Grief is experienced by each and every one of us in a different way, and no two people go through the loss of a loved one alike.

One possible grief reaction rarely described, researched or discussed is seeing illusions or hallucinations of the loved one. Scientific American brings us the story:

Mourning seems to be a time when hallucinations are particularly common, to the point where feeling the presence of the deceased is the norm rather than the exception. One study, by the researcher Agneta Grimby at the University of Goteborg, found that over 80 percent of elderly people experience hallucinations [and illusions] associated with their dead partner one month after bereavement, as if their perception had yet to catch up with the knowledge of their beloved’s passing.

As the study’s abstract notes, these hallucinations decline with time:

82% of the subjects at 1 month, 71% of the subjects at 3 months, and 52% of the subjects at 12 months experienced illusions and/or hallucinations of the deceased spouse, which were generally experienced as pleasant and helpful.

There’s not a lot of information about these images people see, probably because they usually aren’t considered disturbing by the people who view them, and grief has long been viewed as an intensely personal experience (one where a researcher asking intrusive questions might be unwelcomed).

So if you lose someone dear to you, and then think you see them sitting on a park bench or walking up the stairs in your house, don’t be alarmed. That’s just your mind’s way of not quite being ready to let go of the person who’s meant a lot to you.

Read the full article: Ghost Stories: Visits from the Deceased

 


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    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 3 Dec 2008
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2008). Grief Brings Out Hallucinations, Illusions. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2008/12/03/grief-brings-out-hallucinations-illusions/

 

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