are severely ill and mentally absent (for example, in dementia) but suddenly speak clearly and cohesively just before passing. 

At fifteen minutes into the video, Peters explains how the reported apparitions (seeing a person or being) started one week before the passing, spiked at death, and lasted one year after. That’s why it’s often referred to as a journey rather than a single instance. 

Who Is Likely to Have a Shared Death Experience?

Peters highlights how the quality of the relationships seems to be proportional to the intensity of the experience. Healthcare workers who reported having a particular bond to the dying person were experiencing SDEs more frequently than workers lacking that closeness. 

Similarly, family members and loved ones were involved more frequently than acquaintances. Perhaps a sign that the likelihood of an SDE is proportional to the closeness of the vibrational frequency between the surviving and the dying person.

Different Types of Shared Death Experiences

There seem to be two main types of SDEs:

  • Bedside, where the person is physically present with the dying
  • Remote, where the person is not by the bedside

To the latter counts fly-by, which is a fleeting farewell where a distant loved one feels what has happened before knowing. 

There are four participatory modes of an SDE, describing the degree/type of involvement of the living person

1.  Remotely sensing a death (~25%)

  • Brief thoughts, feelings, or sense of presence around the time of death 
  • Sudden onset of sympathetic physical symptoms 

2.  Witnessing unusual phenomena

3.  Accompanying the dying

4.  Assisting the dying in the transition

We’ll look into each one of these categories.

The first one, remotely sensing a death, occurs as fleeting thoughts, feelings, or a sudden sense of presence of the person around the time of death. Oftentimes, the living person was not aware of the imminent passing.

Or, in more rare cases, the living person experiences a sudden onset of physical symptoms mimicking that of the dying. For example, a sharp headache in response to someone passing away from a head-related illness or injury. 

As tragic as they may be, these experiences – especially if better studied and verified – are very strong suggestions for the survival of consciousness since the materialistic worldview fails to explain them. For more details on this, watch the video around the 17-minute mark.

Phenomena Reported around Shared Passing 

25 minutes into the video, Peters gives a breakdown of the unusual phenomena witnessed during SDEs (the second of the four participatory modes described above). The two most common were a vision of the dying, appearing in 51% of the cases, followed by seeing transcendent light in 25% of the cases. 

Regarding the third category, accompanying the dying, the living person described it as ineffable and somehow more real than reality. The scenery was often described as natural landscapes or otherworldly regions. 

The experience often ended with the perception of a border that the experiencer was not allowed to pass. 

He also describes the category of experiences related to assisting the dying. These events are similar to accompaniment – in addition, the participants reported feeling that the dying required their help with transitioning.

We get to hear the story of Mark. He was in the US while his father passed away in Canada. 

Mark reported having a special connection with his dad. He experienced an SDE that can be categorized as assisting the dying. In the experience, he had a telepathic encounter where he told his father, who was hospitalized, that everyone was going to be alright. He then felt his father replying “I don’t know how to do this”. 

Intuitively, Mark knew what he had to do: he visualized walking up a staircase to the light together with this father. As they approached the doorway at the top, they were greeted by Mark’s grandmother, surrounded by incredible luminosity. 

Mark noticed the joy in his father’s face as he hugged his beloved mother. His father looked at him saying “I didn’t know that it was this easy”. At this point, he knew his work was done. 

Moments after, the phone rang – it was Mark’s brother delivering the news that their dad had passed away. “I know”, Mark replied.

Shared Passing and The Conductor 

About 37 minutes into the video, we are told about The Conductor. The Conductor is a being sometimes perceived – seen or sensed – in SDEs. It seems to be orchestrating or facilitating the transition.

The Conductor may appear in different forms – as an angel, a previously deceased person, or an unknown figure. 

The surviving person reported feeling a sense of purpose surrounding The Conductor. They appeared to be focused on aiding the transition, aware that they had an essential role in assisting the dying to the afterlife.

Reported Aftereffects of Shared Death Experiences

Over to the point of all this research: what were the major SDE aftereffects reported in the participating living person?

The most common was the conviction of an afterlife, in 87% of the cases. SDEs also helped believe that the deceased person was well. The experiences were said to help with grief reconciliation, reduced fear of death, and renewed life purpose. Some pretty remarkable factors behind increased well-being! Watch the video around 43 minutes to see more.

Some Remarkable Findings

Peters shares some remarkable findings regarding SDEs. As many as 64% reported that the SDE happened remotely – an impressive figure since previous studies have focused more on bedside SDEs. 

64% of the participants were engaged in a regular meditative activity, such as prayer, yoga, or meditation. This may suggest that increased openness to noetic phenomena facilitates SDEs.

Similarities between Shared Death Experiences and Near Death Experiences

Finally, we look at how SDEs suggest the survival of consciousness beyond human death and the link between SDEs and Near Death Experiences (NDEs). This is covered about 45 minutes into the webinar.

Among the strongest evidence for the survival of consciousness suggested by SDEs is that remote SDEs often occur in people unaware of imminent death. 

SDEs and NDEs share many common traits, such as encounters with spirit beings, perception of a transcendent light (often described as much brighter than any earthly light), life reviews, and feelings of unity. The presence of a tunnel or gateway as well as a border or boundary that the person can’t (yet) cross is also reported in both experiences.

The main difference is that NDEs occur in people who are actually physically close to death.  SDEs occur with healthy caregivers and loved ones. 

Due to this difference, SDEs can be seen as validating NDEs since SDEs occur in physiologically healthy humans. The experiences cannot be dismissed as a “dying brain” phenomenon as is sometimes an argument against NDEs as suggesting the survival of consciousness. This also supports the idea that consciousness is a fundamental rather than emergent property: if consciousness were produced in the brain, SDEs would be hard to explain. SDEs also support non-local consciousness since most of the studied cases were remote. 

A comforting feeling that the loved ones are well 

Another feature of SDEs is that experiencers “see” the deceased in the afterlife – not just at the moment of dying but once they have passed. They are often perceived as being “alive and well”. In many instances, experiencers have watched a “welcoming party” by already deceased loved ones. It can bring soothing and comforting feelings beyond what words can convey.

Final remarks 

Despite the promising evidence that SDEs provide for the survival of consciousness, we need to stay humble and remember that these phenomena are just beginning to be studied. SDEs are still largely a mystery.

What is real is the positive aftereffects the experiences offer to loved ones. Peters argues that because of this, learning about SDEs should be standard in high school curriculum. 

If you’re curious about SDEs, IONS has an upcoming ConnectIONS Live on October 28th where Helané Wahbeh, IONS Director of Research, will discuss Earth Bound Spirits. ConnectIONS Live are free for everyone.

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