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Life changes after a near death experience

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answered 10:52 AM EST, Thu September 08, 2011
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I was in a bad car accident a couple of months ago and I am still recovering physically from my injuries. At one point, in the early days, my sister told me that the doctors weren’t sure that I would live.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my life since I’ve been laid up in bed and I am worried that I am wasting it. I am already middle aged and I have yet to live any of my dreams. My life has become a terrible suburban boring cliché.

Once I am physically able I want to pull the kids from school( aged 9 and 11) get rid of the house and the life-sucking mortgage and see the world as a family for as long as the money will last. I feel like my eyes have been opened and the world is there for the taking and I am more excited about his than I have been about anything for a long time.

My wife, however, is not so sure my suggestion is the best thing to do and she is more in favor of baby steps. She says my whole plan is just a reaction to the trauma I’ve experienced – and she’s right! But I don’t see this as a bad thing and I feel like if we don’t really go for it whole-hog we’ll just get dragged back into our everyday life and responsibilities and we’ll miss this window of opportunity to do something great for once in our adult lives.

Anyway, this is obviously something for us to sort through as a couple, but what I would like your expertise on is, in your experience, are the life changes people make after a near-death experience usually a mistake, or more normally a case of people finally seizing life by the throat and living it as it should be lived!?

Ari Hahn Says...

Life changing experiences after near death experiences are often, like you say, "seizing life by the throat and living it as it should be lived!" However, that is only true for the individual who experienced the trauma and survived. It is not true for those who did not experience it. That means that it would be inappropriate for your loved ones to change their lives radically and it might even be harmful or detrimental for them. they did not have the psychological "kick in the butt" that you had and extreme and sudden change can be dangerous. On the other hand, if you were to make those changes without them you run the risk of losing the most important single factor in a flourishing life, the close relationships that sustain us.

The best path is to find a way of integrating your hard learned insights into your family's view of life and keep your wife and children on the path that is "tried and true" while infusing a new zest for life that comes from your new appreciation.

As a suggestion, you might want to look into building up habits of expressing gratitude in your family, like keeping a gratitude journal, or expressing heartfelt thanks at family dinners. Or talk about realistic plans for increased enjoyment or appreciation of the good things in life. There is much to enjoy and appreciate in your life.

A good life coach can help you integrate your new found insights into your family's philosophy of life if necessary.

I hope all goes well. Contact me if you need additional help.

Ari Hahn, LCSW

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