Superstitions, Paranormal Experiences, and Supernatural Events: Coping From Grief

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10 November 2023

Writers/ Researchers: Iris Salvante, Miko Buac
Editor: Richardson Mojica
Creatives: Jia Moral, Ian Stephen Velez

 

Losing a loved one normally leaves a profound sadness, and for others, grief can be one of the darkest periods of life. An inevitable human experience that everyone knows will happen one day, it always hurts and still makes many bereaved ask “Why?”

A grieving person’s distress may result in feelings of guilt, sadness or anger as they struggle to find answers and adjust their life after the loss of a loved one (1).

Time heals and a strong support system helps, but supernatural encounters such as dreams and signs from the departed are another source of solace that pacifies such complex emotions (1).

Moreover, as one psychology professor said, “People believe in the supernatural not because they are unintelligent or misguided, but because of an evolutionarily-ingrained need to create meaning.” Regardless of belief (2).

Understanding Grief

According to Swiss psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross there are 5 stages of grief (3).

Denial- It’s when one attempts to block the full impact of a sad news or death of a loved one through denial. It manifests during the state of shock and helps a person handle the initial effect of a loved one’s death (3).

Anger- When denial and shock subside, healing starts by being connected to reality again. And as one who grieves tries to face reality, anger will surface when he asks questions such as “Why me?” Mental Health professionals encourage this emotion as a force that will pull the bereaved back to reality and therefore, connect with people, which is a natural step to healing (3).

Bargaining- It’s negotiation when something bad happens and a person promises to change or do something to avoid a grieving fate. But for someone who lost a loved one, bargaining reflects guilt. As a way to make sense of the loss and avoid grief, people tend to ask things like “What if I had left the house 5 minutes sooner? The accident would have never happened (3).”

Depression- Commonly associated with grief, this is when the bereaved feels numb and lost as he realizes that the person he cared for is gone (3).

Acceptance- The last stage of grief in which a person comes to terms with the reality that a loved one is never coming back but he will be eventually fine. A time of many adjustments and some really bad days, until good days outnumber them and he finds a “new” reality (3).

Some Common Filipino Superstitions and Supernatural Experiences Surrounding Loss And Grief

  • It’s bad to sweep the floor during the wake. A relative or someone close might die soon after.
  • Avoid tears from falling on the casket’s glass as it may trouble the dead in the afterlife.
  • In a funeral being held in a household, avoid looking at yourself in the mirror as dead spirits tend to show up in the mirror at night.
  • A deceased loved one appears in a dream.
  • Communicating to a deceased loved one with the help of a psychic medium.

Coping with Grief

Coping with grief is an intricate process, and optimal coping mechanisms are essential for managing grief. Some examples include seeking support through counseling and maximizing support systems that can aid individuals in processing their grief (4). Furthermore, addressing the implications of superstitions through education is crucial. Superstitions can arise as coping mechanisms in response to loss in light of cultural practices, yet education can play a critical role in addressing this (5). Understanding the emotional nature of grief, the cultural practices of how superstitions arise, and the merits of social support are instrumental for a dynamic and holistic approach to overcoming grief (5).

A Holistic Approach to Grief

A holistic approach to grief recognizes the multi-dimensional nature of the grieving process and highlights multiple essential components. First, self-compassion and self-care play an important role in helping individuals process their grief, wherein self-compassion allows for kindness and empathy during difficult times, reducing self-criticism and judgment, while self-care promotes physical and emotional well-being during the grieving journey (6,7). Furthermore, a balanced perspective that respects individual values, beliefs, and cultural traditions is essential; each individual’s grief experience is unique (5). Lastly, the potential for personal growth through healthy coping mechanisms, understanding, and acceptance is worth mentioning. A study shows that individuals who engage in healthy coping mechanisms and embrace the grieving process experience personal growth and resilience (8). Knowledge of this holistic grief approach can lead to a more constructive experience in the face of loss.

Balancing superstition and resilience

Dealing with grief is a complex and deeply personal journey. Sometimes, people turn to superstitions that delve into the supernatural to seek comfort and meaning amidst the pain. While these practices provide a brief respite, it is vital to approach loss with a balanced and holistic perspective. Superstitions offer a sense of control in an unpredictable world. However, nurturing resilience amidst loss entails acknowledging the pain, embracing emotions, and seeking support from loved ones and mental health professionals. By understanding the natural cycle of grief and navigating it with compassion for ourselves and others, we can draw strength in our innate ability to heal and grow from loss. Balancing superstitions and resilience allows us to honor our emotions while appreciating the human need for hope and support in the face of adversity.


Session Questions: 

  1. Can you share a supernatural/paranormal  experience or a superstition you followed in a time of grief that in a way gave you comfort or hope?
  1. Regardless of your belief, how do you express understanding and respect for someone who grieves?
  2. What are your thoughts about how Filipinos in general handle grief and your ideas to navigate it in a healthy process?

References:

  1. Malone, C. (2023). The Healing Power of Supernatural Experiences in Times of Grief. Dr. Christine Malone’s Blog. https://christinemmalone.com/blog/f/the-healing-power-of-supernatural-experiences-in-times-of-grief/
  2. Carpenter, K. (2018). Supernatural: Death, Meaning, and the Power of the Invisible World by Clay Routledge. Open Letters Review. https://openlettersreview.com/posts/supernatural-death-meaning-and-the-power-of-the-invisible-world-by-clay-routledge
  3. Psycom (2016). The Five Stages of Grief, An Examination of the Kubler-Ross Model. HealthCentral LLC. https://www.psycom.net/stages-of-grief
  4. Shea, M., & Bistricean, C. (2022). Understanding Bereavement among College Students: Implications for Practice and Research. International Dialogues on Education: Past and Present, 8(1), 59–94. https://doi.org/10.53308/ide.v8i1.244
  5. Kuehn, Philip D.. (2013). Cultural Coping Strategies and their Connection to Grief Therapy Modalities for Children: An Investigation into Current Knowledge and Practice. Retrieved from Sophia, the St. Catherine University repository website: https://sophia.stkate.edu/msw_papers/215
  6. Buonaccorso, L., Tanzi, S., Sacchi, S., Alquati, S., Bertocchi, E., Autelitano, C., Taberna, E., & Martucci, G. (2022). Self-Care as a Method to Cope with Suffering and Death: a participatory Action-Research aimed at quality improvement. Frontiers in Psychology, 13. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.769702
  7. Çağlar, A., & Tas, B. (2018). The Analysis of the Relationship between Bereavement Degrees of Adolescents Who have Lost Their Parents and Their Self-Compassion. Research on Education and Psychology, 2(2), 19–30. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328282311_RESEARCH_ON_EDUCATION_AND_PSYCHOLOGY_REP_The_Analysis_of_the_Relationship_between_Bereavement_Degrees_of_Adolescents_Who_have_Lost_Their_Parents_and_Their_Self-Compassion
  8. Henry, Shannon. (2017). An Exploration of Resilience and Post-traumatic Growth Following Traumatic Death. Retrieved from Sophia, the St. Catherine University repository website: https://sophia.stkate.edu/msw_papers/756
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