Those who are experiencing these seemingly unexplainable events are not “going crazy.” Rather, they are encountering normal and common events, collectively called Extraordinary Experiences (EEs). Louis LaGrand, the noted expert in this aspect of mourning, states that EEs don’t always occur for everyone. However, for those for whom EEs do occur, they seem to be an important way for the bereaved to maintain a connection while establishing a new relationship with the deceased.
That many bereaved individuals do maintain a relationship even after death is demonstrated by how frequently the bereaved report that they “sense” the presence of their loved one. For example, in a study by Stephen Shuchter and Sidney Zisook, over 50% of widows and widowers stated that after more than a year after the death, they still sensed or perceived the presence of their spouse. Many of them also reported “talking” to their loved one. I have a current client who tells me it seems like her deceased husband is lying next to her in bed at night. She, like a vast majority of other “perceivers,” finds comfort from his presence.
The presence of a deceased person is not limited to a “sensing.” Various interviews of bereaved persons show that 20% of them have heard or seen their loved one, 10% have felt the touch of their loved one, and 4% have smelled a scent associated with the deceased, such as his/her favorite cologne or perfume, food, a particular pipe smoke, etc. Some people tell about objects such as a picture or a glass changing positions. I had one client who swore that the urn that contained the ashes of her baby moved by itself on the fireplace mantle. In short, feeling the presence, talking to, smelling, hearing, seeing, and feeling the touch of the deceased is normal. About 80% of those who have perceived the presence of their loved one find these experiences to be pleasant and reassuring. They seem to be a way for the deceased to communicate that he/she is okay and that the bereaved should not to remain fixated on the past.
A popular song and the main theme from the movie Titanic, My Heart Will Go On, describes beautifully what Extraordinary Encounters can mean to mourners. I invite you to listen to the song while playing special attention to the words.
For more information about Extraordinary Experiences, please visit Louis's site.