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Sunday, August 5, 2007

Hospice Spirit Sightings (Video: 3:47 mins.)

Sightings of spirits are not unusual for hospice patients. I have had several patients tell me about spirits coming to see them. Patients also spoke about visiting the spirit world, often referring to the place they visited as heaven. Discussions about these visits created opportunities for patients to express emotions openly about death, while reflecting on life. They enjoyed describing their visitors and their trips. Their detailed conversations explained to me, not only whom they saw, but also the scenery and what the spirits were wearing. Pets were included in these descriptions.

(Below is an excerpt from my book Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes. )

“What did you do today?” I asked Rose after feeding her.

“Me? I’ve been spending time with my people. I enjoyed myself a lot.”

“Hey, that’s great. Did your relatives drive in from Chicago?”

“No, I went to heaven. It’s the nicest place, all clean and bright with beautiful scenery everywhere. I saw my family and plenty of my friends. They all wore long white gowns.”

“Wow! I guess that’s a place you’ll want to visit again.”

“Oh, I’ll definitely be going back. I’m planning to go stay there when I die. I’ll see if I can help you get in, too.”

“Thanks. I would really appreciate that.”

Some say these spirit sightings are chemical reactions in the brain or simply imaginary. Many say they are angels, while others say they are ghosts. What do you think about this mysterious phenomenon of spirit sightings?




Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.
Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog

3 comments:

  1. Frances,

    I have always found this issue to be such a difficult one. If we overmedicalize everything, then any 'sighting' becomes categorized as an hallucination. This just seems to make everything a pathology. But if we take off our scientific/medical hat and just look at spirit sightings from a emotional/spiritual connection then we may be missing an important connection between disease, experience and medications, that could potentially harm the patient if things turn for the worse (scary hallucinations/sightings). I feel these exist on a continuum but I wonder if we (hospice professionals) come up with an explanation that makes us feel good (like he is seeing his deceased wife, he is ready to go) when the reality of the situation may be that he really isn't seeing her, she really isn't there, but that our mind is just re-imaging previous memories with varying fidelity.

    That is enough hospice and philosophy for tonight. Thanks for bringing up a great topic.

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  2. Christian, thanks for your interesting response. You are right about spirit sightings being a difficult issue to call. That’s why I left it open to readers like you who bring thoughtful analysis.

    My patients have conditioned me to go along with their explanations of spirit sightings that are comforting and positive to them. In terms only of patients’ experiences and perspectives, I think about a “Song of Solomon” quote from Nobel Laureate-winning author Toni Morrison: “What difference do it make if the thing you scared of is real or not?”

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    1. I am a Hospice nurse. I have had many patients that have died over 14 years. Many patients have experiences good and bad. The one thing that I have noticed is if a patient claims to be a christian there death is an easy one. If they don't have spiritual beliefs, they have a "hard death". An easy death would consist of seeing family who have passed on and angels. A hard death would consist of seeing demon type creatures and feeling you feet on fire. These things are reported to me very often. Mostly the Docs treat these experiences as hallucinations. A dose of Haldol, Ativan or Thorazine will do the trick or so they say it will.

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