The Phenomenology and Impact of Perceived Spontaneous After-Death Communications | Callum E. Cooper

An After-Death Communication (ADC) occurs when a deceased person is unexpectedly perceived through the senses of sight, hearing, smell, or touch. Very commonly, experients simply “feel the presence” of the deceased person or have a subjective impression of having received a contact or a communication, for example during sleep. ADCs occur frequently, with an estimated 25-50% of the bereaved having experienced one or more spontaneous ADCs. Testimonies collected in different countries suggest that this phenomenon is universal and timeless. Other forms of ADCs include sought experiences, such as visiting a spirit medium with the intention of receiving messages, allegedly from deceased loved ones.

Despite their widespread occurrence, ADCs have been little researched and are absent from the media and public discourse. As a consequence, persons who experience an ADC (experients) usually have no frame of reference through which to understand, integrate and benefit fully from this experience which doesn’t match mainstream conceptions of reality. Whatever the ontological status of ADCs might be, they are perceived as real by a great number of persons and therefore certainly deserve their place on the consciousness research agenda.

Such experiences, when engaged with and understood, can be beneficial for the bereaved person in helping them come to terms with their loss. For example, Drewry (2003) interviewed seven participants who had collectively reported around 40 instances of post-death experiences and alleged communication with the dead. Eight themes to their experiences were found, including that participants initially believed themselves to be delusional before deciding that the experience was genuine, with cues in the experiences that confirmed for them that the encounter was with their deceased friend or relative. After the experience, the experients reported relief, comfort, encouragement, forgiveness, love, joy, and most notably hope. They were found to have reframed their views of the world since their experiences; this included the values by which they chose to live their life and their views on religion and life after death. Participants also felt a continued bond with the deceased, which was helpful when it came to coping with their loss. Experiences were considered beneficial, even if they were initially frightening.

The adaptive grief outcomes of post-death experiences were investigated by Parker (2004). Twelve people were interviewed who had been bereaved within the preceding year, of whom eleven experienced positive changes such as personal and/or spiritual growth. Parker concluded that the experiences were not due to any form of psychopathology, but served ‘needs’ of the bereavement process, especially when the experiences were regarded as veridical in nature. It is evident, then, that anomalous experiences can occur as a natural part of the bereavement process, and can be beneficial for coping and recovery. Whatever the ontological status of such experiences, they have been found to allow the bereaved to assume a continued bond with the deceased that can be a medium for closure or resolution. With this in mind, we would argue that there is a need for greater recognition of their occurrence by therapists and acknowledgement of their potential for healing as part of the therapeutic process.

Presented at the “62nd Annual Convention of the Parapsychological Association” on July 4, 2019, Paris, France; program chaired by Ramses D’Leon. Download the Abstracts at

The Parapsychological Association is an international professional organization of scientists and scholars engaged in the study of psi (or ‘psychic’) experiences, such as telepathy, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, psychic healing, and precognition. The primary objective of the PA is to achieve a scientific understanding of these experiences.

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Published on January 26, 2020