A Survey of the phenomenology and psychological impacts of perceived spontaneous after-death communications

Evelyn Elsaesser, Chris Roe, Callum Cooper, Alejandro Parra, David Lorimer

Research output: Contribution to ConferenceAbstractpeer-review


A spontaneous After-Death Communication (ADC) occurs when a bereaved person unexpectedly perceives the deceased person in a manner that is interpreted as indicative of the continued survival of some aspect of that person. This may be experienced through the senses of sight, hearing, smell, or touch, but commonly recipients might 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 (Cooper et al., 2015), and have been reported in different cultures and time periods (Haraldsson, 2012; Sidgwick et al., 1894). Despite their widespread occurrence, ADCs have been little researched and are absent from scientific and medical discourse. As a consequence, persons who experience an ADC usually have no frame of reference in terms of which to understand, integrate and benefit psychologically and emotionally from their experiences. Additionally, they typically fear that disclosure will cause them to be labelled as credulous, or even as suffering from some pathology or psychiatric disorder (Evenden et al., 2013; Roxburgh & Roe, 2014). For many participants, involvement in a research study can be the first time they have spoken openly about such experiences; for example, Rees (1975) reported that only 27.7% of his participants had previously discussed their exceptional experiences (EEs) with anyone, and just 14.6% had told more than one person. This reticence acts as a hindrance to research into the effects of anomalous experiences upon the bereavement process. Whatever the ontological status of ADCs, they are perceived as real by a great number of persons and therefore deserve to be taken seriously by researchers interested in how people negotiate the bereavement process. When ADCs are acknowledged and engaged with they have been found to aid the bereaved person in coming to terms with their loss (Cooper et al., 2015). Counterintuitively, it seems that participants who felt a continued bond with the deceased as a result of their ADC felt more able to accept the death of their loved one, ‘let go’ of them, and reengage with the wider world around them. This presentation will introduce a survey project that is the most extensive interrogation of the phenomenology and impacts of spontaneous ADCs attempted to date. Using an online survey platform that included English, Spanish and French versions of the questionnaire, over 1,000 respondents who had experienced an ADC answered a sequence of up to 200 questions relating to their ADC (follow up questions were presented following affirmative answers and were omitted following negative answers). The primary research questions include: What type of person reports an ADC? In what form (type) are ADCs reported? Under what circumstances do they occur? What attributions do people make to their ADCs? What is the impact on experiments? How does it influence their individual grieving process? How does it influence personal beliefs about life and death?
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019
EventInternational Congress in Spirituality and Psychiatry: 4th global meeting in Spirituality and Mental Health - Mishkenot Sha'ananim, Jerusalem, Israel
Duration: 1 Dec 20194 Dec 2019


ConferenceInternational Congress in Spirituality and Psychiatry
Internet address


  • After Death
  • Spirituality
  • ADC


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