Continuing her series of articles about hearing voices, Jane Fisher considers the role voices can play when we grieve.
“My heart keeps calling you. I know you can hear me. And I hear you, too.” Celine Dion’s heartfelt words to her late husband during a concert revealed one interesting piece of information – her husband spirit is always by her side, she hears him and talks to him.
Interestingly, her experience is far from odd, with many people who have lost a significant loved one reporting the same phenomenon. In one study published in the British Medical Journal, academics interviewed 227 widows and 66 widowers in Wales, finding that almost half of those interviewed had seen or heard their dead spouse.
The researchers call these phenomena “hallucinations”, noting that they were most common during the first decade after widowhood. A question remains: can hearing voices of a lost loved one benefit us during the grieving process?
Help from Hearing Voices
In the above-mentioned study, 66.7% of those who heard a loved one’s voice felt that the experience was helpful. This experience can suggest continuity; that the loved one somehow continues to exist. It can also enhance the sense of spirituality. Those who hear voices take solace in the fact that one day they may be reunited with this person. Spirituality (the idea that there is a universal and eternal life force) plays an important role in bereavement and stress reduction. Many studies have shown that those who lead a spiritual life are happier and less stressed; they also feel less isolated. When a partner passes away, it is vital to guard oneself against the health effects of stress; these can include poor sleep, weight gain or loss, having trouble concentrating, forgetting to take medication, etc.
Voices can be Healing or Painful
Academics postulate various reasons why someone might hear voices while grieving. These include preoccupation, and custom. Jacqueline Hayes, an academic at the University of Roehampton, has conducted much research into this subject. She recently told the Daily Mail: “People report visions, voices, tactile sensations, smells, and something that we call a sense of presence. I found that these experiences could at times be healing and transformative, for example hearing your loved one apologise to you for something that happened – and at other times foreground the loss and grief in a painful way.” If voices are immersing you more profoundly in grief, help from a therapist may be indicated; there are serious consequences to persistent grief, including depression and anxiety.
Finding Solace in Others
Voices of those who are still around can play a far more important role in the bereavement process than one may realise. Social interaction enables one to feel supported and connected during one of life’s most trying times. A sound diet, regular exercise, and mindfulness based practices such as meditation and yoga can also help ground the mind in the present moment, providing relief from the worry and stress of losing a life companion.
If hearing voices is beneficial to you, then you are certainly not alone. Many people who are grieving find great solace in hearing a loved one who has played such an important role in their lives, perhaps for many years. If grief is overwhelming and voices are immersing you deeper into what may come to be persistent depression, however, it is vital to obtain professional help so that you can start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.