In this episode of Jump Start Your Joy, I am interviewing William J. Peters. He is the founder of the Shared Crossing Project and the director of its research initiative. He is the author of the new book, “At Heaven’s Door: What Shared Journeys to the Afterlife Teach about Dying Well and Living Better.” Recognized as a global leader in the field of shared death studies, he has spent decades studying end of life experiences. He is a practicing grief and bereavement therapist, and he holds degrees from Harvard and UC Berkeley. In this interview, we are talking about understanding shared death experiences.
At Heaven’s Door by William J. Peters
Every once in a while I get a pitch that comes across my desk that really lights me up, and this one for William J. Peters and his brand new book At Heaven’s Door was one of those pitches. If you’ve listened to the show before, you know that I believe that the emotions of grief and joy are two bookends of the same thing. They’re both extreme emotions that our society doesn’t necessarily know how to address or deal with. And, as someone with an academic background in Religious Studies I am especially interested in looking at how we interpret the afterlife.
In college, I studied the work of Raymond Moody, along with the works of Lawrence E. Sullivan (Death, Afterlife, and the Soul), and Karen Armstrong (Heaven: a History). I had long been interested in near death experiences, and I had quietly wondered if I’d had a shared death experience at the passing of my grandmother when I was a child. Only a few days after she died, myself, my sister and my cousin all reported that she paid us a visit on the same day.
William confirmed that yes, this was a shared death experience, specifically a “remoted shared death experience” since we were not at her bedside when it happened and none of the three of us were in the same physical space. Her visit was one that said “Thank you, I love you, Goodbye,” and it matches the pattern that William has seen in many other shared death experiences.
Shared Death Experiences and Intentional Comfort
In speaking with other guests about death and dying, I’ve come to know that many people feel an increased comfort, contentment, and joy in life when they know what to expect about their own death. Whether that be around planning for their own passing, or better understanding death itself, when people come to terms with their own mortality, it often leads to a sense of acceptance and comfort around what is to come.
I think human beings are innately curious. And so if we allow ourselves to be curious about death and dying and come across this shared death experience, it changes everything. All of a sudden, you’ve opened this new vista of what is possible at end of life, and this ongoing connection to our loved ones that transcends human death.William J peters
In this episode, William J. Peters and I discuss
- the definition of The Shared Death Experience
- Near Death Experiences
- An NDE (near death experience) that occured to William in his teenage years
- His new book, “At Heaven’s Door”
- The research he has done on death, dying, and shared death experiences
- My own personal story of a shared death experience
- The work he does with the Shared Crossing Project
- How understanding death, dying, and shared death experiences can allow more comfort in your life
- The three ways he jump starts joy in his life: be kind to yourself, do what you love in life, helping other people