Gifts from the grave

The effects of grief are many. The mourning process propels us into a surreal world where nothing feels familiar. It is a dark, painful, colourless place filled with longing and pain. Bereft and lost, the grieving can't find comfort in their loss, as all they want is their loved one back.


Going through the process of grieving can be exhausting and unsettling in many ways. It is a normal response to a great loss of someone or something we loved so deeply, however, it changes us and our lives will never quite be the same again.

Whatever their belief, it is a very common occurrence for bereaved folk to tell of strange things happening after the death of a loved one. As a grief therapist, I have listened to many, many experiences of strange phenomena over multiple years. I, too, have many personal experiences. The fact is, these things occur and science does not always have a rational explanation.

Let us take a look at some of the weird and wonderful things people experience:

Messages from a loved one

  • A robin or other birds appear on top of the grave or around the bereaved person and behave in an unusual manner.
  • Clocks behave erratically. Some stop at the time of death. Clocks and watches may stop and start to mark anniversaries or begin chiming after lying broken for a long while.
  • White feathers appear to fall from the sky and appear in places least expected, mainly indoors. They are usually in pristine condition and fluffy. People report these appearing at times when they specifically need comforting. Coins with a relevant date may also appear in an unexpected place.
  • Songs on the radio may suddenly play at a special time or repeatedly. It may be an unusual song of long ago, not usually played much anymore. This may seem too coincidental and the tune usually holds some significance between the bereaved and the deceased.
  • TVs change channels and behave strangely. Usually, once again, the bereaved find great significance in the action. Sometimes it amuses the person as it seems the TV channel was changed to protect their feelings.
  • Electric lights may flicker and light bulbs blow often. It is not uncommon for people to report a lot of unusual activity around electrical appliances such as alarms and cameras. 
  • People may smell a whiff of perfume or cigarette smoke at home which reminds them of their loved one's favourite scent or tobacco. 
  • Hearing or seeing the loved one after death. This may feel disconcerting but it is considered a normal part of grieving and can be comforting. It is quite common for people to dream of their loved one looking much younger and healthy, they sometimes carry a message that they are OK, free from illness and happy. These dreams are usually very vivid and may provide comfort.
  • Some people may report feeling the presence of a loved one around them, feeling a light touch on their shoulder or hair and a draft of air.
  • I have listened to experiences of people's pets seemingly communicating from beyond. Sending signals that they are still around and with their owners. This may provide great comfort to the bereft.

There are many, many more strange, science-defying, seemingly irrational carry-ons which people experience. Even people who do not believe in an afterlife and think that death is the end are surprised by experiencing such weird happenings.


Whatever we believe, these things happen. It helps to keep an open mind and just accept the experience and the not knowing. The great unknown. We have no absolute proof of life after death, we do not know why some people experience these strange phenomena, but it occurs. If we accept that this is part of grief, it may bring us a little comfort and solace in our dark times of mourning.

Sharing is liberating

Some people may find these experiences confusing, they may feel that they are experiencing a mental illness. They may feel frightened or disturbed, unable to share with others for fear of being judged or laughed at.

Some people believe in an afterlife and wish to share their experiences with others. These are feeling the full force of the pain of loss and are trying to adapt to a life without their loved one physically in it. They mourn and feel the full impact of the pain and they celebrate a soul which has moved on to a better place of no suffering. Part of their process is to share these experiences with laughter and tears.

You are not alone

As a bereavement therapist, I have felt extremely honoured to be a part of these experiences. My beliefs are not important. Your experiences are important and feeling safe and accepted whilst sharing them can be a healthy part of the grieving process. 

Go well and remember, there are more things we don't understand than those we think we do.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Stoke-On-Trent, Staffordshire, ST4
Written by Amanda Parfitt, Msc Counselling Psychology. Reg.MBACP (accred)
Stoke-On-Trent, Staffordshire, ST4

Amanda Parfitt.
Psychotherapist and Bereavement Counsellor.

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