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Why Do Grieving People See Ghosts?

Why do people believe they have seen ghosts? Research suggests that the brain may summon spirits as a means of coping with trauma, especially the pain of losing a loved one. Just as most amputees report what’s known as “phantom limb,” the feeling that their detached appendage is still there, surviving spouses frequently report seeing or sensing their departed partner.

One 1971 survey in the British Medical Journal found that close to half the widows in Wales and England had seen their partners postmortem. These vivid encounters, which psychologists call “after-death communication,” have long been among the most common kinds of paranormal experience, affecting skeptics and believers alike.

Experts think that such specters help us deal with painful or confusing events. A 2011 analysis published in the journal Death Studies looked at hundreds of incidents of supposed interaction with the deceased. The paper concluded that some occurrences provided “instantaneous relief from painful grief symptoms,” while others strengthened preexisting religious views.

There’s also evidence that sightings have other mental benefits. In a 1995 survey, 91 percent of participants said their encounter had at least one upside, such as a sense of connection to others.

Possible Preaching Angle:

Afterlife; Heaven – Pastors can attest that grieving Christian spouses occasionally believe they have seen shadows or objects in the home moving after the death of a loved one. We can rest on the absolute truth of God’s Word that “absent from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). At death, believers are immediately in the presence of the Lord and not wandering the earth (Phil. 1:23).


Jake Bittle, “Why Do We See Ghosts?” Popular Science (10-6-20)

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