Exceptional experiences of contact with the deceased are the subject of renewed interest in the bereavement clinical practice. Several works have highlighted positive aspects of such experiences, while asking specific questions about their complex links with psychopathology. The rupture model, reinforced by the Freudian theory, promotes the acceptance of loss; while the model of continued bonds favours the maintenance of identifications and relationships with the deceased. The latter model is based on recent investigations of these “necrophanic” experiences, the prevalence of which is between 47 and 82% among the bereaved.
We analyze 108 testimonies (English and French) from a set of 1004 questionnaires completed online. They correspond to a subset of the sample of respondents who described their experience of contact with the deceased as frightening or negative. Our mixed analysis of closed and open-ended questions sheds light on the content of the messages, the anxieties associated with these experiences, the ways in which subjects shared these experiences, and their aftereffects.
We proceed to a phenomenological breakdown to requalify 20 cases of encounters with unidentified entities, generally associated with sleep paralysis; and 6 incomplete cases which cannot be categorized. The contents of the messages are mostly positive. The anxieties are rather ambivalent and transitory. Sharing such experiences is easily done with relatives, but is hardly addressed with clinicians. There is a retrospective perception of an almost unchanged religiosity and a significantly increased spirituality, with specific effects generally favourable to the grieving process.
These data on spontaneous, so-called frightening experiences rather suggest that these experiences may be catalysts for non-pathological mourning. In contradiction with the rupture model, these results reinforce the model of continued bonds by suggesting a paradoxical mourning: bearevement is accomplished at the cost of always keeping the relationship with the deceased open and alive. Clinical guidelines of such experiences are presented and discussed.
Necrophanic experiences are frequent and powerful. Longitudinal investigations seem necessary to evaluate their long-term effects.Le texte complet de cet article est disponible en PDF.
Keywords : Exceptional experience, Hallucination, Mourning, Complicated grief, Survey
|☆|| To quote this article please use the first french version: Evrard E, Dollander M, Elsaesser E, Copper C, Lorimer D, Roe C. Expériences exceptionnelles nécrophaniques et deuil paradoxal : études de la phénoménologie et des répercussions des vécus effrayants de contact avec les défunts. Evol psychiatr 2021;86(4): pages (for the paper version) or URL j.evopsy.2021.05.002 [date of consultation] (for the electronic version).