Bereavement due to traumatic death

Religion and spirituality

In the UK spirituality used to be associated exclusively with religion, but during the 1950’s the concept of spirituality broadened to include the individual quest to understand the meaning of life. Today, some people describe themselves as religious, others as spiritual, some as both, while others have always argued that religion and spiritual events are “social illusions”. Some people acknowledge that religious or spiritual beliefs help or comfort those in distress but resist the explanations given by priests, spiritualists or mediums.

Although most people in the UK are do not regularly attend religious services bereavement often prompts people to seek comfort and explanation through going to church, talking to a minister or reading the bible. Rosemary said that after her son died she used religion as “a crutch” for a bit, even though she had lost her interest in religion many years earlier. She said that the local priest helped her enormously.


Soon after her son died in the London bombing in 2005 Rosemary went to see her local vicar. He...

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Age at interview: 65
Sex: Female
I mean after that, I mean after a couple of days, I mean I have to say I did something I’ve never felt I’d do again because I’ve kind of lost interest in religion and all the rest of it, you know, a long time ago, but I went to see our Vicar actually and I have to be honest it was one of the best things I ever did. Really was, I mean I didn’t know this man from Adam but it turned out that he was, I think he actually, when I talked to him about James he understood some of the dilemmas he’d been going through and I think he’d perhaps experienced something similar himself. And it was just fantastic, I can’t tell you how amazing he was and James’ memorial service, which he did and he didn’t know James at all, was just fantastic it really was. The address he made was just, it was just the right thing to do and it was probably one of the most, it really, he was such, he was just amazing he was just so supportive and wonderful, I can’t tell you and, you know, I’m afraid I used religion as a crutch for a bit, not for very long I have to be honest because I think a part of me then began to think [pause 1 sec] I’m rather embarrassed that I actually felt this way but I can’t tell you it helped so much initially. And some, some very, things that I wouldn’t have thought I’d ever felt again because I was brought up in quite a religious way, you know, about going to God and all the rest but at the time it was the right thing to say to me, I mean, he didn’t overdo, he didn’t overdo that but he was just really. I think he enabled me to get over that feeling well, you know, there isn’t very much point in anything really, you know, and how am I going to live through the next  you know, however many years it is without him.
Was this a Church of England Priest?

When Patsy’s son died she turned to God for help, and prayer became her companion.

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Age at interview: 61
Sex: Female
Was your husband supporting, was he there supporting you?
My husband was there but my husband is a very quiet person, he’s a little bit like my son, he’s a very quiet person and kind of an insular person and he never said a word to me. Even, even well even to this day my husband doesn’t talk about my son’s death to me, we don’t, oh we know other people who talk a lot anyway, you know, and we just said what we had to say and got on with life and you know. I wouldn’t say that he didn’t support me, I wouldn’t say that because I think he was grieving in his own way and I was grieving in my own way and like I said, our relationship was really very, kind of a quiet kind of a thing, we would only say what we needed to say. And I suppose he didn’t have anything to say about that but during that time prayer became my bedfellow.
Did it?
It did, it became my bedfellow.
Have you always been a, is it the Christian church you believe in?
Well I do, I actually go to a Pentecostal church and all my children was actually born during those, I mean during those years that I was in church. And I grew up in church, having a faith and reading the word and believing in the word and so I then, for me had to turn to God to help me in that situation. 
Some people felt that their religious faith had been shaken, at least temporarily, after a traumatic death. A sudden bereavement is a dreadful shock and can seem terribly unfair. This sense of unfairness made some people question whether there could be a God. However, for some the experience eventually resulted in a deepening of faith.

Before his brother was shot, Ian thought that faith protected his family, but his faith in God...

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Age at interview: 39
Sex: Male
How did your faith help or hinder at that point?
I think I began to understand my faith in a very, very different way. I think before his death my faith was the thing that stopped things happening in my life, I could actually prevent certain incidents and certain things from happening to me, through praying, through being, feeling close to God, there were certain things that that I was immune from. I remember often being asked in my work where I used to work at the time, about the problems in the area that I lived in, and the problems with crime and gun, gun crime, and incidents that were happening, I was often challenged about these, “How do you feel living in, having your family live in an area like that?” And my response was always, “That would never happen to me. You know it would never happen to my family. It doesn’t happen to people, and families like mine. My family are not into drugs, we’re not gangsters. It doesn’t happen to us.” And I was very, very confident saying that, and I actually believed that there was something in my life that protected me from certain things happening, and that’s what I saw as my faith. So my faith was truly shaken through this experience because I realised that something that I was never expecting, or thought would never happen to me, actually did happen to me. So I don’t know, I don’t think it weakened my faith, I think it allowed me to see differently, because what my faith taught me was that I could overcome and handle this situation, and during the experience as deep and as dark and as dismal as sometimes it got, I never ever felt that I was alone in it. I felt that God was with me through it and my faith in him actually enabled me to realise that I was able to come through an experience that I never ever thought would ever happen to me.
So in many ways it deepened my faith in God but at the time it opened my understanding of my own faith, and made me see bigger, than I had ever seen it before. Though facing the reality of the fact that anything is possible, anything can happen to me, anything at any time. 
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Angela's strong faith in God helped her to put life and death into perspective. Her belief that...

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Age at interview: 44
Sex: Female
I know, I think if anything I have, I have a strong faith, I believe in God and that helps me tremendously.
Would you mind saying a bit more about that?
My faith in God?
And how it helps you?
It helps me because I think that it puts life and death into perspective when you look at it biblically. You know we know that we’re not going to be for ever, and we know that we are born with a purpose, everybody is, and , I have to put that and I think of the joy, when I think of the joy or the work that an individual has done in their lifetime, then their death, how tragic it can be, it may seem meaningless but there is a reason for it and I some times sit down and think “Why, what’s the reason, God?” Do you know what I mean, “What possibly is the reason for leaving three children on their own and that?” There is a purpose you know and we’re in a, we’re in a world where people do all acts of wickedness and evil and murder and rape and all these things you know? And it just reminds you that you never know what the day brings, our time is precious. You know we’re not promised tomorrow by anybody, no-one promises us tomorrow, though we make plans and we’ll say, next week, next Wednesday, every-one does it, we’re not promised that. So but why are we expecting it, you know so I think sometimes we have to know, my relationship with God helps me stay focused on what matters.

So how has all this had an impact on your life this year?

I’ll be glad when this year’s over, because I think this year, 2008 has been, has been a hard year, it has and I think, I think if I’m being honest… I think I’ve put up some barriers. You know and, I’m okay with that as well. Because I think I have to, I’m a mother of three children that I’m the only parent, and I can’t really crumble. I can’t really let what happened you know, I can’t crumble, there’s no, there’s no alternative, and that’s why I draw deeper on my faith because God’s got to see me through this process, he’s the only one, friends mean well, but they’re not there 24 hours a day, they can’t be. So you know you’re left to yourself aren’t you in the way that you interpret things around you, and I think some things I have to block myself off from, in order just to keep going, not to say I’m desensitized about it, I am, I have emotions but I just think I have to have that little barrier.

When Peter heard about his son’s death he went to church. He carried a bible in his van and read...

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Age at interview: 60
Sex: Male
Well yes it’s what three and a half years ago now, three and three quarters I suppose, it was May 2005, 29 May. It started at 3 o’clock in the morning when the police woke us up, may have been a bit later, and told us we’d lost our son. And it was all a little bit silly from there. I didn’t quite know what to do. I think the wife, the wife had a bath and I went to church, I hadn’t been to church for an age, but you don’t know what to do, you know.


You went to church that morning?
Yes, yes sort of 9 o’clock and went there and told them what the problem was, said I’d lost me lad and they were quite nice and I joined the service and that and got back home.
Would you describe yourself as spiritual person?
Not really, I think I’d describe myself as many others who turn there when we need it, many of the lads in the trenches suddently find a prayer or two helps and as you go all four wheels locked careering towards a concrete wall I think you’d find time for a quick prayer as well but other than that we don’t attend church very often, funerals etc but...
You said you went to church that morning, was that helpful?
Yes it was, it was very helpful and I carry a bible with me now in my van and often I find a hill or two somewhere at lunchtime and go off and have a little read, yes. I had turned that way a little but not to the point were I’m dependent on the church at all.
No, do you attend a particular church?
No, there was, there’s one up the road. I did I do sing with Tim’s band, the choir, or I started to because I make tea for them on a Monday, so I’m the tea boy on a Monday night practice and we have the singers as well which I go to and I did join a church choir for a while but I wasn’t really, I didn’t find it comfortable there, being not good enough, not up to their standard they were a little, some of these church choirs are a little [laughter] are a little bit fussy about who they have in them and I wasn’t up to scratch so I felt it easier to walk away. I mean it was taking up a lot of time as well, my whole Sunday morning I was away from home.
Is that a Church of England choir?
Yes it was yes.
Did you ever talk to the Minister about what had happened?
The Vicar who done the funeral was; gave us a very nice sermon and very nice to talk to but I didn’t feel that he was there on the end of the phone; I didn’t feel that I could talk to him. I’m sure if I’d popped up to the local church he’d have had time for me and I’m not saying he was rude or anything but I didn’t, I didn’t feel it was somewhere where I was welcome or required or wanted to go, yes. 
Carole found comfort through attending church services but sometimes felt like leaving when the minister started to talk about forgiveness – she cannot imagine forgiving the woman who killed her son.
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Carole found comfort from attending church services. She also saw a spiritualist.

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Age at interview: 59
Sex: Female
Have you got a particular religious belief that you’ve found helpful?
Well I’ve, it was strange really because when, both my children, our children went to the church school, and they used to always go to church when they were younger. And I’d go, and then as they got older it was the Methodist church or Church of England, and then I just found comfort in going to church, both the vicar from the Church of England gave a lovely service, and also the Chaplain from the Military, he spoke. And the Methodist Minister at the time, he was present at [our son’s] funeral, and everybody was so supportive from the church. It was quite amusing because the, the Chaplain from the Military, he’s Catholic, had the Methodist Minister and also the Anglican.
That was rather nice.
Yes, it was, very nice. Yes. I think we all had one belief and that’s the main thing. And I do go to church, and I do get comfort from that. There’s just the odd time that I can freeze and I sometimes think should I leave when they start speaking about forgiveness.
…but it depends in what context that’s being said, but sometimes I can feel myself freezing.
But no, I do believe and I’ve seen Spiritualists since then and I keep thinking, “Why keep going to spiritualists, because they’re not going to bring [our son] back.”
Do you believe he’s all around us?
Yes. Yes I do.
But sometimes a lot more than others, and it’s amazing different things that have happened, that people might see as silly, but they’ve been personal to me and it convinces me. 

Dean has found comfort in a Spiritualist Church whilst retaining his Hindu beliefs. Through...

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Age at interview: 66
Sex: Male
I’ve also had tremendous support too from the Spiritualist Church. I’ve turned to Spiritualism in a sense because, not that I have given up my Hindu faith, but Spiritualism because I feel both work hand in hand. Both believe in the life after death, and life continues.
Sorry I didn’t catch that. You said…?
That both, both religions to some extent, well…
The Spiritualism is not a religion, it’s just a way of life, but like Hinduism they both believe in after life.
And I was, through, a friend recommended me to this church. I went to this Spiritualist Church, the local Spiritualist Church, where I met with mediums from different areas of, who knew nothing about us. And I’ve had enough confirmation, and validation about Andrew, and life after death. Our son came back through this medium giving us messages, that no-one, no-one knew anything about. That unless they’d read in the national press they would have read something, but not the intimate personal details about the family life, how in the family, what we had planned to do, and all the rest of it. This was the sort of thing that I had confirmation. I’m a strong believer now; I find a lot of faith in it. I find it helped me immensely through this course of grief and loss and bereavement. And my wife in fact has had numerous messages from our son by going there. So, together they have been very supportive.
So what actually happens when you go to a Spiritualist Church?
It’s like a normal church service. You go there and you, you participate in and a few hymns and so forth, and then you go into mediation, you know you meditate for about a few minutes, then there is a reading from one of the church members, or someone. And they have visiting mediums, from different parts of the country that visits; it’s not the same medium all the time. And that is when the medium themselves stand up and give you , get messages. And the first message we had was from this lady who now became a very close friend of Sarjit and myself, and she visits us, she comes out of her way from Canterbury, or wherever she lives, to see us from time to time. And the first time she came, she foresee, she saw the whole accident what took place. She described Andrew to the letter, T, she saw this car, she saw flowers, she saw candles, she saw pictures, and she described his plans for the future, what he had in mind. And so much, she has said, she has never been to our house, she wouldn’t have see any, but she described everything, more or less to what is what we have here.
That was during the church service?
Absolutely, during the church service.
Is that just to you individually? Or to the whole congregation?
No the whole congregation was listening to it, but we received this message, other people had messages. But this was a message to us.
So she goes to each person in turn?
Yes, yes. And we must have had a good five to ten minutes of this reading, and I came back and I described this to my family. And it was amazing, at least 95% of what’s been said. I find people from all walks of life, and different faith goes to it, at this church. Because you find solace, it’s comforting.
Able to, to know that yes there’s messages from the spirits world that your loved one is there.
And one last message we had from Andrew was, “Mum and Dad please move on with your life. My room is like a shrine, my clothes are still there, please give it away. I’m okay, I’m happy.” You know. 
The idea that the person who has died may still be alive in some other realm can greatly comfort someone bereaved. People who have no religious or spiritual belief don’t have that source of comfort. Tamsin said that she did not want to cause offence to people who believed in an afterlife, but she felt that it was important for her to confront and accept the reality that her brother was gone.
Many people said that the bereaved need to find comfort wherever they can. However a few people we talked to were cynical about religion. One woman told the funeral director that she wanted none of that “God stuff” at her children’s funeral. Another said she felt angry and could not understand how God could have allowed her daughter’s traumatic death. She had lost all faith in God.
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Martin was desperate for help after his wife's death, but he was cynical about prayer, seeing it...

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Age at interview: 43
Sex: Male
Did you ever have any sort of religious upbringing at all?
Well I went to church, it was different when we were younger, you know we were, my Dad was a lay preacher, he was, he was, he was a good person my Dad, he was a magistrate, but he came from the cobbled streets of [town] and he worked himself up, so he was a lay preacher and a magistrate, so he, he made me go to church every Sunday, but I never really had any strong convictions of, oh I certainly haven’t now.
So a spiritual belief hasn’t helped you at all?
No, no. The only, the only, one thing I remember doing was when I was talking earlier about the awful six or seven months I had with [my daughter], and her behaviour, I remember lying in bed one night and just, just for the first time in my complete adult life, I was praying, I said, “Please just help me Steph. God, whoever’s listening just help me get through these next few months, because I’m going under here, you know, and I’m going to lose [my daughter] You know so I’m not good with it, I can’t, I can’t cope.” And the next few weeks, her behaviour did kind of start to improve a bit, so that made me think; offer a little thank you to whoever.
So you think there might be something in prayer after all?
Oh, I’d like, [sigh]. I don’t know. I’m still quite cynical about it, I think it’s a kind of self defense thing people have to make themselves feel better, a part of me thinks someone’s listening but, I still tend to believe it’s just a cruel difficult world and once someone’s gone you’re left on your own. And that’s the black and white situation. I’ve been to the cemetery and I’ve just, there’s, there’s, there’s a little walk of about three hundred yards from I parked the car, nice little walk, it’s a lovely cemetery where Steph is, and sometimes when I’m walking down this little path I think something’s going happen, you know, to make me feel better, or she is going be around, but when I get to the headstone, it’s just the same old headstone in the ground, and that’s what it’s always like for me, because I’m just looking at a piece of masonry stuck in the grass, and I’m thinking, “What am I doing here?” I only I only ever stay for five minutes at the most, because it, it just does nothing for me whatsoever, and, I don’t know if other people get any comfort from it, I, I don’t, it just makes me feel worse so, I rarely go now. The only time I go is just to refresh the flowers or just try to tidy up a little bit. Just do it out of respect for Steph really to try and make it look nice, but I don’t get anything spiritual from it at all.

Cynthia has no religious beliefs herself but recognises that other people may get comfort from...

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Age at interview: 64
Sex: Female
Did you have or have you got any sort of spiritual belief or religious belief that’s helped you or not?
Not at all. No. No. No I haven’t and I think that I, it’s something that I didn’t particularly think about before. But now I just get angry which is probably unfair. I shouldn’t, I shouldn’t get angry with religion but I just think you know if, if there is a God, why did he kill my daughter? And I can’t help thinking that.
But I’m, I’m not, I’m not anti-religion, if people do get comfort from it that’s fine. And I do have two friends who are clergymen, who’ve stayed good friends, but I now have no belief, no I don’t.

Some of those who said that they didn't believe in established religion said that they believed in a spiritual realm. A few people had experienced events that they couldn't explain and they decided that these events were signs from the person who had died. For example, Elizabeth had a terrible pain in her head at the exact time that her daughter died in a car crash. Elizabeth’s husband suggested that the pain was Elizabeth’s daughter returning to her. Sometimes people consulted mediums to try to make contact with those who had died, or to understand these experiences. Linda said that her belief in karma and in “previous lives” had helped her survive the terrible time when her son was murdered.
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Linda found help through Brahma Kumaris and through meditation. She believes that her son has ...

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Age at interview: 52
Sex: Female
Are you a spiritual person yourself?
Very much so. And I have to say if I wasn’t I don’t think I’d be sitting here now doing the interview, is the honest truth. Because I think the shock is so great. You have to have, you have to have something there I think to, to pull you through, you know. Otherwise I just think you just feel that you can’t do this.
You know, without a child. So, yes, certainly, my belief system has, has got me through. And will carry on.
Do you mind saying a bit more about that because I think that’s really important?
Well, I very much, I have this belief of the birth and death process and it’s something that we all go through and, and, you know, if you look at it logically one can’t be without the other. And, you know, we’re constantly dying all the time anyway. Our cells are regenerating. If you look at us in children and teenage and early years that’s not what we look like now. So, you, you have your death of your childhood if you like in your teenage years and you carry on evolving. But I believe in karma as well and I believe in previous lives.
And what is meant to be and, and looking back now on what Kevin did the two weeks before he died, you could almost say that his, his soul knew he was going, although Kevin didn’t. And there were certain things that he did. He visited my family, and other things that he did and you just thought, no, some, some part of his psyche knew he was going and he was saying his goodbyes.
And looking back on that now that makes such perfect sense. And that you don’t’ just die. I know where he’s gone. I know that this is our learning experience here and, and that you go home. It’s the shock you have to deal with basically. And the missing of him, I think, which now even 15 months down the line hasn’t been dealt with. Because, and, and might never. You might never, ever move on from missing a child.
Do you believe you’ll be with him again?
Oh he’s around us all the time. I don’t even believe that I have to wait through this lifetime. Because I think if I had to live another 50 years of this life thinking I might see him again I think you have to have the belief that he’s here.
That, you know, he’s, he’s passed on but he’s not dead. You know, he visits me in dream states. He tells me it was his time to go. And I do accept it was his time to go, because it’s too freaky. Other people are stabbed and they make it.
But it was, and, and it was his lifespan of 27 years on this, this plane, and, you know, it’s how we all have to deal with it afterwards….
…that’s helped me through, really. And will help carry through knowing that he is around. And I do sense him a lot of the time. And I, you know, you think, “Oh what would Kevin do in this situation?” And, and that, I, I draw great strength from that, yeah.
Do you belong to a church?
I don’t believe that any religion, no.
It’s just a spirit, a spiritual belief?
Just a spiritual…
I think growing up I had to go to various things. I, you know, I did my bit going through a spiritual church to start me off and, and then through a wonderful organisation called Brahma Kumaris, which I think are, are very, very good. And through reading and inner development and working on myself and, and my beliefs have, have got me to where I am now, to the extent that I can help other people now.

When Adam’s brother died his belief in the spirit world helped him to cope with his grief. He...

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Age at interview: 22
Sex: Male
You mentioned a chapel. Do you have any spiritual belief yourself?
I’m, I am more of a spiritual person. I’m not really a religious person. And I don’t go to church. I don’t believe in you know, the Bible and stuff like that. I kind of just think it’s you know you shouldn’t need a building to be able to pray to somebody, you know you should, you know that’s your belief. I mean I believe that there’s a God and I believe in a spirit world, and that’s my belief. And some people question that but, that’s because that’s their belief, and…
But have your beliefs helped you in this, or not?
They have yeah. My beliefs have helped me in it a lot.
Have you been to a spiritualist yourself?
I’ve been sort of a spiritual person ever since I was about 17 and I’ve always sort of known of mediums and so I’ve seen a couple, but I’m more of a sort of person that go by myself, I’ll go by my own experiences, and my own…, I mean some people like to go and sit in Church, some people like to watch demonstrations from other mediums, and, I just I like to have my belief, but I don’t like to take it big, if you know what I mean. I don’t like to sit in big audiences and watch a medium do whatever on stage. I much prefer to just have my own subtle belief and not you know, I mean a lot of religions you’ve got the pressure of, you know you have to go to church, or you have to do this, you have to do things a certain way, whereas I believe in, in a God, I believe in the spirit world, and that’s enough for me. I mean I’ve had a lot of weird experiences, they were fairly recent experiences actually that, and very difficult to explain. I mean I’m not, I’m not an idiot and I will look at things in a logical way before I sort of jump, jump to conclusions or anything, but there are some things that have happened that you just can’t really explain and you think, “Wow. What was that?” Which is quite…
Can you give me an example?
Yes, I’ve seen things like, I was in work the other day and it was witnessed by a patient and a healthcare assistant. We have a tablet crusher so I was using that to crush up some tablets. I put it down on a patients table, and it moved across the table and I had to catch it before it fell off the edge. And I thought well, what could that be? Could it have been that there was some water there and I’d put it down and it got trapped, because sometimes it glides along water. But it was from a stationery position, and glided along the table. So obviously I checked the table for water, no water. And then I thought well I wonder if it’s a sort of same movement so I put it back down and pushed it with my finger and it was a jerky movement, like you’d expect on a, on a rough surface, and it’s just things like that. You know I’m not an idiot, I won’t jump into it and say, “Oh my God did you see that?”, if there’s a logical explanation. But I can’t figure out a logical explanation and it was witnessed by two other people. So it’s just little things like that.
So you had, what, what do you conclude from that?
I don’t know what I conclude from that, I think that’s just belief in there’s something else; it might have been a message of some description to say that, yes, you know just to confirm your belief.  
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William believes that consciousness is independent of physical existence, and that it continues...

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Age at interview: 48
Sex: Male
Now, for myself, I have thought about you know matters of life after death and religion and so on to the extent that you know there are times I feel like I’ve tied myself in knots. And I’ve been through years of having zealous Christian belief, and then I’ve undergone times of questioning. And if there’s one thing that would make one question the fairly black and white ideas of the Christian Bible it is when, I suppose in very simple terms, something really bad happens to a really good person. And I’ve been you know, that’s one aspect of the suffering from losing your child that I’ll never be free from. And I’ll never know the answer to until I die myself, and if I’ll ever see her again, you know, if I’ll ever be with her again. And I can’t buy into the you know the very simple version of the bible story, given what has happened, and I do believe that there is a continued existence after death, and in fact I believe that there are certain signs, having, having spoken to other people who have lost loved ones, not necessarily children, but loved ones, there seem to be certain signs which are acknowledged as having some merit, that there’s a continued existence, you know I many sound fairly bizarre but interference with electrical systems, lights going on and off, that kind of thing, in the immediate aftermath of the death, and it would appear that there is a crossing over period of approximately about 7 to 9 days when there tends to be these signs, and then the signs go. There’s put forward that that’s because the crossing over is taking place into another realm. Now I have specific thoughts and beliefs about, that you know that sort of thing in more detail.
So what sort of spiritual belief do you have yourself, would you describe yourself as a Christian or?
[Sigh] I would describe, I would describe myself as so confused that I almost feel like a, feel like a fool to describe myself as a Christian. I believe that…
Did you say a fool?
I feel like a fool [laughs] to describe myself as a Christian because I’d probably be that, the notion of doing that would probably be dismissed by a traditional evangelical 21st century Christian, because my belief system would be more complex and complicated than you know a man with a big white beard sitting on a cloud with his sort of staff and rod, and visiting then you know his wrath on the inequities of the evil ones, and you know showering blessings on those who follow his path, because things don’t seem to work that way. Having said that, you know I do still have beliefs and leanings towards the purpose of Christ’s life and death and resurrection. I don’t think that I buy the infallibility, is that the word, of the bible, the idea that the inspired word, notion, doctrine, I believe that well, do you really want to hear about this?
Really. Mm.
I believe that the continued existence beyond the, you know our bodies, and the existence of God and so on, is a lot more scientific as it were and complicated than the fairy stories of the you know of the New Testament, well the Old Testament in particular, and I think that there are glimmers of understanding of the true nature of God and of the true nature of our existence, and the true nature of consciousness and a consciousness beyond the physical body. And what is described as quantum physics and quantum mechanics, in that quantum mechanics experiments have demonstrated that the classical physics notions of, you know, just there being material things and nothing more are simply wrong, they’re, they’re not right. And in fact experiments in quantum mechanics demonstrate that the classical physics notions of, you know, just there being material things and nothing more are simply wrong, they’re, they’re not right. And in fact experiments in quantum mechanics demonstrate that that there are behaviours amongst particles that are influenced by the observer of the particle, and that consciousness of itself perhaps create what we perceive to be the known universe, you know so it’s, it’s the collective consciousness of mankind that that creates the notion of you know all these sorts of millions of galaxies and so on. But the, the reality I think that, I don’t really have the intellect to get my head around, is that apart from the dimensions that we’re aware of, that is up and down, and sideways and across, and the fourth dimension of time, there are other dimensions that exist in the same space that we’re completely oblivious to, and I think there are quantum mechanics experiments that demonstrate the existence of those other dimensions. …And there are, I mean related theories of parallel universes and so on, that that every time there’s a quantum, quantum event there are new universes and new parallel universes and existences created. What it boils down to is that consciousness is independent of physical existence, and that consciousness lives beyond you know our physical demise. And so there is a possibility that I mean that, you know conscious beings, as it were reincarnate, I don’t know.
It’s a possibility, but certainly that, pardon me, in other dimensions beyond our understanding what tends to be referred to as the transcendent realm, that’s where the consciousness of our loved ones go. And in the Christian religion of course what the scientist refers to as the Transcendent realm, is called Heaven. In the Christian religion, what is referred to as consciousness by the scientists is referred to as the Holy Spirit. So, rather than me buying into to you know, the nonsense of Mr. Dawkins and his atheism or theism, I’ll buy into the notion of consciousness and a transcendent realm and if someone else wants to describe it as Heaven and the work of the holy spirit and so on, so be it.

After her mother died Michelle found great comfort through seeing a medium, who contacted her...

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Age at interview: 40
Sex: Female
Do you have any sort of spiritual belief?
Yes. And that is the one thing that has really helped.
Do you mind saying a little bit about that?
Yes, I do believe in the after life. And I do believe in the spirit world and that when we leave this plane we go onto another plane, and we meet up with our loved ones. I do believe that. And I also believe that the one’s that we’ve lost are always around us, watching us, communicating with us, they see it all. And they are, I, a hundred percent believe that they are around us, and I have sought comfort through seeing a medium as well and had contact with my Mum who says she’s very happy.
Oh that’s good. Did you approach the medium after this had happened, or had you been in touch before with the medium?
I’ve always been spiritual. It wasn’t because of what had happened to my Mum, I’ve always had my spirituality and my beliefs and they have always been a comfort through life, so I just drew on it heavily, and I have seen a medium in the past, maybe two or three times and my Dad and I went but we booked in false names, because of all the publicity, we didn’t want to come away and think that she might have know who we were and she still told us what our names were. And my Mum was there, and she gave her name, said what had happened to her, told us all sorts of things about what we’d been doing, she told us about her funeral, and the pictures we placed on her coffin.
So when you say your Mum was there, she spoke through the medium?
Yes, yes. And she sent so much love, and said she was so happy, it was wonderful.
Do you also have religious belief?
I mean, yes I believe, I believe that, if I believe in the spirit world and the after life, I do believe in God in some capacity. I don’t think he’s this man sat up there, pulling strings. He’s just a great force, and I believe in Angels and things like that, yes. But I’m not a strict religious; I’m not a Christian or a Catholic or anything, and I don’t go to church. 

After Nicholas died Josefine had experiences that convinced her that there is life after death....

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Age at interview: 57
Sex: Female
Do you have a spiritual belief?
Yes but, you know, my spiritual belief you could say, I have a catholic background which I rejected when I was 14 and a Buddhist view on life without having been a signed up Buddhist. I’m not, I’m a spiritual person but I’m not a religious person.
But something extraordinary happened and that’s what I want to say really, I couldn’t sleep after Nicholas died and I had some sleeping pills at some point, can't remember. I couldn’t sleep very much and I was, I had no appetite and I think that these are all just part of shock, you know, also I had no energy really to cry, I wasn’t emotional at all. It was like as if that… takes you into yourself and I wasn’t in myself I was just doing things, you know, organising two major productions [the funeral and the memorial service] you could say and I was between two phone calls, the upstairs telephone and the downstairs office phone, giving information, speaking to people and I couldn’t bear to repeat myself. I just thought haven’t you got it already, no that’s the same. And so one day, it probably was about ten days after Nicholas died I spoke to somebody on the phone and I made an emotional connection and I cried and I felt, I was sitting down on the, you know, on the stairs in the hallway and crying and suddenly Nicholas was there and he bent over me and put both his hands on my elbows and I could, this hand I couldn’t see but I felt it, his hand, but this hand, I could see his hand and my arm my elbow here. And I felt such, I felt him standing behind me bending over me like that, I felt so, as if somebody had put a glass bowl over me, you know, like… a glass bell really. Sudden stillness… and I felt, like before I was very emotional, it was like, you know, I was tossed by my emotions and then I felt this stillness and I felt so, I took the time to look at his hand it was so nice to see the little hairs on the back of his hand and I felt as if it was the most normal thing in the world and I felt he was conveying somehow or saying, “I’m okay, you’re okay, everything’s okay” and I felt it’s okay. And this happened a second time and when it happened again I realised that it had happened, it happened in this moment when I was crying on the telephone, and then I told my friends, my son and my girlfriend who was staying with me and also people in the office and my mother-in-law and I was absolutely amazed, they were amazed too, unheard of, I’ve never heard anyone, I’ve never heard, I mean just so unexpected. I thought, “Oh wow, God there’s something I didn’t know, come now, come now”, I couldn’t make it happen that was so frustrating and so I thought well what a wonderful thing, it made me, it gave me something, it gave me I suppose acceptance and peace somehow, there was this feeling of and this stillness was a kind of, a real, on a cellular level an okay feeling, you know, it’s okay although I don’t understand it, it’s okay.
Did you talk to any professional counsellor or therapist yourself about these experiences?
Yes, yes I talked to my analyst about it and she was very accepting, she had not experienced anything like this herself but was open to not knowing or to something unknown, which you cannot easily slot into place. And what I feel about this now, although at the time it made me feel very strongly there’s life after death, I can’t say now what there is, I can only say there is; these experiences happen and I think we should allow people to talk about it and people who are working with people who are dying or bereaved should know that this is very normal.
Had you been, do you have an analyst you see regularly anyway?
This wasn’t a particular appointment?
No. And I went to see a medium it was just some months actually, it was in the, when was it, it was in September of 2001 so Nicholas had been killed in June and my mother was ill and she actually died a week after I saw this Medium. The Medium was amazing, I couldn’t make quite sense of it then but it’s, it’s amazing. I suppose I at that time, it was true I was surrounded by death and that’s what she said, I mean I don’t want to go into that, any of that. I have seen her many times since then say once a year maybe I’ve been seeing her, and it helped me to understand these experiences and just find they’re normal, these experiences I was having and…
What happens when you see a Medium what’s, what’s the aim?
I suppose the aim is to understand better this mystery. And Nicholas is, he talks to her.
After the traumatic deaths of two friends, Lisa was ill for over six years. Her GP referred her to a psychiatrist, who diagnosed depression, post-traumatic stress and anxiety disorder. After years of unsuccessful treatment Lisa found a healer at a local Spiritualist Church who put his hands on her shoulders and on her head and made her feel warm and relaxed. Lisa felt that he had restored her soul.

Bereavement through two traumatic deaths affected Lisa very badly. Her mental health improved...

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Sex: Female
Can you remember why life seemed so hopeless even though you had another partner, another boyfriend?
Everything else was irrelevant. It was all-irrelevant. It was just too painful feeling how I felt. The emotions were just overwhelming. I was angry. I was in despair. I… reality had just flipped into somewhere that I just never knew existed. And I was lost, really lost.  
Did you have any sort of spiritual belief at that time?
I do believe that the soul carries on. I hadn’t been brought up in any religion. But I do think you know that the universe is a massive place. And this, this little existence on this planet is, it can’t be all that there is. There’s, there’s a lot more to it. So I was very open minded. I did try lots of  alternative ways of, of getting help. I tried the regular ways as well. Did lots of different medications, therapies at my local hospital, you know. I tried lots. I tried everything to get better. I knew it was not okay where I was.
What alternative therapies did you try?
I tried healing at my local spiritualist church.
And the first people that I went to, that didn’t help me. But then I was recommended a person. And I went to him and from that moment of seeing that person, I was restored. It’s just bizarre. Because when I was really ill I would look in the mirror and I couldn’t see myself in my own eyes. I didn’t look like me. I wasn’t all there. The lights were on but nobody was in. It was I wasn’t, I couldn’t think straight. I couldn’t… I wasn’t sociable. And then when he, he put his hands on my shoulders, on my head, and you know basically channelled something. I was back. And I looked in the mirror and I was so excited because I could see myself again. And I was just so …I was holding on like “Oh God how long is this going to last, you know. I’m might go to sleep tonight and then wake up and then it will be rubbish again.” And I woke up the next morning and I was like, “Wow I’m still here, brilliant.” And I’ve been here ever since. And I just …I’m so relieved. I can’t explain it. I’m not a religious person. I …apparently this spiritual healing works on plants and animals. You don’t need to believe in it for it to work. And you’ve got to find the right person. But for me, that did it [laughs].
Can you say a bit more about this? Where did you have to go for it?
I went to my local spiritualist church.
It’s free to go. They don’t expect any money. You can give a donation to the church charity if you want but you don’t have to. And I just was recommended the right person. And I carried on going weekly for a few months, just because it felt nice [laughs].
It’s really relaxing and uplifting. And when you come out you feel like you’re walking on air. It’s lovely. That’s what worked for me.  

Last reviewed October 2015.

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