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Durham University

Institute for Medical Humanities


Experiences of presence in grief: When relationships continue, what are the consequences?

18th February 2020, 17:00 to 18:30, CA201, IMH, Caedmon Building, Hild Bede, Dr Jacqueline Hayes

Experiences of presence are common in bereavement. The bereaved person may see the deceased, hear their familiar voice, feel their touch, smell them, or otherwise feel they are close at hand. But although common, they are experiences not without controversy. They have come under a variety of descriptions, from 'hallucinations', lacking in meaning, to 'continuing relationships', of rich personal significance.

In this talk Dr Jacqueline Hayes (University of Roehampton) will present research that examines the functions and consequences the experiences have for the bereaved. Based on narrative biographic interviews, and an ethnomethodological analysis, she will show how the experiences can have diverse functions, from soothing to destructive. Sometimes, the experiences helped the bereaved to resolve unfinished business with the deceased; at other times, the help was with a much more ordinary problem, even a practical household task. On some occasions the experiences of presence caused the bereaved more problems; they simply pronounced the grief or continued a fraught relationship. She will share examples of each of these consequences provided by participants, and also consider practice recommendations for helping professionals in working with wanted and unwanted presences of this kind.

Dr Jacqueline Hayes joined the University of Roehampton in 2015 to develop teaching and research interests in the area of psychotherapy, and in particular person-centred/ humanistic therapies. She is a practicing psychotherapist and supervisor, with a specialism in working with hearing voices.

Free, all wellcome. Refreshments provided.

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