Liz Dale, Ph.D. (www.lizdale.org) is a clinical psychologist whose expertise is near-death experience (NDE) research within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. In August of 1996, Dr. Dale attended an annual conference of the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS) in Oakland, California. One of the speakers was discussing a small research project she had completed on AIDS and cancer patients who had NDEs. The speaker mentioned that no research existed on the NDE within the gay community and encouraged researchers in the IANDS community to think about doing some research in this area. Dr. Dale left the conference motivated to work on a study in San Francisco, her current residence. Upon looking for literature dealing with NDEs in the gay community, Dr. Dale found that no studies existed. So she contacted the LGBT community through a popular local newspaper asking for participants who would rise to the challenge of being among the first individuals to participate in such a study. She also ran an ad in the IANDS monthly magazine, Vital Signs, looking for participants among the IANDS membership. In the fall of 1997, her IANDS support group began face-to-face discussions of their NDEs with some group members having never shared their experiences before. They discussed ways their NDE had affected their lives and encouraged all newcomers to come forward with anything they felt comfortable sharing. Having group support for experiencers of NDEs is incredibly liberating as they feel their amazing stories are being listened to at a very deep level. After over a two-year period looking for participants, more than thirty people came forward with their stories. Her support group decided to publish these amazing stories and her study their NDEs — the first study of NDEs in the LGBT community.
1. Liz Dale’s Book “Crossing Over and Coming Home”
Dr. Dale published her findings in her book entitled, “Crossing Over and Coming Home: Twenty-One Authors Discuss the Gay Near-Death Experience as Spiritual Transformation” (Emerald Ink Publications, 2000), an excerpt from which captures the essence of her research and the intensely personal and profound nature of the stories people have shared with her:
“And then I felt the presence of Jesus Christ all around me.. And I asked him, ‘Do I really have to go back?’… Then Christ said that he would send me guardian angels to aid me in my healing, and to guide and protect me.. I awakened to find two men kneeling over me, with expressions of apprehension and concern on both their faces. For some reason I felt that they might be gay men.. I felt very strongly that both men symbolized what would prove to be a succession of “angels” that Christ had promised to send me.” (a gay man’s NDE in Liz Dale’s book, “Crossing Over & Coming Home”)
Pamela Kirsher, M.D., another NDE research and author of the book “Love Is The Link,” had this revealing insight about Dale’s book:
“People in the gay community have been close to death on so many occasions since the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic that they have become the natural experts on NDEs in our time. Because they not only had NDEs themselves, but are also surrounded by other people who have had NDEs. These communities are becoming a prototype of what communities might be. We are acutely aware of our own mortality and live from the values learned in an NDE. Dr. Liz Dale’s compilation of NDE stories from the gay community is a welcome and timely addition to the NDE literature. Her rersearch into NDEs in the gay community is groundbreaking.” (Pamela Kirsher, M.D.)
The following are more insights from LGBT NDErs from Dr. Dale’s study and book “Crossing Over and Coming Home”:
“Most people who have an NDE return not only with their personal lives changed, but also return (with) a special purpose to carry out. The mission given to me is in three parts: one is to tell people who are dying or who have already passed over that there is truly nothing to fear. We only shed our bodies like a butterfly sheds its cocoon. There is no death. Secondly, fear is a man-made emotion. Thirdly, be very careful of religious leaders or teachers who say that this person or that person will not get into heaven because they are this or that. The law of God is written in each of our hearts … there are many pathways to God.” (Dale, p.26)
For Christians who might object to the above insight should turn to scripture. Because love is the “law of God” (Romans 13:8-10) and “love is God” (1 John 4:7-8;16), this is exactly what Jesus taught others. Love is the way to eternal life (Luke 10:25-28) and Jesus shows “the way” to eternal life — God who is love (John 14:6). Here are more insights into this love who is God:
“This was a God of absolute, unconditional love I communicated with. It had no sex or form. Does love have a gender or physical form on this our human plane? I know now that our spirits will continue when we ‘die’ from this earthly form.” (Dale, p.26)
