Where Do We Go When We Die?

Updated on April 11, 2017
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With interests in science, nature, and the paranormal, cryptid explores fringe topics from a unique and sometimes controversial perspective.

What Happens When You Die?

Have you ever wondered what happens to us after death? Where do we go after we die? Or, maybe you’ve never thought about it before. If not, and this might be tough to hear, you’re not going to live forever.

Don’t feel bad; we’re all in the same boat. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, one day you’re here and the next you’re gone.

Maybe you’ll live to a ripe old age and pass peacefully in your sleep. Maybe you’ll be mowed down by a runaway bus on your way to work tomorrow. No matter how it happens the results are the same. Dead is dead, and it is one thing we all have in common.

It’s a depressing thought for any mammal, but as we humans are a particularly sentimental species we tend to attach a whole lot of emotional baggage to this death thing. We miss people terribly when they are gone, and we hope that people will miss us when it’s our turn.

We have oodles of ceremonies and traditions to lament those who have passed, but when the last mourner has left the building and the caterers are packing up the uneaten quiche we can’t help but wonder about two things:

  1. Who gets all my stuff when I’m gone?
  2. Is death really the end of it all?

The idea that someday we simply won’t exist anymore is hard to stomach. Most cultures hold on to some kind of hope that we live on after we die, but the form in which we persist varies depending on who you ask.

There are countless theories about what happens to us when our corporeal bodies cease to function. Where do we go when we die, why do we so need to cling to the notion that life will go on beyond the grave, and who is right anyway?

Nobody really knows, of course, but some people seem to have ideas. So, buck up! Death may not be the end, at least if any of the theories presented here are true.

It's unfortunate that the major religions and philosophies of the world can't agree on what happens beyond the grave. Until they do please choose your afterlife option from the list below:

Heaven or Hell

Heaven sounds nice, if you can make the cut.
Heaven sounds nice, if you can make the cut.

The most common belief is that death opens the door to a new beginning. After we’re gone from this world we’re whisked away to a better place. The version of this “better place” most of us are familiar with is Heaven, or something like it.

Heaven can take many forms, depending on the belief system, but it’s always pretty awesome. You want to go to Heaven, of course, so if you believe in it you’re likely to live your life in such a way that you conform to whatever rules your belief system has imposed on you.

It's an interesting idea supported by many major religions. Perhaps even more interesting is that some people who experience near-death experiences return with stories that appear to support the existence of Heaven.

If you are dead, it’s hard to think of somewhere you’d rather be than Heaven. The idea of an ultimate reward for your toils on this Earth is very appealing. It’s great solace to people, especially those living lives of suffering, that one day they may move to some place where their wounds are all healed, and they can be at peace.

On the other hand, by account of most major religions, getting into Heaven is hard work. Some belief systems are super harsh about the kind of life you need to live to make it into Heaven, so much so that it seems like most of us are doomed.

If you believe in Heaven you also have to worry about that other place: Hell. You know, where all the folks who haven’t been so good in their lives are tossed. You really have to watch your step, or else you’re cast down into eternal torment for your failures.

It doesn’t help that much of what’s expected of us seems to fly in the face of human urges and instincts. Then again, if it were easy everybody would be in Heaven.


Will you be reincarnated as a beautiful butterfly instead of a slug?
Will you be reincarnated as a beautiful butterfly instead of a slug?

So maybe Heaven and Hell don't make much sense to you, but you still don't like the idea that you simply cease to exist after death. Great news: You might have a chance to come back and do it all again!

Some cultures believe people are reincarnated as other people; others believe you could just as well come back as an animal. Like the Heaven/Hell model, reincarnation is usually a type of merit-based system.

For instance, in Hinduism the form you take when you come back will be influenced by your Karma in your previous life. If you were a good person your next life will be better than the last. If you went around cutting people off in traffic or if you allowed your children to run wild in restaurants you may well come back as a slug.

Hey, we’ve all made mistakes, and we all have regrets. Many of us feel like life has passed us by. It’s nice to think we could get another shot at it, and make fewer mistakes the next time. Maybe we learned from our failures, and we get to keep trying until we get it right. The idea of this sure feels better than just sitting around thinking we wasted our lives.

On the other hand, it's tough to work out the logic if it all. If we’re reincarnated it does not seem like we get a choice of who or what we come back as, and we don’t seem to remember what happened in our last life. So what's the point?

If you can't remember who you were in a former life, and what you did wrong, how are you supposed to fix it? Why make someone a slug if they can’t remember what they did to become a slug?

Still, the idea of going back and doing it all again sounds amazing. We all dream of starting over and making better decisions, and being better people.

