Coping or Exploitation?

In today’s ditigal age, we post everything on social media. We have the social world at the tips of our fingers 24-hours a day. This has brought forth many big questions to light today. How do we know the ethical guidelines? Where do we draw the line? When are personal information and feelings private and when are they public? Historically, we have been a nation of public coping, which moved to private, and is now becoming more public than ever. When an individual passes away, is it appropriate to share with the social media world what happened and how you are feeling?

Many believe this is a case of simply seeking support from other individuals who are dealing with the same loss. As a personal example, I recently experienced the loss of a old high school boyfried who took his own life. Upon his death, his Facebook page immediately became a shrine to his life and for people to share pictures and stories. Being that this was so sudden and unexpected for eveyone, including his family, this page offered some support and love to his family and all of his loved ones. Some of the posts looked like this:
From a close friend…
Kate to Andrew
17 hours ago.
So, I was driving home last night, and I was listening to the song “Smile in the Stars”, by Skerryvore. It’s about the loss of a loved one. That got me thinking about how missing your funeral will be one of my biggest regrets in life. I started to tear up when I saw my first shooting star fly across the sky. I miss you bud, but I’m fairly certain you sent that star to tell me everything is alright. love you.
From his brother…
Brandon posted to Andrew
December 11 via mobile.
I miss you brother wish you were here right now

Others believe that this is a form of exploitation. As we read in class, the tweets Scott Simon posted laying out the events of his mother’s death in grave detial were very controvercial. Many people said he was exploitating his mother’s death and was a form of disrespect. Some of the tweets were:

And right before her death:

Could this be harmful? What about collective greif? When inidivuals all build their greif off of one another, there is a possibility that it could cause them to feel more pain and greif then if they were not a part of this group. On the other hand, this could be considered a form of group therapy. Supporting one another and sharing stories and pictures of your loved one. The key is finding what works for you while maintaining respect for the loved one. It is important to remember that the passer is the most important in this situation. While you are very important and dealing with loss is an important part of the process, there are many ways to cope and rescources available to deal with the loss if the loved one would be uncomfortable with you sharing information about them with the social media world.

Lastly, it is amazing the power that social media allows us as a collective world, to share and celebrate the life of an individual:


Grief Counseling

Grief counseling is a form of therapy administered to individuals who are coping with the death of a loved one. Emotions that follow death of a loved one can sometimes feel uncontrollable. Grief counseling helps assist individuals through the process of overcoming the emotions and grief that they encounter. Because every person is different and everyone experiences and expresses their grief in different ways, this is a very personalized process. There is no way of telling how a person is going to react to grief until it is encountered. Anything from laughter to anger can be expressed by an individual coping with grief. Grief counseling encourages the individual to express the emotions they are feeling and what they are going through. Through expression they are able to explore and work through the grief.
Grief is wide spread and almost everyone experiences grief at some point throughout their lifetime. Because there are so many individuals that experiencing depression (see figure 2), it is important to take control of the grief and assist individuals to work through the grief instead of allowing it to lead to depression.

Figure 2

Figure 2

When an individual is going through the grieving process, they typically go through many stages. There are seven stages that are commonly recognized as the stages that individuals go through. They are as shown in figure 3.

Figure 3

Figure 3

Grief counseling has proven to be effective in almost all cases if executed correctly. The debate lies however, in if it is proper to disturb the body and brain’s natural way of dealing with grief. Individuals that disagree with grief counseling say that it causes a disturbance with the body’s natural way of dealing with things and is therefore not as effective as thought to be. It is actually seen as harmful to the individual if the individual seeks grief therapy when it is not necessarily needed. The vast majority of people believe that the benefits are great and harm obsolete. It is important to remember the different types of grief when discussing counseling services. These are anticipatory, sudden loss, and complicated. When therapists are assessing the individual and how they are going to move forward, the type of grief they are experiencing is an important aspect that comes into play. Dealing with grief is something very difficult that most everyone has to go through at some point in their life. Some people are able to get through it on their own, others with the support of the loved ones around them, and some need to seek assistance from an expert. Greif counseling has developed as a relatively recent discovery of the harms of not being able to overcome grief. We have been able to assess the brain and what happens when grief is not dealt with; often times PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) or Depression. Figure 4 and 5 show the severe long-term effects this has on the brain:

Figure 4

Figure 4

Figure 5

Figure 5

This is why it is vital to an individual’s mental health to deal with the grief. Grief counseling offers guidance through the grieving process and helps to work through the grief in healthy more productive ways. If individuals are able to seek grief counseling to help them cope with their grief, it can be extremely helpful and rewarding. Grief counseling is something that is readily available to individuals in need. There are many private practices in which to seek help. There are also churches, non-profits, online forms and blogs, telephone hotlines, and county funded counseling to seek out. There are many ways to get help, even if the individual does not have a lot of extra money to spend on therapy.

