- bereavement hallucination
- Also known as post-bereavement hallucination and grief hallucination. All three terms are used to denote a heterogeneous group of * sensory deceptions occurring in the context of grief over the loss of a spouse or other loved one. As to their content, bereavement hallucinations typically involve the deceased person's physical characteristics. Due to their *xenopathic character, bereavement hallucinations often have a highly realistic appearance. However, individuals in possession of proper reality monitoring skills tend to recognize these quite easily as non-sensory percepts. The prevalence of bereavement hallucinations in widowed individuals has been found to lie between 30% and 60%. In a classic study by the British physician W. Dewi Rees among 363 widowed persons, almost 50% reported having had one or more episodes ofbereavement hallucination. Among these, * sensed presence (which is usually classified as a *hallucinoid experience not a * hallucination proper) was the most prevalent sensory deception, followed by *visual hallucinations, * auditory hallucinations, * tactile hallucinations, and * compound hallucinations. Recurrent hallucinatory episodes were most prevalent during the first decade of widowhood. Their mean duration varied from several years to decades in individuals above 40 years of age. The incidence of bereavement hallucinations among individuals under the age of 40 was significantly lower, as was the incidence among childless widowed persons, and among those who reported having had an unhappy marriage. Bereavement hallucinations are often described as being beneficial in nature, hence the tendency to classify them as * benign hallucinations. However, they can also be a source of considerable distress. The term pathological grief reaction has been proposed to denote the occurrence of hallucinatory symptoms that have no bearing on the deceased individual. The American psychiatrist Lloyd A. Wells describes two individuals with a pathological grief reaction who reported visual hallucinations reminiscent of * autoscopic phenomena. As to the pathophysiology of bereavement hallucinations it has been suggested that these may fall into either the class of * perceptual release phenomena, or the class of * reperceptions. As a footnote to the literature on bereavement hallucinations, it is worth mentioning that the American-Canadian neuropsychologist Michael A. Persinger (b. 1945) found a positive correlation between corpuscular radiation from the Sun (i.e. solar wind), and the incidence of bereavement hallucinations. Persinger interpreted this remarkable finding as circumstantial evidence for the involvement of temporal magnetic-mediated microseizures in their mediation. Conceptually as well as phenomenologically (and perhaps patho-physiologically as well), bereavement hallucinations would seem to display some overlap with hallucinations occurring in * Charles Bonnet syndrome (CBS). In parapsychology, as well as in various religions, it is not uncommon to designate bereavement hallucinations as a form of communication with deceased individuals or * apparitions. They are therefore referred to as post-bereavement apparitions. To suspend judgement on the issue of whether such apparitions exist or not, the neutral term * idionecrophany has been proposed to denote any sensory experience involving an alleged contact with the dead.ReferencesBaethge, Chr. (2002). Grief hallucinations: True or pseudo? Serious or not? An inquiry into psychopathological and clinical features of a common phenomenon. Psychopathology, 35, 296-302.Persinger, M. (1988). Increased geomagnetic activity and the occurrence of bereavement hallucinations: Evidence for melatonin-mediated microseizuring in the temporal lobe? Neuroscience Letters, 88, 271-274.Rees, W.D. (1971). The hallucinations of widowhood. British MedicalJournal, 4, 37-41.Wells, L.A. (1983). Hallucinations associated with pathologic grief reaction. Journal of Psychiatric Treatment and Evaluation,5, 259-261.
Dictionary of Hallucinations. J.D. Blom. 2010.