Two years ago, my stance on the afterlife was, almost by these exact words, "I hope life after death exists, but I don't know how or even if it does (would be nice of course!)". That's no longer true. I, 100%, absolutely believe in life after death, now. I'm not sure exactly when the change happened, but...it did. I always thought it possible, but at some magical point, I just became firm in my belief that, yes, the afterlife does exist. How do I see it?
Well, there's where it gets a bit complicated. I see afterlife as a reflection of life. (Or more accurately, life is a reflection of the afterlife.) In practical terms, what this means is...the afterlife is like the multiverse: it is defined by us. Just as our world is observed, so too is our afterlife built off our perception. In other words, the afterlife is both one afterlife, and many different ones. Layman's terms: it's whatever we THINK it is. So, if you believe in heaven and hell, that's how it manifests to you.
Now, my belief, my meism, is still in its infancy, evolving. I don't have all the answers, yet. (I probably never will, but I'm not even close; I've only begun to think about these things in any serious detail.) If you believe in more than one afterlife, which most who believe in the afterlife do (see also: heaven and hell), then which afterlife do you experience? Do you decide your afterlife for yourself? Is it some sort of arbitrary judge, viewing your actions and deeming you to go one place or another? This, I do not know. As I said, not all the answers.
I mean, I kind-of suspect it has to do with your fundamental analysis of yourself, that you have an increased awareness of everything "you", and knowing what that means, can judge yourself more fairly than otherwise. (See below for more on this.) I also don't have a answer for how people who don't believe in an afterlife experience it. I believe an afterlife exists, and thus, they must be a part of it, unable to reject it, but...since they, sincerely, don't think there is one...how would it manifest? As them simply having no consciousness? This also, I do not know.
...But what I can tell you, is about my own personal, personal, belief. The above is what I think happens to others. What happens more specifically? Well, for that, I see life and afterlife as essentially linked, practically the same thing, even. All life is connected, I do sincerely believe that, maybe not in measurable science (though I think some theory about particles on some subatomic level or something like that may exist as a sort-of proof for this?), but on some level.
Yet obviously, all life is separate, too. It all has ties to the ever-expanding tree to me, and my belief in the afterlife is, essentially, that we are reunited with all our other selves, at least, the ones we are close to. And we also are linked to all life which isn't us as well. If I said things were complicated before, that was a lie; this is where things start to get more complicated.
Related to the afterlife are actually three different subjects, three different concepts: my belief in treating the world with respect is one of them, essentially how there's some higher-level stuff going on with things like the environment. Related also to that is my sincere belief in spirits. Yes, I really believe in spirits. Not in the traditional sense of ghosts, actually. More like...entities, entities that exist differently from us, in ways that are foreign to the mortal realm. This is also a belief which I gained with time. (My older belief was "I'll believe it when I see it".) The third is how I feel dreams are more than just subconscious nonsense, how they're actually more like a gateway to this other stuff, with it all linked, and all tied intimately to what I define as the afterlife.
But each of those is, quite seriously, a separate ramble in length. (I'm probably gonna spend time on them, too, if I don't think of anything better to blog about.) All tie to that same idea, though, that, on some level, we retain awareness of our many selves, even if in our conscious self, we only have the one.
We, in the afterlife, essentially get closer to God, becoming a part of Him, by my prior work, where He is basically the higher power relating to the tree, relating to our Destiny, relating to our many infinite fates. Our ability to sense the other world heightens, while also simultaneously blending together as our perception colors this life after life, this realm of our being in its entirety, spanning time itself, spanning across all. If time is an illusion of these many possibilities, then the afterlife is where we exist in a state without it. Our perception would transcend that mortal limitation, connecting not only to our selves, but all life.
...I'm spewing crazy-religious-person-buzzwords, so I'm probably losing credibility here. (Well...that assumes I had any to lose in the first place, which is, in fact, a very large assumption.) But basically...think of it as if your entire life was your online presence. All those multiple yous coexist in their own worlds, linked together.
When you die, all of them suddenly merge into one, who remembers every single post, chat, email, whatever, that you ever made or saw. Every article you've read, everything, all at once...and that new self now has access to all the material EVER put on the internet...along with the capability to see all that ever will, or even some that could but never will.
Down the line, maybe someone reads what you did all those years ago when you were alive, and is imprinted by it, picking up your habits. (I.e., reincarnation.) Maybe not. You also might get to glimpse at your nonexistent life outside the internet. (Remember, this is assuming that, quite literally, your entire life was your online presence, and therefore, everything done outside doesn't exist.) That impossible-by-your-world's-rules, self.
But you also don't need to read, to see, it all, with it as a choice. Having access and memory ability to take everything, good and bad, in, doesn't necessarily mean you wish to. This is probably not the best of examples, the metaphor falls fairly flat, but it's the one which immediately comes to mind and can explain a few basics crudely enough to pass: the afterlife, to me, is where all possibilities are understood. And all of my mes eventually meet there.