Around 60% of bereaved people experience the continued presence of a deceased loved one (Castelnovo et al., 2015; Rees, 1971). This may be through hearing the voice of the deceased, seeing them, smelling them, feeling their touch or a strong sense that the person is otherwise still around.
These phenomena have come under a variety of descriptions - from “Hallucinations” and “illusions” to “awareness” and “continuing bonds” – some invoking a medical framework of understanding, others suggesting spiritual connections, others still foregrounding relational realities. Acknowledging that every term evokes a landscape of associated concepts and relevancies, we use the terms “sense of presence” and “experiences of continued presence” in our own research to align with the phenomenal and pragmatic qualities of the experience.
The experiences by their very nature reside at the intersection of mind, self and society. Social stigma and alienation often come along with them. So what do people tell us about their experiences? What kinds of consequences are they having? Are they healing or destructive? Are they spiritual? Are they relational? What can experiences of voices, visions and other senses of presence in grief tell us about hearing voices under other circumstances, such as in psychiatric patients? These are all questions our research aims to investigate.
Researchers at CREST are international leaders on the phenomenal, pragmatic and contextual studies of experiences of presence in grief. They also work to understand more about voices and visions in other situations too. If you are interested in this work, including collaborations, please contact us: Jacqueline.Hayes@Roehampton.ac.uk