Wayward Spirits and Ghosts

You may get to haunt your friends and family after death, and drive them as crazy as they drove you in life!
You may get to haunt your friends and family after death, and drive them as crazy as they drove you in life! | Source

When we die we may have the ability to come back, but not as reincarnated souls. We may get to come back as spirits. In other words, we get to haunt people!

It might sound like a lot of fun, but roaming the earth until the ends of time as some wayward spirit surely has its drawbacks. For one thing, many people believe ghosts are stuck here against their will, either because of something they did wrong while alive, or because they aren't following through some requirement of the afterlife.

Beliefs in a spiritual life after death are often entangled with fragments of Christian belief, even though there is really no canonical reason to think such a thing. The belief in the paranormal and ghosts also opens up just about any possibility one could imagine for the afterlife. Some of it may sound corny, but maybe this open-mindedness hits closer to home than many of the more dogmatic theories.

At first glance, it seems like a blast to run around haunting people. Surely you can make a list right now of people you’d like to torment. In a way, it’s refreshing to think we live on as spiritual energy. For the living, it’s nice to think past loved ones are watching over us, or even remain with us in our homes. Also, with the abundance of ghost hunting shows these days, we still have a chance to be a star, even after death!

Then again, we don’t know the rules. Why are ghosts trapped here on Earth? What holds them? Are they tormented, or are they happy? Plus, many paranormal researchers acknowledge the presence of inhuman (demonic) entities that may be able to exert some type of control over human spirits.Strong spirits may bully weak ones.

Yeah, being a ghost sounds like a lot of fun, but it could really be an afterlife filled with constant torment and longing.


The Universe giveth; the Universe taketh away.
The Universe giveth; the Universe taketh away. | Source

Maybe when we’re gone from this world, that’s it. Game over. The end. Most atheists and even some religions hold this point of view.

Bleak, you say? Perhaps in a way, but from their perspective it allows one to experience the real point of living. The “spiritual” rewards of this life should not be some kind of tokens you save up for the next world, in hopes of earning something better than you have now. Treating people well, doing the right thing and living morally all without the expectation of reward is the true meaning of life. It’s liberating, but a little too scary for most.

In many ways the lack of belief in an afterlife frees us from some of the conventional bonds of society. Some people assume that means atheists and other nonbelievers see themselves free to commit any evil act they wish, but that’s usually far from the case. Most people with such beliefs prefer to choose to do the right thing simply because it’s the right thing, not because of some specter of religious damnation hanging over their head.

For other people, this way of thinking lacks the emotional and spiritual support they need to make it through this rough world. Life is hard. People get sick and injured, physically and emotionally. People experience loss and hardship. Without the hope of something better in the afterlife, it’s a stark world for many.

This begs the question: Is belief in the afterlife a valid means of psychological comfort, whether it’s real or not; or is it simply a pacifier for those unwilling to look at things logically? It’s a tough question, but belief in something better means a lot to some people.

Enjoy the beauty and wonder of this world while you can! The afterlife remains a mystery.
Enjoy the beauty and wonder of this world while you can! The afterlife remains a mystery.

Live Your Life to the Fullest! (Until You Are Dead)

So, where do we go when we die? Obviously there are so many varied theories and beliefs about what happens to us after we are gone from this world. They can’t all possibly be true, can they?

So, the real question is this: Is it possible that all of our theories about the afterlife, even the ones supposedly backed up by major religions, are simply stories passed down by generations of people who were frightened by the idea that death meant eternal nothingness?

It's alarming to think that after death there simply is no more. It’s more comforting to believe that our loved ones are still around after they pass away, either living large in some kind of paradise, watching over us here on Earth, or maybe reincarnated as some really cool animal. And it’s kind of nice to think we have that to look forward to as well.

On the other hand, maybe there is a reason we have so much trouble imagining a state of nothingness. Could it be some kind of internal cue that there is more to this universe than we may realize? The essence that is a living thing surely has some kind of energy to it that can’t be so easily extinguished. Might this human life just be the start of our journey, the infancy of our existence?

In short, nobody knows. So what do we do? Well, we could sit around worrying about it, or we can get out there and live our lives as best we can. The doorway to almost every version of the afterlife seems to have one common theme: Be a good person. If we treat other people well, take care of ourselves and the world around us, how can we go wrong?

Maybe that’s the lesson after all. And if not, if we end up as worm food and it turns out there is nothing happening after death, so what? We’ve lost nothing.

But, the good news is, someday we will know the truth about what happens, wherever we go when we die.

Your Opinion: Where Do We Go When We Die?

Where do YOU think we go when we die?