“I realized life was about risk and openness and honesty. I had been afraid for years of the labels lesbian and gay. I believe now that a nonsexual entity of all love exists for all time for all of us. We are watched over and guided and cared for always. We are never alone before or after death. I believe we are messengers to tell others the path is safe, loving, and (there is) nothing to fear.” (Dale, p. 26)
“I learned that plans existed for me and that I had altered those plans by suicide. I could (or must?) go back. There was much to do. I remember not exactly wanting to leave, but not resisting either. Having seen the other side, I complied agreeably somehow and was imparted with these words, ‘Show them the way.'” (Dale, p. 28)
“In this experience, I have learned I have a purpose, something important. I’m supposed to do for society. I learned that death feels wonderful. I know there is another dimension that I can access if I need to. I feel there is something special about me. At times, I feel like an observer, even when I’m participating. Today, I’m a teacher and it feels like I’m where I’m supposed to be. I fight injustices daily and teach kids to respect each other. I feel like I’m doing my part to ‘heal the world.'” (Dale, p. 27)
2. Liz Dale’s LGBT and Non-Gay NDE Aftereffects Survey
Do you identify as a LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender) who has had a near-death experience (NDE)? Or are you a non-gay (heterosexual) who has had an NDE? Then you might be interested in participating in Dale’s new NDE survey at www.lizdale.org/survey.html which will result in a groundbreaking study and book to be published by Balboa Press, a division of Hay House. Dale is asking anyone — but especially those in the LGBT community — who has had an NDE to participate in her online survey regarding their experience and its consequences. Dale anticipates her new survey will make important contributions to the NDE literature, as well as pave the way for future investigations. The following are the sixteen “Yes/No” questions from her survey and an explanation of the question:
a. LGBT and Non-Gay NDE Aftereffects Survey Questions
- Please select the NDE group to which you belong.
- Were there any changes in your values / attitudes / beliefs since your NDE other than religious / spiritual or afterlife beliefs?
- Were there any changes in your personality since your NDE?
- Were there any changes in your outlook about life and death since your NDE?
- Were there any changes in your religious or spiritual beliefs since your NDE?
- Were there any changes in your relationships / spouse / partner / friends since your NDE?
- Were there any distressing aftereffects from your NDE?
- Were there any changes in your dreams or dream content since your NDE?
- Did you have any problems being around electromagnetic fields since your NDE?
- Were there any changes in sensitivity to light since your NDE?
- Were there any psychological challenges since your NDE?
- Was there any difficulty reintegrating after your NDE?
- Were there any changes in your jobs / school / interests or hobbies?
- Did your I.Q. change after your NDE?
- Did you have any paranormal experiences (e.g. apparitions) since your NDE?
- Were there any changes in your feelings of compassion / caring / loving since your NDE?
Question 1. Please select the NDE group to which you belong.
(1) LGBTQ Near-Death Experiencer OR (2) Non-Gay Near-Death Experiencer
LGBTQ is an acronym for a person’s sexual orientation that stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer. In use since the 1990s, the term is used to replace the term “Gay” because activists within the the LGBT community believed that the term “Gay community” did not accurately represent all those to whom it referred. The acronym LGBTQ is intended to emphasize a diversity of sexuality and gender identity-based cultures. It may also be used to refer to anyone who is non-heterosexual who identify as Queer or are questioning their sexual identity. To recognize this inclusion, a popular variant of LGBT adds the letter Q, as in LGBTQ, which has been recorded since 1996.
Non-Gay is a term applied to a person having a sexual orientation other than homosexual; specifically a person who is heterosexual. The earliest use of the term and it’s origin began in the 1970s as found in acadedmic journal Current Anthropology according to the Oxford Dictionary.
Question 2. Were there any changes in your values / attitudes / beliefs since your NDE other than religious / spiritual or afterlife beliefs?
Such changes have been documented by Dr. Bruce Greyson and Dr. Kenneth Ring who jointly developed a “Life Changes Inventory – Revised” of “Psychological and Behavioral Aftereffects” of NDErs that includes changes in:
- The appreciation for life.
- Concern for others.
- Concern for worldly achievement.
- Concern for social / planetary values.
- Quest for meaning / sense of purpose in life.
Question 3. Were there any changes in your personality since your NDE?
According to this article on Wikipedia, “personality” is defined as: “…one’s characteristic way of feeling, behaving and thinking which is often conceptualized as a person’s standing on each “Big Five” personality trait (1) extraversion; (2) neuroticism; (3) openness to experience; (4) agreeableness; and (5) conscientiousness.
