Barbara S. Howard, Fielding's School of Psychology
Continued bonds between bereaved individuals and deceased loved ones are important for the process of mourning. Previous research has shown that survivors often report seeing, hearing, or sensing the presence of the deceased. These encounters have been called After Death Communications (ADCs), Post-Death Contacts, Death-Related Sensory Experiences, Exceptional Human Experiences, or Extraordinary Experiences (EEs); the latter term is used in this study. These encounters may have a profound effect on mourners, altering their beliefs in an afterlife and attitudes concerning life and death. They may also facilitate healing and adaptation to loss. This qualitative study utilized a semi-structured questionnaire to interview eight individuals who lost their spouses and who reported at least one EE. The process of intrapsychic development, meaning-making, and resulting changes in the participants’ attitudes was investigated. Further, it was hoped that survivors’ narratives would provide information on how other people’s perception of their EE reports affected their adaptation after a loss. The purpose of this study was to facilitate the use of these phenomena for healing, recovery from grief, and posttraumatic growth. This study aimed to add to the body of knowledge of health care professionals and grief counselors, so that they can better assist individuals who report EEs and utilize these experiences in therapy, as well as facilitating the development of theory for future quantitative investigation.