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Death-Related Experiences
Record Type: Review   ID: 33

Goodbye Again: Experiences With Departed Loved Ones

Devers, Edie

It is exciting to note that increasingly graduate research is being conducted into the phenomenology of various types of exceptional human experience emphasizing their impact upon the experiencer and the long-range aftereffects. This book is based on Devers' M.S.N. and Ph.D. research, which was initiated by an experience her sister had involving a "strange light [that] ... in some inexplicable way ... held within it the spirit of our deceased mother" ... Her sister regarded it not as a ghost but "as an embodiment of a positive thought form" (p. 1). Devers observed thereafter that there was a remarkable change in her sister. Looking back, she sees it also altered the course of her own life. Her master's thesis was on "what is it like to experience the deceased?" For her doctorate, she conducted qualitative research aimed at understanding "the process that survivors went through during and after this remarkable experience." She broadened her definition to include in afterdeath experiences "dreams and sensing a presence as well as awareness through one or more of five senses" (p. 3).

She used the broader term of afterdeath communications. As a private therapist, psychiatrist Devers has also had "opportunities to use and explore my growing knowledge about after-death communications (ADC)" (p. 3). In this volume she shares what she has learned in the previous 10 years with the dual aim of describing "the depth and breadth of ADC but also communicating the meaning, power, and healing that such events can provide" (p. 5). She avoids the hang-up of those researchers who try to prove ADC by taking the sociological approach of working with people for whom these experiences are real. By way of illustration, she quotes one research participant who said, "I know what I saw was real, all this changed my whole view of what death is all about" (p. 6). She describes her sister's experience in more detail, and says what she was most struck by "was its power to intently shift her worldview or paradigm. This sudden shift had a healing quality because it created a sense of awe, wonder, and hope. It also gave her a mental resilience," that she had never had (p. 8). [This is an example of what I mean when I say an EHE provides us with a glimpse of the Experiential Paradigm.]

The points she makes in the various chapters are illustrated by several accounts in the experiencer's own words. There are chapters on waking encounters, dream encounters, feelings associated with ADC, and experiences that reveal familiar cues of the deceased. There is a chapter on "Comprehending the Private Reality," in which intuition as well as study are required. A chapter titled "Responding to Public Reality" is a very important topic. "I found that survivors were engaged in a tug-of-war between their private thoughts and what they thought would be acceptable to the public" (p. 110). She points to a later stage of the process involved, which is that survivors eventually come to "reject public skepticism because they know their own experiences are real" (p. 112). Other important chapters are "The Therapeutic Nature of ADC" and "The Healing Nature of Transcendent Experiences." Here she confirms what I have observed about EHEs: "Experiences of a transcendent nature not only show us the reality that exists far beyond our comprehension but also speak to us about our participation in it" (p 159). [That reality is the Experiential Paradigm, which must be experienced to be known.]

Publisher Information:Kansas City, MO: Andrews and McMeel, 1997. Pp. ix + 162. 16 refs
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