Potential sources of personality change include the impact of social roles on a person (e.g., employment), life stages (e.g., adolescence), and changes during old age. Stressful life events such as negative life experiences, long-term difficulties, and deteriorated life quality, all predict small but persistent increases in neuroticism. On the other hand, positive life events, and improved life quality, predict small but persistent decreases in neuroticism. There appears to be no point during the lifespan that neuroticism is unchanging over time. There are also multiple ways for an individual’s personality to change. The Big Five personality traits are often used to measure change in personality.
According to Harvard professor Phillip L. Berman, there are ten major “personality changes” in people who’ve undergone an NDE:
- An amazing ability to live in the present.
- An abiding sense of deep confidence.
- An immense decreased interest in material possessions.
- Spirituality becomes central and important.
- A much higher natural compassion.
- A strong sense of life’s purpose.
- The sense that all life and love has inherent value.
- An amazing ability to enjoy a high degree of solitude and silence.
- A desire to live a more social, communitarian, participatory form of life.
- A strong sense of wonder and perennial sense of gratitude.
Question 4. Were there any changes in your outlook about life and death since your NDE?
There are changes in NDErs outlook about life and death according to the IANDS.org website:
“The average near-death experiencer comes to regard him or herself as ‘an immortal soul currently resident within a material form so lessons can be learned while sojourning in the earthplane.’ They now know they are not their body… Eventually, the present life, the present body, becomes important and special again.”
- Losing their fear of death.
- Not taking life for granted because life is more precious and a wonderful gift.
- Every human being has a life purpose or mission.
- Having no doubt an afterlife exists.
- Believing suicide is not a good option.
- Learning that social position and wealth are not important.
- Understanding that gaining knowledge and love are the most important things.
Question 5. Were there any changes in your religious or spiritual beliefs since your NDE?
Dr. David San Filippo has pointed out how Dr. Kenneth Ring, in his book Heading Toward Omega: In Search of the Meaning of the Near-Death Experience (1985), documented how many NDEs act as a catalyst toward a spiritual awakening for the NDEr:
“What is noteworthy … is the particular form this spiritual development takes in many NDErs – i.e., the real significance of the NDE here may not be simply that it promotes spiritual growth as much as the kind of spiritual growth it promotes” (p. 144). This awakening appears to move the experiencer toward what Ring (1985) calls a “universalistically spiritual orientation” (p. 145). He defines universalistically spiritual orientation as consisting of:
- A tendency to characterize oneself as spiritual rather than religious, per se.
- A feeling of being inwardly close to God.
- A de-emphasis of the formal aspects of religious life and worship.
- A conviction that there is life after death, regardless of religious belief.
- An openness to the doctrine of reincarnation (and a general sympathy towards eastern religions).
- A belief in the essential underlying unity of all religions.
- A desire for a universal religion embracing all humanity (p. 146).
Question 6. Were there any changes in your relationships / spouse / partner / friends since your NDE?
NDErs may have changes in relationships according to the IANDS.org website:
- They come to love and accept others without the usual attachments and conditions society expects.
- They perceive themselves as equally and fully loving of each and all, openly generous, excited about the potential and wonder of each person they see.
- Their desire is to be a conduit of universal love.
- Confused family members tend to regard this sudden switch in behavior as oddly threatening, as if their loved one had become aloof, unresponsive, even uncaring and unloving.
- Some mistake this “unconditional” way of expressing joy and affection (heart-centered rather than person-centered) as flirtatious disloyalty.
- Divorce can result from this mistake.
Question 7. Were there any distressing aftereffects from your NDE?
Studies have revealed three types of distressing NDEs (dNDEs): (1) “Inverse” dNDEs, where aspects in the dNDE which are found in positive NDEs reported as pleasurable are perceived in the dNDE as threatening; (2) “The Void” dNDEs, existential experiences of vast emptiness, darkness, often a devastating scenario of aloneness, isolation, sometimes negation of being, ego-death; (3) “Hellish” dNDEs, where the NDEr perceives overtly horrifying or hellish imagery often as an observer but sometimes experiences torment.
Responses and aftereffects of dNDEs include:
- An enduring awareness that the physical world is not the full extent of reality.
- Personal life and social relationships are abruptly and permanently overturned.
- Adjusting to a dNDE is similar to culture shock and reactions to a dNDE are often similar to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
- Aftereffects are similar to shamanic pattern of suffering / death / resurrection as an invitation to self-examination, disarrangement of core beliefs, and rebuilding.
