This thesis aims to identify challenging aftereffects of near-death experiences (NDEs), to explore how these are lived by near-death experiencers (NDErs), and to study the impacts of these challenging aftereffects on psychological wellbeing. This thesis also aims to identify what aids integration of these aftereffects, particularly so that when NDErs come to mental health professionals for help, these professionals have a framework with which to work. Per a review of the literature, there has been research on certain aspects of NDEs in relation to wellbeing, such as satisfaction with life or post-traumatic growth, but not as looking at factors that make up psychological wellbeing as a whole. Furthermore, the literature review identified only two studies which mapped challenging aftereffects with limited information on how the data were analyzed. Thus, a mixed-method study was developed to identify challenging NDE aftereffects and examine further the impact of these on wellbeing.
A questionnaire utilizing the NDE Scale, multiple choice questions measuring wellbeing outcomes, and open response questions to further describe how challenges were experienced by participants was employed. The quantitative analysis discovered that the deeper the NDE, particularly if the NDE had a transcendental component, the more someone reports positive long-term changes in mood. It also identified that the more an NDEr reports positive changes in one’s current sense of happiness and life satisfaction, the more one reports ongoing positive changes in their perception of life’s purpose, social relationships, and mood. The analysis also presented the finding that people who had their NDE when they were teenagers or children report more struggles socially than compared to people who had their NDEs as adults.
The thematic content analysis conducted on the written answers from the questionnaire illuminated the variety of psychological changes following an NDE and categorized them as negative, neutral, and positive depending on how the participants presented them. However, the thematic content analysis also showcased how even if changes are viewed positively, this does not negate the fact they could still be challenging to accommodate. For instance, the majority of participants discussed how discovering their life’s purpose through their NDE was a positive thing but trying to live their life’s purpose was often a struggle, particularly when, for example, they could not easily change jobs without sacrificing financial stability for their family.
Interviews to further illuminate challenges experienced by the participants were conducted and analyzed via interpretative phenomenological analysis. The analysis showcased key themes while presenting and respecting the subtle nuances of each interviewee’s personal experience. Each theme had at least two subthemes: Relationship with Reality – “life is temporary; we are forever,” and, “life is an assignment/has purpose;” Relationship with NDE/Its Aftereffects – “community/sharing the experience,” and “time to comprehend the/live with it;” Relationship with Self – “strong sense of responsibility for/of Self,” and, “pursued integration/development;” and lastly, Relationship with Other People – “being compassionate with boundaries,” “family/friend support,” and “loneliness/hard to relate with other people.” These themes/subthemes were then placed within the framework of the Six-Factor Model of psychological wellbeing as a way to gauge how certain aftereffects impact wellbeing.
This thesis is the first research to map challenges caused by NDEs using a multi-method approach involving statistical analysis, thematic analysis, content analysis, and interview examined via interpretative phenomenological analysis. It is also the first to frame these challenges within a wellbeing model. The findings of this thesis have pragmatic uses, particularly for mental health professionals when working with NDErs. It adds to the clinical as well as the parapsychological, thanatological, and health literature.