Maintaining Connections To Deceased Loved Ones
By Anne Cronin-Tyson, M.A., and Michelle Linn-Gust, Ph.D.
It can be a light touch on the arm. A dream in which our loved one comes to us. Or a coin that appears in one’s path. Even a butterfly that flutters around our head. The signs and symbols for each of us are unique. They bring to mind that our loved ones who have died by suicide are near us. These signs, called After Death Communications (ADCs), remind us of the unbroken bond that we hold with our loved ones who have died.
For many years, when people mentioned these kinds of happenings they were told they were “crazy” or “hallucinating.” Some people felt they couldn’t mention what they experienced because they were afraid of the negative comments from others or they themselves doubted the reality of their experience. Grief therapists many times told people that the bond broke because the person had died.
Thankfully, there is openness now for people to feel safe to share their experiences, something that also connects strangers who previously might only know that each has lost a loved one to suicide. William Worden (2002) in his “Tasks of Mourning” doesn’t say that the bond is broken after a love one dies. Instead, he says that we “emotionally relocate” that person in our lives. The person is with us, yet in a different way.
For the grieving person, especially after a complicated death like suicide, there is a lot of comfort in knowing a loved one is nearby. And out of pain. For some people, a sign or message from the loved one is enough to know that it’s okay to move forward with life. And for others they might know that they are forgiven for anything that might have transpired in the relationship while the person lived.
The signs and messages for each of us will be as unique as we ourselves are and as uniques as our relationships with our loved ones who died are. For some people, there might be one message and others might experience ongoing signs. Our ability to be open to these messages (sometimes we don’t realize they are messages and signs for us at first!) and to give thanks for them might heighten our awareness and more might come. These experiences are gifts that can bring a sense of peace and connectedness that we never realized we could still have.
Gifts from the Unknown: Using Extraordinary Experiences to Cope with Loss and Change by LaGrand (Authors Choice Press, 2001)
Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy: A Handbook for the Mental Health Practitioner by Worden (Springer, 2002)
Love Lives on: Learning from the Extraordinary Encounters of the Bereaved by LaGrand (Berkley, 2006)
Making Sense of Death: Spiritual, Pastoral, and Personal Aspects of Death, Dying and Bereavement by Cox, Bendiksen, & Stevenson (Baywood, 2003)