Prevalence, phenomenology and characteristics of sensory experiences of a deceased spouse: A survey of bereaved older adults

Edith Maria Steffen, Karina Kamp, Helle Spindler, Andrew Moskowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Downloads (Pure)


Sensory and quasi-sensory experiences of the deceased (SED), also called bereavement hallucinations, are common in bereavement, but research detailing these experiences is limited. Methods: An in-depth survey of SED was developed based on existing research and completed by 310 older adults 6-10 months after their spouse died. Results: SED were reported by 42% of the participants with wide-ranging phenomenological features across sensory-modalities. In particular, seeing and hearing the deceased spouse was experienced as very similar to the couple’s everyday contacts before death. SED were endorsed as positive by a majority of experiencers, and the experiences were often shared with family and friends. Discussion: SED are conceptualized as social and relational phenomena, which may comfort the surviving spouse in late-life bereavement, but also provide tangible help to some experiencers. In clinical practice SED may be considered a potential resource for the therapeutic grief process. © 2021, E. Steffen, K. Kamp, H. Spindler, A. Moskowitz. This is an author produced version of a paper published in Omega: Journal of Death & Dying uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self- archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at the link. Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOmega: Journal of Death & Dying
Publication statusPublished - 21 May 2021

Cite this