- Not for a long time, if ever, do dNDEs cause the NDEr to lose their fear of death.
- The late Dr. Barbara Rommer’s dNDE study concluded that, in the long run, as with pleasurable NDEs, virtually all dNDEs ultimately become extremely beneficial to the NDEr. They almost always eventually come to see their dNDE as a blessing in disguise.
- Nancy Evans Bush (2002), a dNDEr herself, who did a study of dNDEs with Dr. Bruce Greyson, has a somewhat different view. Bush observed that the aftereffects of a dNDE is not so easy to define. She noted not one, but three categories of common response to dNDEs:
a. “The Turnaround” dNDE (e.g. “I needed that”): This response occurs when a dNDE is interpreted by the NDEr as a warning which may lead the NDEr into changing behaviors such as movement toward a dogmatic religious community where strict rules promise protection. This is the response identified by the late Dr. Barbara Rommer where the NDEr eventually comes to see their dNDE as blessings in disguise.
b. “Reductionistic” dNDE (e.g. “It was only a hallucination”): This response occurs when a dNDE allows the NDEr to repudiate the meaning of their NDE which does not fit into a safe category. Bush speculated that people in this category might find psychological peace, but only temporarily. (p. 106)
c. “The Long Haul” dNDE (e.g. “What did I do?”): This response occurs when a dNDE causes the NDEr to be “haunted” or struggle for many years with the existential implications of their dNDE. A religious element of their NDE is often expected, but is absent. This category of dNDEr is most likely to seek counseling or therapy.
Although Bush found more categories of response than Rommer did, her conclusion, like Rommer’s, is optimistic:
“A psychospiritual descent into hell has been the experience of saints and sages throughout history, and it is an inevitable episode in the pervasive, mythic theme of the hero’s journey. Those who insist on finding the gift, the blessing of their experiences have the potential ultimately to realize a greater maturity and wholeness” (p.129).
Question 8: Were there any changes in your dreams or dream content since your NDE?
According to Lupita Kirklin, Ph.D.: “The aftereffects of the NDE include spiritual changes and transformative mystical, alchemical states; for this particular event unchains a number of aftereffects, which in some cases are guided, not only by the NDE itself, but also by dreams containing alchemical imagery throughout the process of spiritual and personal transformation, as the NDErs adjust and integrate the NDE into their lives. Alchemical dreams contain images of an archetypal nature, representative of symbols of the process of individuation and process or production of a new centre of personality.”
Question 9: Did you have any problems being around electromagnetic fields since your NDE?
According to the IANDS.org website, “Electrical sensitivity refers to a condition whereby the forcefield or energy around an individual affects nearby electrical equipment and technological devices. Usually sporadic in effect and impact, some experiencers have noticed:
- Watches may stop.
- Microphones may “squeal.”
- Tape recorders may quit.
- Television channels may change with no one at the controls.
- Light bulbs may pop.
- Telephone lines may “drop off.”
- Computers may suddenly lose memory.
- NDErs who are more at ease with their new traits report fewer of these incidents than those still in the process of making adjustments.
Question 10: Were there any changes in sensitivity to light since your NDE?
Light and sound are waves having a particular frequency. According to the IANDS.org website:
- Sensitivity to light and sound can be a serious issue and may necessitate some lifestyle changes.
- While most NDErs learn to limit sunshine exposure, others can’t get enough.
- Almost everyone, though, has similar difficulties with loud or discordant sounds.
- Many NDErs can no longer tolerate “hard” rock music. The vast majority prefer classical, melodic, and/or natural sounds, and become passionate about using music to heal.
Question 11: Were there any psychological challenges since your NDE?
According to the IANDS.org website, some of the major characteristics of psychological changes, which may or may not be challenges, include:
- The ability to easily engage in abstract thinking
- Becoming more philosophical
- “Inner child” or unresolved issues from childhood tend to surface
- An increase in intuitive / psychic abilities plus the ability to know or “re-live” the future
- The rejection of previous limitations in life and “normal” role-playing
- The continuing ability to dissociate or “separate” from the body
- The ability to be easily absorbed or “merge into” whatever is being focused on
- Forming expansive concepts of love while at the same time being challenged to initiate and maintain satisfying relationships
- Becoming more detached and objective
- Going through various bouts with depression
Question 12: Was there any difficulty reintegrating after your NDE?
