If we were honest with ourselves, we would all of us admit that there have been many times when we have pondered this question — Am I going crazy? — terrified of the possibility of an affirmative answer.

For those in the midst of grief, such experiences tend to be frequent, often surrounding particular feelings, thoughts and behaviour. In particular, there are some experiences that may be referred to as “psychic”, “metaphysical”, or “paranormal.” Recent research suggests that between 40% and 50% of the bereaved population have such experiences. I have wondered whether the reality is that only 40-50% are willing to admit to such experiences and that significantly more bereaved individuals have such experiences and are terrified of telling anyone.

What I believe is important to convey here, to the newly bereaved and to those further down the path, is that these kinds of experiences are common among those who are grieving — you are not crazy!

Most often included under what I will call the “paranormal umbrella” are: odors and smells of the deceased (olfactory); seeing the deceased or some spiritual form (visual); hearing the voice of the deceased (auditory) and experiencing some kind of physical contact with the deceased (tactile). In order for an experience to be considered “paranormal”, it is my understanding that such experiences have to occur while one is conscious. Thus, dreams about such experiences may not be classified in this way.

Clearly, we are much more open to these kinds of experiences than we were, even 10 years ago — but, there is still a stigma that is often associated with anyone who admits to having any kind of contact with the dead. In one breath we say we are open to the possibility of the existence of a “spirit world” — and with the next breath say that this is impossible. Many people hold to the belief that such experiences are nothing more than “hallucinations”, created by our minds because contact with our loved one is what we want more than anything else – such experiences are not “real.” This is the very belief that reinforces a person’s feeling like they are going crazy if they have such an experience. Even though someone can tell us in great detail about a particular event, we cannot know how powerful that experience was for them or what meaning it had for them. “Was there really a spirit in my room?” “Did I really hear his voice?”

At this point in time, I am of the belief that we cannot answer these kind of questions any more than we can truly know someone else’s experience. But, more importantly, I don’t think it matters! It is easy to get caught up in the debate about whether such experiences are real or not — and many are. I believe that getting caught up in the debate prevents us from moving forward.

It prevents us from accepting someone’s experience and considering the meaning it holds for them and the implications it has for that individual’s journey along their path of grief.

More important questions are: “Was this experience a comforting one or a disturbing one?” “How does the person make sense of their experience in terms of how they are managing their grief?”

These kinds of questions can be answered and the answers can help someone move forward in their journey. We need to be open to the “unusual” experiences of those who are grieving, and refrain from being judgmental. It is the fear of judgment that keeps people from sharing such experiences. Remember, it is only through sharing that we realize, we are not alone.

~ by unknown ~