Near-Death Experiences

"Seeing the Light"

“Seeing the Light”

What happens when you die? This is a question many of us often consider. Hollywood has given us a cliché ideal of your life flashing before your eyes all of the important events throughout your lifetime and then walking towards a bright light while your angel wings appear. This however, is an unrealistic depiction according to many others’ near-death experiences. Individuals who have near-death experiences are often able to recall what occurred and share their experience. I was completely unaware of the enormous amount of near-death experiences (NDE’s) that have occurred. NDE’s range from small children to the elderly. Many people even record having experienced a NDE more than once in their lifetime. There are archives with thousands of people that have experienced NDE’s; being one of the largest. There is no way to tell exactly how far back these experiences began because people have been experiencing events like this for as long as we have been able to be record them. A near-death experience is commonly known as something that takes place when an individual is on the brink of death and recounted by the individual after recovery. Individuals commonly refer to this as an “out of body” experience. According to Greyson, there are 16 elements to the scale of NDE’s (see figure 1).

Figure 1: Elements in Greyson’s NDE-scale

1. Time speeds up or slows down.
2. Thought-processes speed up.
3. A return of scenes from the past.
4. A sudden insight, or understanding.
5. A feeling of peace or pleasantness.
6. A feeling of happiness, or joy.
7. A sense of harmony or unity with the universe.
8. Confrontation with a brilliant light.
9. The senses feel more vivid.
10. An awareness of things going on elsewhere, as if by extrasensory perception (ESP).
11. Experiencing scenes from the future.
12. A feeling of being separated from the body.
13. Experiencing a different, unearthly world.
14. Encountering a mystical being or presence, or hearing an unidentifiable voice.
15. Seeing deceased or religious spirits.
16. Coming to a border, or point of no return.

Through my research, I was able to come across an enormous amount of near-death experiences. The following are the top three accounts that were most astonishing.

1. Ben Breedlove

2. Howard Storm
Once a self-described “double atheist” and “know-it all college professor,” Howard Storm was leading a three-week European art tour with his students when he retired to his hotel room in France on the last day of the trip. Without warning, he suddenly screamed and dropped to the floor, prompting his wife to call for help. At the hospital, the news was grim: Howard had a perforated stomach that required surgery, and if he didn’t get it soon, he would die.
The wait for a doctor to arrive at the hospital was lengthy—so much so, that Howard turned to his wife at one point and said his final farewell to her, insisting that he was moments from death. That’s when he recalled finding himself standing next to his own body (which was still on the hospital bed) and feeling more alive than ever, with no more stomach pain. Soon after, he heard unfamiliar voices calling to him.
“Come with us,” they said. “Hurry up, let’s go. We’ve been waiting for you.”
After calling out to his wife and getting no response, he began to follow the voices, which led him out of the room and down a long, dark hallway. He followed them for so long, and became so increasingly terrified, that he told the voices he wasn’t going any further. Then they attacked him.
“We had a big fight and the fight turned into them annihilating me, which they did slowly and with much relish,” he says. “Mostly they were biting and tearing at me. This went on for a long time. They did other things to humiliate and violate me which I don’t talk about.”
Collapsed on the ground, Howard began reciting The Lord’s Prayer, after hearing a soft voice tell him to “Pray to God.” After saying a few other other prayers, he said that Jesus personally saved him from the demons, and sent him back to Earth, telling him to live his life differently. Storm’s book, My Descent Into Death, was published in 2000.

3. Colton Burpo
Colton Burpo wasn’t quite four years old when his appendix burst, landing him in a hospital for emergency surgery. And when he awoke two hours later, he had an amazing story to tell. He said he had been to heaven, where he met Jesus, John The Baptist, God, and even family members who had passed away previously—including a baby sister that his mother had lost due to a miscarriage. Neither of his parents had ever mentioned the miscarriage to him.
He also met an old man he called “Pop,” whom he had seen as a young man. Later, he was able to identify Pop in a family photograph as the man he had seen in heaven. It was his paternal grandfather. And while the surgery was taking place, Colton told his father that he had seen him in another room, where he had gone to pray.
His father, Todd Burpo, said, “We knew he wasn’t making it up, because he was able to tell us what we were doing in another part of the hospital. Not even Sonja had seen me in that little room, having my meltdown with God.”
Todd wrote a book called Heaven Is For Real that recounts the entire story of his son’s incredible experience in detail. Colton Burpo now travels the country with his parents, sharing his story with others.


Why are near-death experiences significant? Near-death experiences give us insight into the age old question of what is going to happen to us when we die. Some the NDI’s individuals have experienced have been life changing them, helping them to realize that they need to change their ways. The problem? This is extremely difficult to prove. It would be unethical as well as extremely difficult to study individuals that experience NDE’s. Scientists have had a hard time believing that NDI’s are something factual because of the lack of study and ability to study the area. They also try to explain the experience through a chemical reaction in the brain when near death. They claim that because when an individual dies they release chemicals and this is what explains the images individuals see and moments the individual experiences when they come close to death. Unfortunately, as of now, there is no way for us to know if there is truly life after death, what happens to us, and if these near-death experiences are real. Unless we are able to experience it for our self, we have to go off of other’s stories. Much like faith, there is much unknown and it is a personal preference of what you choose to believe and not believe.

I was astonished to find that it is believed that you may be able to experience a NDE without coming close to death. This Twitter account, Near-Death News, shows the following tweet:

This tweet provides a link to an article that provides insight to having a deeper appreciation for life. Although this is meant to help have a NDE without actually coming close to dying, the tips are things such as retreat, grace, and mindful meditation.