Following My Dad's Death, This Research Convinced Me Of An Afterlife
I am an atheist. I've always assumed an afterlife was as realistic as Santa Claus. But after the passing of my dad in 2015, I set out to see if there was any scientific evidence that could convince me of another realm beyond the living. I didn't expect to find much, but in the depths of my grief, I figured it was worth a try. I was blown away by what I discovered.
Over the past five years of searching, here's the most compelling evidence I've found that has changed my mind about the great beyond:
Past life memory research at the University of Virginia.
The research of Jim B. Tucker, M.D., and his mentor, the late Ian Stevenson, M.D., was one of the first things I discovered in my quest. Tucker is a child psychiatrist and professor at the University of Virginia's Division of Perceptual Studies who researches kids and past-life memories. After children recount their memories of life in the past, Tucker and his team go on to see if the child's statements are verifiable. In some cases, they've turned out to be shockingly accurate.
For example, there was one case of a child who had specific memories of his troop during WW2. He met fellow members of this troop who were now old men, and some of his memories of them proved spot-on. There was another who identified and met his previous life's children—who are now older adults. Over the course of his 20 years of research, Tucker has found many children who have recognized old family members, shared memories, and had strong emotional connections to previous lives.
It was the consistencies in these accounts that really swayed me: The children had these memories until about the age of 6 or 7, then they tended to forget. They did not remember being knights or princesses, the way a child making up a fantasy would. They remembered the small things we really value in life: the little dog they loved, having hot chocolate at Grandma's, or the small candy shop on their block. The memories were mundane—in the best way.
Psychic medium tests at The Windbridge Institute.
Before losing my dad, I had never considered mediums anything more than woo-woo nonsense. At best they were kindhearted people deluded into believing they could communicate with the dead. At worst they were predators preying on the desperate and grieving.
However, I changed my mind when I came across the research of Julie Beischel, Ph.D., at The Windbridge Research Center, which she co-founded with her husband, Mark Boccuzzi. Beischel is one of the least "woo-woo" people you could imagine: She gave up a lucrative career in pharmacology to research and test the abilities of psychic mediums.
She and the team at Windbridge put dozens of claiming mediums through studies that were up to quintuple-blinded (five levels of blinding that prevent any passage of sensory information). In other words, they couldn't cheat. They weren't told the name and identity of the person they were "reading" so they could not Google them beforehand. Many of the medium readings were done over the phone so they couldn't get information from facial cues, body language, or the person's visual appearance. Even so, some of the mediums were shockingly accurate1—getting up to 90% of relayed information correct.
I had to see for myself, so I went on to get multiple psychic medium readings of my own. Of course, a few were what I expected: very general, nothing evidential. But a few blew me away. They knew things they could not have known—such as the name of my dad, of both my grandmothers. They knew my cat had just died, what my mom does for work, and other highly specific information.
These powerful experiences led me to start befriending mediums, volunteering for an organization that tests and certifies mediums called the Forever Family Foundation, and even taking classes on developing mediumship abilities. Through the years, I have come to think that a portion of mediums are genuinely communicating with the deceased in some way.
Near-death experience research at the University of Virginia and New York University.
A few medical doctors are now studying people who were clinically dead, revived, and then had what is called an NDE—near-death experience, in which they might "see the light," be greeted by their deceased loved ones, float out of their bodies, and later repeat conversations or occurrences that happened on the other side.
They both found that some of these NDEs were verifiable in that people come back with accurate information. For example, at times, the person who had the near-death experience saw a deceased loved one who had a message for a living person that made no sense to the NDE-er but that the living person understood.
There are also some similarities within reported NDEs: Many people are told by beings—either their deceased loved ones or higher beings like guides—that they have to return to the living because it is not their time. Some are given a choice to come back or not. The majority of them say that while the experience was transformative, it is impossible to really describe, like explaining sight to a blind person.
Most people who have NDEs also seem to return profoundly changed. They are much less interested in the material world and making money and frequently state the purpose of life is to help others and to love. They no longer fear death. This lasts for years after their NDE, according to follow-up research2.
I think as technology improves and we are able to resuscitate more people who are further along in death, we will start to hear more about these fascinating experiences.
The bottom line.
I find it very affirming to have science-minded research teams at major universities critically studying the evidence of the afterlife and psychic abilities. The research I've shared is just a small slice of what has proved a profoundly worldview-changing and deeply healing exploration for me. Yes, I miss my dad every day, but it brings me hope, joy, and fulfillment to think that he is around me and that I will see him again. I am someone who operates off of solid research and evidence, not faith or belief. And I'm so glad I've found it.
Liz began examining if there was valid evidence of an afterlife in 2015 following the passing of her father. She wrote a book and created a podcast that will both be launching in late 2021 on the topic entitled WTF Just Happened?!: A sciencey-skeptic explores grief, healing, and evidence of the afterlife. Her writing has appeared in Thrive Global and The Huffington Post.