According to the IANDS.org website:
- One of the reasons life seems so different afterward is because the experiencer now has a basis of comparison unknown before.
- Familiar codes of conduct can lose relevance or disappear altogether as new interests take priority.
- Such a shift in reference points can lead to a childlike naivete.
- With the fading of previous norms and standards, basic caution and discernment can also fade.
- It is not unusual to hear of NDErs being cheated, lied to, or involved in unpleasant mishaps and accidents.
- Once they are able to begin integrating what happened to them, discernment usually returns.
Question 13: Were there any changes in your jobs / school / interests or hobbies?
- Changes in concern for material things of life
- Changes in interest in creating a good impression
- Changes in competitive tendencies
- Changes in ambition to achieve a high standard of living
- Changes in the desire to become a well-known person
- Changes in the interest in what others think of you
- Changes in the interest in achieving material success
- Changes in concern for social values
- Changes in concern with the welfare of the planet
- Changes in concern about the threat of nuclear weapons
- Changes in concern with ecological matters
- Changes in interest in political affairs
- Changes in concern with questions of social justice
Question 14: Did your I.Q. change after your NDE?
I.Q. refers to “Intelligence Quotient“. One possible NDE aftereffect is an increase in I.Q. In Debra Diamond‘s book, “Life After Near Death: Miraculous Stories of Healing and Transformation in the Extraordinary Lives of People With Newfound Powers,” she profiles a dozen cases of specific cognitive and physiological near-death aftereffects, including:
- Elevated I.Q.
- Newfound musical and artistic talents.
- Mathematical gifts.
- Enhanced hearing.
- Improved eyesight.
- Spontaneous healing.
- Electrical sensitivity.
Question 15: Did you have any paranormal experiences (e.g. apparitions) since your NDE?
- NDErs become quite intuitive after an NDE.
- Psychic displays can be commonplace such as:
a. Out-of-body experiences.
b. Manifestation of “beings” met in near-death state.
c. “Remembering” the future.
d. Finishing another person’s sentence.
e. “Hearing” plants and animals “speak.”
- These psychic displays are not only worrisome to family and friends, they can be frightening to them.
- The NDEr’s religious beliefs do not alter or prevent this amplification of psychic faculties and stimuli. Yet, experiencers willing to learn how to control and refine these abilities, consider them beneficial.
Question 16: Were there any changes in your feelings of compassion / caring / loving since your NDE?
- An increased desire to help others
- More compassion for others
- An increase in the ability to listen patiently
- More tolerance for others
- Increased sensitivity to the suffering of others
- An ability to express love for others openly
- A greater insight into the problems of others
- Better understanding of others
- An increase in empathy with others
- A greater acceptance of others
b. LGBT and Non-Gay NDE Aftereffects Survey Results
The survey can be completed online or sent in via mail (see the P.O. Box address below) and additional NDE stories are being sought at this time. If you are interested in taking part in this historic research project, please take the survey and share your NDE story. Some examples to use as a reference can be found on Dr. Dale’s website. Agreeing to completing the survey is agreement or consent for future publication.
A corresponding second study is sponsored by IANDS.org (International Association for Near Death Studies) and is in progress. If you are interested in the study of LGBT NDEs and non-gay NDEs, contact the author of this study as well. Please be so kind as to pass along the information from this press release to others who might be interested. The focus of researching the similarities and differences between these two groups will add much important data to the body of scholarly NDE literature. If you have any questions, please send them to Liz Dale using the contact information below.
3. Liz Dale’s Website and Upcoming New Book
Dale’s official website (www.lizdale.org) has become an important resource for those with academic or personal interests in the NDE phenomenon. It includes access to links to LGBT-focused articles on Amazon, Google, and Wikipedia among other information repositories. Included on her website are archives of press releases promoting her book, survey, website, LGBT, and NDE research dated August 2016, December 2016, January 2017, and November 2017.
Dale’s website is a gathering place for gay and non-gay people, NDErs and non-NDErs alike! Her website is also a point of contact where you can submit any questions to her by email to her through her email address: LizSanPablo@aol.com
Survey results will be incorporated into a groundbreaking study and a new book to be published by Balboa Press, a division of Hay House. Her second book will evaluate the similarities and differences of the LGBT and non-gay NDEr as a result of the survey. Dr. Dale anticipates having a large comparative group of NDErs sharing their NDE stories for this second book.