Psychedelics can help people overcome their fear of death.
“I’m not a religious person…or anything near spiritual either, but I felt like I’d experienced…the feeling of an afterlife, like a preview almost, and I felt totally calm, totally relaxed, totally at peace.”
“I have the sense that death is not the end but part of a process, a way of moving into a different sphere, a different way of being.”
These are just two of many accounts from patients who participated in psychedelic studies conducted at schools such as Stanford, Johns Hopkins and NYU. These studies show that one dose of psilocybin—the active compound found in “magic” mushrooms—drastically reduced overwhelming sadness and anxiety in patients with terminal illnesses. Many current studies also show the same results with LSD, DMT, and other psychedelics.
As a death doula, my job is to support clients at the end of their lives. One of the many services I provide is trip sitting. In the name of harm reduction, I’m available to sit with someone tripping in a therapeutic session for up to eight hours. I don’t provide the plant medicine or interfere with the trip itself, instead, I sit with the client and occasionally provide water or a guided walk to the bathroom. I also keep them safe.
Unfortunately, psychedelics, for the most part, are illegal in the United States.
They are, however, legal in Jamaica.
More on that later.
Dying – the singular universal experience
Death is an inevitable and natural part of life. No matter our gender, economic status, or culture – every single one of us is going to die. And yet, as a society, we hardly discuss it. On the contrary, we distract ourselves and deny, deny, deny. The medical community also makes it worse. In fact, Dr. Kerr, a hospice physician, has said that if death makes you uncomfortable, the best place for you to go is medical school. There they see death as the ultimate failure.
This results in a population of people literally scared to death.
Psychedelics help us shed fears of death
Recently 80 participants with terminal diagnoses were given psilocybin in a carefully monitored setting. After counseling, more than three-quarters said they felt major relief from depression and anxiety. Those improved feelings were still felt six months after the studies were complete.
This is unprecedented. More studies confirm similar results.
Psychedelics help with the fear of death by opening people up to the mysteries surrounding us. The psilocybin experience is an especially profound one, revealing to people an awareness of sorts, especially those who are dying. Many lose whatever fear or trepidation they felt. This not only provides comfort for the person dying but for their loved ones as well.
Combined with integration, and sometimes a meditative practice, psilocybin has been shown to increase feelings of gratitude, compassion, and forgiveness. A common theme among psychedelic users is that we’re all connected. They feel an overpowering love.
Your favorite song
Words sometimes are woefully ineffective to explain a psychedelic experience. For the uninitiated, I use this analogy to try to explain what this awareness feels like.
Think about your favorite song. If you have one, you can easily recall the title and artist, right? Thinking of the song puts a smile on your face.
Now think about when you walk into a room or you’re driving down the road and that song comes on the radio. It’s different when you hear it, right?
You feel something come over you.
You turn it up. Close your eyes. Feel aglow with memories.
Maybe you even dance a little.
This is how a good trip works for you. Psychedelics take certain ideas we know (love is all that matters, we are all interconnected, death is not an end, etc.) and converts them into something we also feel. Revelations we now understand on a much deeper level.
Imagine the possibilities
When we are dying, we lose our sense of self. If this has never happened to you before, the idea of no self can be frightening. It can lead to depression and existential angst.
With the right set and setting, psychedelics give people a new perspective. They feel the death or disillusion of their ego and recognize it as awe-inspiring. Psychedelics show us that we can enjoy this mystical experience. When we come back from the trip, we integrate what we’ve learned into our daily life and live the rest of our lives without fear.
After a trip, people report feeling deeply positive, freed from time and space, and unified with all living things. A renewed sense of purpose and meaning comes over them.
“People in the psychedelic trip often experience being at one with the world or even the universe. It’s as if they have died, as if they’ve gone out to another place. They exist beyond their body. That experience can give them a sense of perpetuity, of permanence, of being part of the cycle of life, which of course we all are.” Professor David Nutt
A retreat for the end of your life
Imagine a place you can go, legally and safely, to explore psychedelics and help reduce the fear associated with death and dying. At Diaspora Psychedelic Society (DPS) in Jamaica, we have created such an experience.
At End-of-Life Transition Retreats, you will learn to:
- Approach your end-of-life with peace, awe, and wonder.
- Enjoy your final days in a supportive, caring environment.
- Explore the dying process without fear or anxiety.
- Find ways to celebrate your life.
A path to peace
These retreats help those looking to shed their conditioned fear of the unknown. Through sacred medicine connection and integration, you’ll experience skillfully guided psilocybin and DMT experiences rooted in indigenous, scientific, and esoteric wisdom.
You’ll also join me, a trained and experienced death doula, for workshops about the dying experience. I’ve created sessions where we explore ways to broaden our understanding and come to see death as a joyful transition.
Our psychedelic retreats and wellness programs encourage those with death anxiety to revisit their views, learn about options, and leave feeling empowered to die a good death. Without fear. Surrounded by positive support.