Thank you for "Supporting a Patient After a Near-Death Experience" (April 2007).* As a hospice, palliative medicine, and oncology chaplain for 20 years, I'm a different person because of those I've met who've told me about a near-death experience (NDE).
When someone has had an NDE, I ask, "How does this experience make you feel?"-or, better yet, "What does this experience mean to you?" Most patients want to talk about this meaning, and they need our unconditional attention. I also invite them to share their story with their family.
I've found that terminally ill people who'd experienced an NDE earlier in life approach their impending death and the afterlife with a sense of relief and eager anticipation. They'll still grieve the coming separation from others, but they also speak with certainty about a life beyond this one. This is true for both people who consider themselves religious and those who don't. So when patients who've received a terminal diagnosis make certain statements or look eager, I ask if they've had an experience that prepares them for what's ahead. Most pause and then tell me their NDE story.
STEVEN RICE, MDIV, BCC
* Individual subscribers can access this article free online at http://www.nursing2007.com. [Context Link]