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The experience of ‘sensing the presence of the deceased’ and spiritual meaning making in bereavement.

Steffen, E and Coyle, A (2010) The experience of ‘sensing the presence of the deceased’ and spiritual meaning making in bereavement. In: First International Conference of the British Association for the Study of Spirituality, 2010-05-04 - 2010-05-06, Windsor, UK.

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This presentation focuses on the challenges and potential benefits of conceptualising the common experience of ‘sensing the presence of the deceased’ in bereavement as a spiritual phenomenon. It draws on a recently completed qualitative investigation following a review of the relevant literature (in press). The nonmaterial quasi-sensory ‘feeling of presence’ of the deceased tends to be in conflict with dominant Western assumptions about reality, life and death. Although generally experienced as beneficial, there is a reluctance to disclose its occurrence for fear of having it ‘explained away’ or being thought of as ‘mad’ or ‘stupid’. Cross-cultural research has shown that these experiences can be seen as expressions of the continuing bond with the deceased which can be conceptualised within spiritual/religious frameworks. However, a spiritual perspective not only challenges rationalist and individualist principles but also many religious understandings about life beyond death and the possibility of post-death communication. This places particular demands on bereavement counselling and therapy, often the only places where such experiences can be made sense of through a process of narrative exploration. It is argued that socially sanctioned conceptual frameworks need to be available for the meaningful integration of this experience as illustrated by a thematic analysis of in-depth interviews with twelve perceivers, which showed that those who were able to conceptualise the experience within spiritual/religious frameworks derived greater benefit from it, for example personal growth or finding deeper meaning. This suggests that bereavement counselling may need to be more prepared to facilitate spiritual/religious meaning-making following this experience.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Authors :
Steffen, E
Coyle, A
Date : 2010
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 28 Mar 2017 15:51
Last Modified : 31 Oct 2017 15:02

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