Is it a bit unusual to have a conversation with a deceased loved one? Do many people do this? And are there any benefits to such action? What will my friends think if they find out? These questions are not uncommon in the thoughts of those mourning the death of a loved one.
Briefly, talking to someone who has died is common for many. There are a considerable number of people who pray and talk to their deceased loved ones on a regular basis. And no, it is not at all unusual since the practice has a long history. In fact, some Christian denominations believe in the doctrine of the Communion of Saints. This involves the belief that deceased loved ones who are in heaven are able to intercede to God for those on earth.
As for your friends and what they might think, I would suggest that is the least of all things to worry about. That is their problem, not yours. Of course, you don’t have to tell them anyway. I say all of this because I recommend to most of the people in my support groups to talk to the loved one whenever they feel it is needed. Why? Because it is obviously very beneficial. Here’s seven reasons why the practice is useful in dealing with transition.
1. It provides comfort in transition. For many people who talk to their deceased loved one the action itself is comforting. They are doing something that eases the burden of accepting the fact that the loved one is not physically present.
2. It gives motivation to work to adjust to a new world. Having a real or imaginary conversation with a loved one, when dealing with massive change, may provide the extra push to deal with a difficult problem. If you believe your loved one can hear you, then ask for help in tackling the problem—see what pops into your mind after asking a question. If you don’t believe your talk is heard, but is simply using your imagination, then after asking a question imagine what your loved one might say in response.
3. It is a way to demonstrate loving in separation. Talking out loud or silently to your loved one is another example of loving in separation through remembrance. He/she is always a thought away in your heart and it may well be an important way for you to remind yourself that love never dies and you will always have a relationship though separated. There is nothing untoward with honoring the dead every day in this way, if you are so inclined.
4. It can be used it as a wake-up ritual. Rituals, whether formal or informal, can provide a major way of establishing priorities or new routines when coping with loss. They are also a way of honoring the deceased. Starting the day off, as many survivors do, with greetings or remembrance to the deceased before getting into the hustle and bustle of the day, is a hopeful way to begin your day.
5. It is an effective emotional release. Many widows speak to their deceased husbands to express feelings. This action is not only mentally and physically appropriate but it allows a freedom of expression not often found when interacting with others. “It makes me feel he’s still around" said one mourner.
6. It can bolster confidence. “I feel better" said one woman after speaking to her deceased loved one. Others suggest a talk can diminish the feeling of being alone. Still others use a conversation to ask for a sign that the loved one is okay in another existence.
7. It gives peace to be able to tell a loved one when something happens. When living alone, many widows talk to the deceased loved one, especially in the evenings when in need of companionship. Do what you feel comfortable with and that gives peace of mind, which is a major factor in evaluating the awareness and use of mystery in a world steeped in “seeing is believing. "
Because we live in a world designed to keep the spiritual and the soulful on the periphery, does not mean that we cannot intelligently choose to speak to a deceased loved one. There is nothing weird about doing so. It is obviously very useful and strengthening for millions. And no one can explain how this interaction may work, and it’s not necessary to have an explanation.
We know that spiritual traditions around the world suggest praying to deceased loved ones. The best-selling author, Thomas Moore, insightfully recalls part of his mother’s legacy: “My mother honored the dead and communicated with her ancestors constantly. She taught me this piece of practical mystical theology, and I will continue to follow her way.
Depending on your belief system, incorporate conversations with your loved one as a way to cope with your loss and reinvest in life. As one woman who was engaged to be married told me recently, “It’s been over eight years and I still converse with him [her first husband]. I tell him to go out there and help our son. " This woman is as grounded as anyone you would want to meet, and has learned to incorporate nonphysical reality into her lifestyle. You can too, and live life more fully.
Dr. LaGrand is a grief counselor and the author of eight books, the most recent, the popular Love Lives On: Learning from the Extraordinary Encounters of the Bereaved. He is known world-wide for his research on the Extraordinary Experiences of the bereaved (after-death communication phenomena) and is one of the founders of Hospice of the St. Lawrence Valley, Inc. His free monthly ezine website is http://www.extraordinarygriefexperiences.com