What a near-death experience really feels like

No one really knows what happens on 'the other side' but three Kiwis, who appeared on The Project's Death Week special, have got about as close as one can get. 

For a while, each of them was dead.

An estimated 25 million people have had a near-death experience in the past 50 years.

On Tuesday, three people who have had near-death experiences shared their glimpse into the afterlife. 

Each of them recalled similar experiences of white light, a feeling of warmth and welcome - and a strange being.

"I was in this place of extreme nothingness... it was silent, and yet there wasn't even any silence. I can't put it into words because words don't give it justice," Kirsty Salisbury says. 

The podcaster and author experienced a sudden brain illness as a 12-year-old and underwent emergency surgery. On the operating table, she flatlined - but was resuscitated. She went into a coma.

"It was the most pure, amazing joy I have ever experienced... I noticed all around me were these beings, like silhouettes. They were all cheering, celebrating and welcoming me... it was a beautiful feeling of, 'I'm home'."

Josh Roche had a near-death experience as an 11-year-old following a severe accident.

"As I looked down, I remember this feeling of gravity losing its hold on me. It was just like some part of me was being sucked away, sucked up," he says.

"I slowly entered this column of light and it was warm and welcoming... there was no trepidation or fear or concern or worry. It was like, 'Ah, I've been here before'. Quickly following that, it was, 'I've been here thousands of times'."

Dr Natasha Tassell-Matamua, a psychologist and senior lecturer at Massey University, says she felt as though she was "travelling through a really long tunnel at really high speeds".

"I saw what appeared to be a silhouette of a being. I just recall communicating with the being, I guess you could say telepathically... just saying I wasn't quite ready for this. At that moment I was propelled back through the tunnel and back into my body... I was wondering what on earth happened to me," she says.

Tassell-Matamua and her colleagues at Massey University have interviewed 600 people who have 'seen the other side'.

"A near-death experience could be described or defined as a profound psychological occurrence that transcends space, time and perceptual boundaries," she says. 

"The most surprising thing I learnt about near-death experiences is just how common they are."

Watch the video above for the full segment.