See results

© 2012 cryptid


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    • profile image

      Pete 6 weeks ago

      I was beginning to doubt the whole spirit goes on after life thing. But when I took a job as an overnight nurse at 100 yr old farmhouse converted into a treatment facility, my thinking was forced to change; along with everything I thought I knew about science and logic. When doors are opening and closing, someone calling out to you, and footsteps coming towards you, all with no one there; to this day, I'm not sure what to think. This happened about 7 yrs ago.

    • profile image

      Darcy 2 months ago

      You go wherever the people responsible for burying or burning you place you.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great hub here on the afterlife. It was pretty interesting and well thought out with your theories. Nice work. Voted up!

    • cryptid profile image

      cryptid 3 years ago from Earth

      Hi mikayla! Thanks for adding your thoughts. A lot of people share your beliefs. Personally, I find the idea of possibly ending up in heaven very comforting.

    • profile image

      mikayla 3 years ago

      hi my name is mikayla we die we go to heaven to go to god .we are in heaven for ever. it is so alsome to get to see the lord some day. i die i go to heaven . it will be so alsome . but you have to be saved to go to heaven . if you are not saved you go to hell. it is not good to go to hell you are in a flame forever. you will have no water to cool you down. that is only the 2 heaven or hell. it is your chioce . but i am saved so i get to go to heaven.

    • cryptid profile image

      cryptid 3 years ago from Earth

      Interesting, CMHypno. I see the distinction, and I now think I chose a poor subheading for that section. What I was really trying to say is (some people believe) we walk the earth in spirit form after we die. As you point out, that isn't the same as the spiritualism. Thanks for making that clear, and now I need to consider a more accurate subheading! I'll also need to write a section that truly and fairly addresses spiritualism, eventually.

    • CMHypno profile image

      CMHypno 3 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      Interesting hub cryptid, but there is a difference between spiritualism and ghosts/hauntings. If you go to a spiritualist church or have a private sitting with a medium they make contact with your departed loved ones in the spirit world. They aren't ghosts or trapped on the earth plane. There are mediums who do 'spirit release' or make contact on ghost hunts and other events, but its not the same thing.

    • cryptid profile image

      cryptid 3 years ago from Earth

      Thanks HSchneider. I agree what we believe happens in the afterlife has a great deal of impact on how we perceive our lives in the here and now.

    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 3 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Very thought provoking Hub, Cryptid. The bottom line with all of these theories is that everyone needs some kind of meaning for their life. These different views on the after life or not are just one of many ways of doing this.

    • cryptid profile image

      cryptid 3 years ago from Earth

      Whoa! Interesting food for thought!

    • profile image

      muhammadahmed71 3 years ago

      when we die,it is not the end of journey of life,to understand this journey start it from the mother womb ,child come into mother womb where don't know what is world ,what is food ,what are the use of hands and legs ,eyes,but god create these things in mother womb because child will use these things in world later on ,when he come in world he use these body parts ,but in world if he will use body parts according his belief religion ,then after his death when his soul will returned to his master God ,God will give him reward.His final destiny is Paradise or hell,where he will live for ever.

    • cryptid profile image

      cryptid 4 years ago from Earth

      Thanks for your opinion, nobody. That's certainly one valid possibility. But I'd say the question is far from absurd, as billions of people are wondering about it, and billions of others have already arrived at a different conclusion besides "death is the end."

    • profile image

      nobody 4 years ago

      when we die, it is the end. Everything ends and that's all.Everything else after death is our imagination and speculation.So there is no scope for further coming and going,the question is absurd.

    • profile image

      papycz 5 years ago

      we simply sleep- until the 2nd coming... if you follow scripture

    • cryptid profile image

      cryptid 5 years ago from Earth

      So true, and I always love a Mark Twain quote!

    • profile image

      kropotkinbeard 5 years ago

      Bottom line is that no one knows what happens after death, and if they pretend to they're at best dishonest. There is no reason to fear death for as Mark Twain observed "I was dead for billions of years before I was born and didn't suffer the slightest inconvenience from it."

    • cryptid profile image

      cryptid 5 years ago from Earth

      Thanks Pam!

    • Pamela-anne profile image

      Pamela-anne 5 years ago from Miller Lake

      Really enjoyed this hub it is a topic that we all wonder about at some point that's for sure keep the hubs coming! take care pam.

    • cryptid profile image

      cryptid 5 years ago from Earth

      Thanks CR and Johan. Glad to provide some food for thought.

    • Johan Smulders profile image

      Johan Smulders 5 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Its a vital question if the Bible is true you cannot afford to get it wrong but as you say what have you lost. Well presented!

    • CR Rookwood profile image

      Pamela Hutson 5 years ago from Moonlight Maine

      Interesting hub! I'm sure more people think about this than will admit it. I have some other possibilities, and now that you've inspired me maybe I'll actually write about them! lol! (Or maybe not....) Thumbs up, thanks!