LEADING INNOVATION IN SUICIDE PREVENTION

A F T E R   D E A T H

C O M M U N I C A T I O N S

Continuing Bonds through After-Death Spiritual Experiences in Individuals Bereaved by Suicide

Article Published in the Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health

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Tony Gee, a suicidologist from Australia said, “…when we closely look at the bereavement literature we find that it tells us time and time again, that the ‘lived experience’ of the bereaved has a range of dimensions, some of which may in fact be quite different from what some of the traditional theories (really coming from that ‘objective’ realm) have been prepared to recognize….”

 
He went on to explain that the continuing bond between the deceased and the living seems to continue on two levels:

1)      “an internal representation, living on in memory, being part of the internal self-structure, being a sort of constant internal companion,” and

2)      “an actual sense of presence of the deceased as a separate individual identity who is still around in some way after death and this presence may be experienced in a number of different ways.”

He described the two as not mutually exclusive.

 
Danielle Jahn and the Carson J Spencer Foundation collaborated on a project to capture people’s spiritual experiences with loved ones after a death by suicide.  We got a strong response: over 1,000 people completed our questionnaire:

 

  • About 70% of our sample experienced some sort of “spiritual experience” with their loved one who died by suicide.
  • The most common manifestation was dreaming of the deceased (72%), followed by feeling the presence of the deceased (51%) and experiencing profound coincidences (41%).
  • About one third of our sample experienced their first “sign” immediately after death and another third experienced it within the first month.
  • About 90% of our group told another person about their after-death communication, and most found that the person they told was supportive or intrigued, but a few felt discounted.
  • The most common emotional reactions to these experiences were love (60%), peace (55%), and sadness (47%).

Michelle Linn-Gust has often said, “The bond is not broken; the bond is changed. People really need to know that their loved one is still part of their life. There is so much fear that if we move forward we are letting them go.”