What Happens When You Die?
Have you ever wondered what happens to you when you die?
If you’ve never thought about it before—and this might be tough to hear—you’re not going to live forever.
Try not to 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 we humans are a particularly sentimental species and attach a lot of emotional baggage to this death thing. We miss people when they are gone, and we hope 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:
- Who gets all my stuff when I’m gone?
- Is death the end of it all?
The idea that someday we 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 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?
The most common belief is that death opens the door to a new beginning. After we’re gone from this world we are 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 held 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 a great solace to people, especially those living lives of suffering, that one day they may move to someplace where their wounds are all healed, and they can be at peace.
On the other hand, by the 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.
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.
On the other hand, if you went around cutting people off in traffic or if you allowed your children to run wild in restaurants you may 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.
However, 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
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 it would be 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.
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 conventions 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 heads.
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 the 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.
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 in some kind of paradise, watching over us here on Earth, or maybe reincarnated as some really cool animal or Hollywood celebrity. And it’s kind of nice to think we might 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?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 cryptid
thao on April 12, 2020:
there a heaven or something else, I ask the million question to my Ex when he was alive, years later after his funeral he gave me the answer i was looking for.
Sandy on December 16, 2019:
After much thought ( with christian /atheist views ) within myself ; I believe /feel, Hey, Just "Live" :) Be the Best Person You Can be :) The "Answer" ( or Jeez , "nothingness " ! ) It will come to us all !! ; other than be a good person,/try to leave a good mark on this Earth , Just ENJOY Your life ; why let a "Fear of death" , ruin our LIFE ? LIVE :) x
Linda on December 04, 2019:
I believe when we die we go to a place of waiting for the judgement Although while we are in this place we will know what awaits us in the form of either Heaven, which is wonderful, or Hell, which is torment, I believe in the Bible What other book has ever been written by 40 different authors over several different countries and over a period of several thousand years? No way this could happen other than Devine orchestration GOD
It would be wise to read and explore its truths
KolbyKamerick on October 15, 2019:
My thoughts are that earth is to perfect for us clearly, in this world we are the top of the chain everything a human could need we have good or bad , from what we know it’s would be vary far fetched to think we are that lucky, we go threw this life with the main goal being feeling wether physical or mental are bodies are tools we use to feel in this world , our thoughts and personalities evolve so much over our course and it’s hard to believe it would be for nothing And certain people in this world give us a indescribable feeling like we’re meant to meet and know each other or we known each other for ever all of this can’t be luck of the draw it almost has to be planned why I don’t know
Vaite on August 24, 2019:
The fact that the earth is a step away from dying itself proves that somebody is holding it and that there has to be somebody. But what if God is a lie what if its some 'fool' thing made to make the earth a better place and give people hope ? But what if there's actually nothing what if all this is an experiment , imagine an xbox game, a woman in a hospital , few minutes away from the child to be born and what happens the child just just goes like a rocket launcher from the mother trough the window and it flies , flies and then u see the child start walking , then just in a moment u see the child as a student then the child ends the school , u see him with a license plate then u see him getting a job ,he still flies then u see him proposing to the love of its life , having children .. then u start to see him getting older here and there hes already walking with a stick. He manages to stay strong while he sees his wife die and then u wont take another breathe in as he is dead . what happens then is a new page opening up and saying ''Game over life is short so play more,, U may ask what's the moral and I would answer -There might not be a play more button ,but life is short and either way if we will go to heaven/hell, if we will be some flying souls protecting our loved ones and if the fact that theres just a game over is the right one we should not care at the moment we will have time no worries . Right now we need to live .
Kelly-Ann on July 10, 2019:
Well if we go to heaven atleast we will se are beloved one
Heffcat on July 04, 2019:
During the Iraqi war, a jeep hit a IED and blew all three soldiers clear except two soldier,s and they were on fire. The third surviving soldier made a attempt to save them and he was telepathically told (no), it,s not your time.
It shows, we have a job we must complete here before were allowed to go back to wherever we came from.
Nick kift on April 25, 2019:
I find it strange that anyone would choose to believe that something as complex as us could just evolve. When you consider that the earth rotates at such a speed that the gravity is so spot on..too slow and we would crush down. Too fast and we would fly off. Perfect distance from the sun not to burn us. Giving us a moon reflection for the night. The earth gives us food and water to live.
