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Workshop examines near-death experiences

Scott Parks, Dallas Morning News

Jerriann Massey experienced lifeís typical high points. She graduated from high school and college. She got married. She gave birth to two children.

Then came the most important experience of her life.

Ms. Massey nearly drowned during an accident on the Guadalupe River in August 1990. She counts herself among the unknown number of Americans who have lived through a near-death experience, or NDE.

"It was a big olí hammer between the eyes," said Ms. Massey, now 47. "It made me re-evaluate everything. Is this the best marriage I can have? Can I be a better parent? Is this the best career for me?"

Ms. Massey and other so-called NDEers told their stories Friday to 100 people who gathered at the University of North Texas in Denton for "Counseling Approaches to Child and Adult Near-Death Experiences."

The group included doctors, nurses and therapists trying to learn more about how to deal with patients who are grappling with their NDE.

"Iím here because Iím interested in the topic," said Nancy Byers, a licensed professional counselor in Plano. "Itís an area of transpersonal counseling that takes therapy beyond the physical into the spiritual."

Ms. Byers said she is focusing on using "a composite of ancient languages" to create a sound that relieves a patientís pain.

"I know it sounds a little crazy," she said.

Not everyone who almost dies during a medical emergency reports a NDE. Those who do tell similar stories about out-of-body experiences, moving through a tunnel toward a bright light, the serenity of "death," joyous encounters with deceased loved ones or about reviewing moments in their lives.