“I was absolutely petrified…” – Negative anomalous experiences during bereavement.

Research output: Contribution to ConferenceAbstract


Sensing the presence of a deceased loved one is a common phenomenon, with approximately 50% of individuals reporting them (Rees, 1971, 2010). There has been a great deal of research conducted surrounding the variety of anomalous experiences reported during bereavement, and their positive nature and impact on the bereavement process (see Cooper, Roe & Mitchell, 2015; Cooper, 2017; Gurney with Myers, 1889). However, there is very little research surrounding why a minority of individual report negative experiences. Parker (2004) discovered that 1 out of 12 people interviewed about their experiences claimed them to negative, Rees (2010) reported 6% of people finding their experiences unpleasant (N=293), and Cooper (2017) found 2% expressing negative outcomes (N = 50). Clearly the figures are low, but why are they low? And, what is the long term impact of these experiences on bereavement and recovery?An interpretative phenomenological analysis approach was taken to explore such experiences in greater detail (see Storey, 2016), with in-depth semi-structured interviews conducted (N= 4, females, mean age: 45.5). A total of 5 super-ordinate themes were generated from the data (with sub-themes), which included: ‘from the deceased’s perspective’ (experiment perspectives of the deceased’s views and behaviour); ‘continued bonds’ (see Klass & Steffen, 2018); ‘bereavement process’ (the therapeutic benefits of anomalous experiences); ‘judgment’ (experiencing stigma from talking to people about such experiences); ‘emotional reactions’ (how and why the experiences were seen as negative). It appeared that even though all bereaved individuals reported negative experiences, all of them reported positive benefits. The anomalous experiences – as previous research has found – supported and facilitated the gap of loss, which helped all experients overcome not only the initial loss, but any negative emotional reactions from experience. The research has helped contribute to the clinical parapsychology literature surrounding death and bereavement and further our understanding of what may happen in those few negative instances reported. However, given such a small sample of people were interviewed, there is much scope to continue this line of inquiry.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sept 2018
Event42nd International Conference of the Society for Psychical Research - Jurys Inn, Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom
Duration: 31 Aug 20182 Sept 2018


Conference42nd International Conference of the Society for Psychical Research
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CityNewcastle Upon Tyne
Internet address


  • Anomalous experiences
  • Bereavement

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