I believe that the earth and everything was made by a being that is so far advanced that our brain cannot accept it. Of course we progress just as any animal would but it’s impossible to evolve from nowt.
I think we are just one of many experiments that are taking place. They are our god
Bobbyelecrtician on April 24, 2019:
I died twice and came back. Don't know who to talk to. Don't want to be made fun of
e on April 07, 2019:
it’s a slippery slope for me
Cait on March 31, 2019:
I believe heaven is a waiting room, where you stay until your reborn into a new life
Aiden on March 24, 2019:
the truth is we(humans) are energy. Energy can't be destroyed
Johnvince12 on March 12, 2019:
What I know and believe is that we choose to come here so we could purified our soul and be able to go to a higher plane went we past on. There is different levels we have to reach to get to be like the all mighty, and energy of pure light,that’s why we choose to come here.
Rick on February 18, 2019:
I think we go back to where we were before we were born.
ivan light on November 29, 2018:
Heaven and earth are two different states of being whilst alive in our human form. Learning what it is that will allow us to live a blissful life (a heavenly existence) and increase our life span. However, to accomplish such a state of being is very tough and requires us to become meek (or able to learn). However, continuing to live a wrong way of life will prevent us from reaching the above state. In fact, the more 'wrong' we become the closer to living in a state of hell we will become. Living in a state of hell can be considered as living with multiple illnesses, continual money worries, a lack of friends or understanding from others, becoming hooked on drugs, continually breaking the law and being imprisoned etc,.
Many people today have turned their back on God and the teachings of the bible stating that they are not relevant in todays world but, the truth is that the bible and its teachings - especially the commandments - are equally as relevant and necessary today as they were when written. The commandments advise us how not to be.
If we can live in accordance with these commandments then we will stand a very good chance of living a long and healthy life. For believe me- when we die we are dead! There is no more. No reincarnation, no continued existence as a ghost and definitely no remaining thoughts or worries - we are no more.
Kymmie on October 25, 2018:
Very interesting and one thing to remember is we have nothing to lose by striving to go to heaven if it dosnt exist but everything to gain if it does
my name is a secret on June 08, 2018:
okay so think about it. what if someone made the heaven/ hell, reincarnation, ghosts or etc up and now there are people that just believe in a lie! meaning god is not real. i always tend to think of a god asanother fairytale or imagination like a mystical creature in a human form. So basically after death, my opinion is that , thats it.
Madison on March 08, 2018:
I belive in heaven and hell be good and the golden gates it is bad there are flames surrounding you!!!!!!!!!!!!
John on January 02, 2018:
All I know is a moment before my Mom passed on she got this smile on her face and said to us, "now I know".
Pete on October 26, 2017:
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.
Darcy on September 16, 2017:
You go wherever the people responsible for burying or burning you place you.
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on April 11, 2015:
Great hub here on the afterlife. It was pretty interesting and well thought out with your theories. Nice work. Voted up!
cryptid (author) from USA on May 29, 2014:
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.
mikayla on May 29, 2014:
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 (author) from USA on April 24, 2014:
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 from Other Side of the Sun on April 23, 2014:
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 (author) from USA on February 23, 2014:
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.
Howard Schneider from Parsippany, New Jersey on February 21, 2014:
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 (author) from USA on January 20, 2014:
Whoa! Interesting food for thought!
muhammadahmed71 on January 20, 2014:
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 (author) from USA on April 17, 2013:
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."
nobody on April 17, 2013:
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.
papycz on August 28, 2012:
we simply sleep- until the 2nd coming... if you follow scripture
cryptid (author) from USA on July 01, 2012:
So true, and I always love a Mark Twain quote!
kropotkinbeard on July 01, 2012:
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 (author) from USA on June 29, 2012:
Pamela-anne from Miller Lake on June 29, 2012:
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 (author) from USA on June 29, 2012:
Thanks CR and Johan. Glad to provide some food for thought.
Johan Smulders from East London, South Africa on June 29, 2012:
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!
Pamela Hutson from Moonlight Maine on June 29, 2012:
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!