Maybe they’re just married and their spouse has died.
From research …
- Almost half of married people experience some form of seeing, hearing or otherwise sensing their spouse after they have passed [ie died].
- The longer the marriage then the more likely that the surviving spouse will have these kinds of experiences.
- The overwhelming majority 68% of people reported the experience was helpful – only 8% reported it as unpleasant.
…and even if the rest of the world has known this since, well forever, even the profession of Medicine has known it for almost as long as the Maple Leafs leafs have been not winning the Stanley Cup – so, again, since forever.
So, why don’t you hear about this in our society ?
Well that’s simple -because most people don’t talk about it: because they fear ridicule, think you are not interested, don’t want to upset you – and because you didn’t ask.
It seems to me there are two ways to interpret this:
- hearing voices, seeing visions, etc is – in the “automatic thinking” of biomedical psychiatry- a positive and defining symptom of “schizophrenia” [whatever that is]. And so, at least in Wales, marriage must clearly be counted as a leading cause of serious mental illness.
- hearing voices, seeing visions and otherwise experiencing others who are “not there” is a normal and often helpful human experience.
I’ll leave it to you to decide which view of the world makes more sense to you.
- is it more common to see, hear or sense the presence of a spouse in marriages in which one spouse has died than it is in marriages where both are still alive
- it’s not even going to be in DSM5, but is getting married itself a “symptom” of “serious mental illness”? and when will NYC begin rounding up people profiled with mental illness to prevent them getting married?
Clearly, and as it is tradition to say: “more research is required”.
In 1971 BMJ Published a paper by Dr W Dewi Rees reporting findings of a study into
experiences of widows and widowers in Wales.
Population 227 widows and 66 widowers, representing 80.7 % of all widowed people in the area.
- Almost half those married people interviewed heard, saw, or or otherwise sensed the presence of their deceased spouse.
- The proportion of men and women who reported these experiences was similar.
- Women were more likely to talk about the experince to someone else.
- Men were more likely to talk to the vision, or voice, etc.
- The longer the marriage, the more likely it was that the surviving spouse would have these experiences.
- The experiences often lasted many years but were most common during the first 10 years of widowhood.
“These hallucinations are considered to be normal and
helpful accompaniments of widowhood.”
Talking with others about the experience
- Most widowed people do not disclose their experience – 28% did.
- Only one in five had reported to more than one person.
- Women were almost three times more likely than men to talk about the experience with others.
- widows 32%
- widowers 12%
- None had informed a doctor, only one had informed a clergyman.
- From those who offered an explanation for not talking about it, the most common reasons for not talking about the experience were…
- fear of ridicule
- too personal
- no one asked
- people would not be interested
- would upset relatives if they knew
- bring ill luck
Help from the voice, vision etc
Most participants reported they were helped by their hallucinations.
experience of deceased spouse… % reporting helpful experience
- vision 78%
- voice 26%
- sensed as a presence 73%
- spoke to 82%
- overall 68%
Only 6% reported their experience was unpleasant.
Hallucinations of Widowhood. W Dewi Rees.
Published BMJ . 2 Oct 1971