Foundation for Near-Death Studies

Extraordinary Experiences
of the Bereaved

Extraordinary experiences of the bereaved, also referred to as an after-death communication (ADC) or post-death visitation, is an experience where a person feels a friend or family member who has died spontaneously and directly contacts them without the use of a medium or psychic. For the grieving person, these spiritual experiences offer hope and comfort. The incidence of ADCs is not known, however, may be common. Over a 7 year period, Bill and Judy Guggenheim collected 3,300 accounts of ADCs throughout the US and Canada and interviewed people of all ages, socioeconomic status and religious backgrounds. They estimate these experiences occur in about 20% of the population, although that number may be significantly higher, and take many forms. In their book, "Hello from Heaven", the Guggenheims identify the most common elements:

  • Sense a Presence: A person may have a distinct sense that their loved one is nearby even though they cannot see or hear them. This is one of the most common types.
  • Hear a Voice: Some people have said they heard an external voice, but relay that this type of communications is by telepathy, that is, you hear it in your mind.
  • Feel a Touch: Some people feel a loved one touch them with their hand or give them a pat, hug or kiss. All gestures are forms of affection, nurturing, and love.
  • Smell a Fragrance: Favorite flowers, colognes, perfumes, after-shave lotions and even favorite food odors may permeate an area even though this product is nowhere in site.
  • Visual Experiences: Full and partial visual experiences may occur. People may report seeing their loved one in a variety of ways. These appearances range from "a transparent mist" to "absolutely solid" with many shades in between and are often described as radiant. Typically, the person appears completely, well, slightly younger and is smiling and happy.
  • Twilight Experiences: When someone is falling asleep, awaking or in deep meditation, this is sometimes referred to as an "alpha" state. Some feel ADCs are may be more common when one is relaxed.
  • Sleep-state: Sleep-state ADCs are dreams that are much more intense and colorful than a typical dream. They are vivid and can be remembered decades afterwards with clarity.
  • Physical Phenomena: Bereaved people frequently report a variety of physical signs, such as lights turning on/off, music boxes playing on their own, clocks working that previously did not work, that are signs form their deceased relative or friend. These may be symbolic and represent something treasured by the deceased.
  • Symbolic ADCs: Symbolic ADCs take many forms and again often represent a meaningful item of the deceased person. These could include a favorite rare bird that suddenly appears to the bereaved person, or inanimate items such as coins.

Extraordinary experiences of the bereaved offer hope and comfort to those grieving the loss of a close family member or friend. They offer a measure of comfort not typically obtained through traditional means such as therapy or medications. There is a clear message from the deceased person "love has no boundaries", you will meet again and they will help you as you make your transition.

A gifted writer and speaker on this subject is Louis E. LaGrand, PhD, a counselor who has worked extensively in the field of grief counseling. He has several outstanding audio programs available at this site: