Grief and the paranormal

25th June 2021. Reading Time: 8 minutes General, Paranormal Theories. 1726 page views. 3 comments.

When a loved one passes away, it is commonly reported in the weeks and months that follow that family members feel their presence in some way. While they may be making themselves known to us, what if our grief can cause activity to present itself in other ways?

When a loved one passes away, it is commonly reported in the weeks and months that follow that family members feel their presence in some way. While they may be making themselves known to us, what if our grief can cause activity to present itself in other ways?

Grief is one of those emotions that hits you unexpectedly.  Even if it is something you have experienced before, there is no telling how it will present itself again.  It is dependent on many factors.  The grief you feel in one situation will likely be completely different the next time.  None of this makes it any easier of course.  We do however find comfort in the knowledge that they are still with us in some ways.  Many people will be able to tell of experiences where they have found something they believe is left by a loved one in spirit form just when we need them the most.  Maybe a song comes on the radio at just the right time or you see something that reminds you of them.  Some people even see their loved ones' spirit, or hear their voice, just for a moment.  These experiences give us comfort.  While I do certainly believe our loved ones are around us, we have to think about the concept of grief and what it can also cause us to be capable of.  Could our own grief cause us to create something paranormal?

Mind over matter

I have spoken in the past about the concept of psychic projection and us unknowingly causing our own hauntings just by concentrating on something.  I have made reference to the Philip experiment where a group of Canadian parapsychologists made up the profile of a fake 'ghost' and by focusing their collective consciousness on all the small details of this person they made up, they believe they made his spirit to come to life.  When we are in grief, it is all-consuming.  I remember when my grandfather died unexpectedly, I was in deep grief for a few weeks.  I couldn't even get in the car and go to the shops without hysterically crying.  Everything reminded me of him.  I felt like I was drowning and I didn't feel like I would ever come out of it.  When you are in such deep grief, especially in those early days, it is pretty much all you can think about.  With all of your energy and emotion-focused on this grief, could the overwhelming feelings cause a person to unknowingly cause their own paranormal event? 

Last year after coming home from my sister's funeral, and walking into the hall of her home, a hat that was on the clothes rack jumped off and hit me in the face.  I had not touched it.  I turned to my brother-in-law and said 'It must be Mabel's; she wants us to know she is with us.  My brother-in-law was so full of grief I don't remember if he replied.  I too was in a strange state of mind.  I just cannot explain it.

There were no vibrations of the floor or from any other source, or I would have noticed it.  The hat had been there for days with people passing by it, and had not fallen off the hook.  My wife did not go to the funeral as her health was not good.  When I got home and walked through the doorway into the small hall, a hat that belonged to me also jumped off its hook and hit me.  I turned to my wife and told her that a hat did the same thing when I walked into the hall at Harold's.  She thought it was strange, and then we both forgot about it as we were so sad about the death of my sister.

Excerpt from ESP in Life and Lab by Louisa E Rhine

In the above excerpt, a particular focus is put on the person's state of mind as an essential point here.  In each instance where the hat 'flew off the hook" and hit the subject.  On both occasions, the subject or experiencer was feeling deep grief over the loss of his sister.  Instead of focusing on it maybe being a message or a way of his sister Mabel making her presence known (which was the initial assumption), both times this was quickly forgotten due to the overwhelming feeling of grief.  All the experiencer and the witnesses could focus on was the immense grief that they were feeling at the time.  Could this overwhelming feeling of grief have caused the hat to move?  It could be caused by an act of psychokinesis.

Known as PK for short, the word psychokinesis comes from the Greek words ‘mind’ and ‘motion’.  It was coined in 1914 by Henry Holt who was an American author in his book “On the Cosmic Relations”.  Psyche refers to a person’s mind or soul and the word kinesis refers to movement or motion.  It is the concept which basically combines mind and matter.  You will have heard the phrase “Mind over matter”.  This is telling a person to use their mind to overcome the physical situation they are in.  Using your mind to influence matter means that a person is using their mind to physically make an object move without touching it.  In the above case, they are unaware that they are doing this.  In fact, many believe that this can be an explanation for a lot of reported poltergeist activity.  Emotion in these situations also seems to be significant.  Often a person is dealing with some sort of emotional trauma which they are unknowingly projecting outward mentally, causing objects to potentially move.

Grief hallucinations

Grief is described as a process and not a state.  It is not something you can just snap out of, and in some ways, it is something that never really goes away completely.  We all have our own ways of coping and dealing with things.  One of the biggest things we have to try and navigate is how we are possibly going to continue without this person in our life?  Beyond that, it is then finding meaningful ways to continue to honour your relationship with this person in a different way.  There is no set time on how long it should take a person to grieve as everyone's circumstances are different, as so are their relationships.  Our brains are often helpful during this process because they can help us find comfort in ways it knows we need.  Sometimes this comes to us in the form of grief hallucinations.  Now there is debate as to whether a person is receiving a real visitation from a spirit or if they are causing their own hallucination but either way, it doesn't seem to really matter because it is noted to be a very important part of the healing process.

In the study: Bereavement among elderly people: grief reactions, post-bereavement hallucinations and quality of life by A Grimby (1993), it seems that when you have a strong emotional relationship such as a domestic partnership, in 80 percent of cases, within one month of their spouse's death, the experiencer had a hallucination that involved their partner.  What is significant in this study was that the subjects were all in their early 70s.  Their partnerships were often ones that had lasted for the majority of their lives.  In these circumstances, while there is a strong feeling of grief, you also have attached feelings of loneliness and a loss of what was essentially the other half of you.

Ratings of grief reactions, post-bereavement hallucinations and illusions and quality of life were made during the first year after the death of a spouse among 14 men and 36 women in their early seventies. In both sexes, the reactions were generally moderate or mild and characterized by loneliness, low mood, fatigue, anxiety and cognitive dysfunctioning. Feeling lonely was the most persistent problem during the year. Post-bereavement hallucinations or illusions were very frequent and considered helpful. Half of the subjects felt the presence of the deceased (illusions); about one third reported seeing, hearing and talking to the deceased (hallucinations). Former marital harmony was found to make a person more prone to loneliness, crying and hallucinations or illusions. The quality of life was significantly lower among the bereaved than among married people and those who never married, but equalled that found among divorcees.

It was found that these hallucinations were actually comforting and an integral part of the healing process.  In the direct opposite to the above PK theory, it is not grief here that is significant, it is the love.

Our perception is so tuned to their presence that when they are not there to fill that gap, we unconsciously try to mold the world into what we have lived with for so long and so badly long for. Even reality is no match for our love.

 Vaughan Bell 

Whether a person is being visited in spirit form by a loved one, or if we are somehow causing our own event or hallucination, one fact will always remain ... the deceased will always live on in the memory and hearts of those that loved them and that is the only thing that matters.


ESP in Life and Lab, Tracing Hidden Channels Louisa E Rhine (1967)

Bereavement among elderly people: grief reactions, post-bereavement hallucinations and quality of life by A Grimby (1993)

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  • William 2 years ago

    This is a very interesting article, and it makes me think of something that happened back in 2002. I still live in the house that I grew up in, and one day, a few months after my dad had died, I was sitting in my basement, and no one else was home (my sister and her daughter were still living with me at the time) and I heard someone walking up my front steps, opening the doors with keys, stepping in, closing and locking the doors, and walking into the living room which is directly above where I was. I thought this was strange, since my sister and my niece were away at work, and no one else had a key to the house at that time. Even stranger was the fact that it sounded exactly like it did when my dad was still alive and he would go out on errands, and come home, distinctive because he was a large man physically and he trudged very slowly in his walk. I quickly ran upstairs to see who was there, but no one was home beside me, and the doors were indeed locked. I even called my sister and my niece at work, just to make sure they hadn't come in the house and then left by the time I got upstairs, but they were indeed at work. Now, I have long seen this incident as something paranormal, as the spirit of my dad coming home as he often did while he was still alive. But, after reading this article, it makes me think that the whole thing may have just been a grief-induced hallucination, meant by my deeper self to comfort me. But, it's really hard to say with any certainty what it was really all about.

    • LLIFS 2 years ago

      Thankyou for sharing your experience!

  • Kd Foreman 3 years ago

    I run a paranormal team and I'm also a medium. We've had cases where the evidence points to loved ones visiting; but we've also had cases where the grief amped up the poltergeist abilities and made it SEEM like a spirit was there, but the agent was the living client.