The Afterlife Connection
A Therapist Reveals How to Communicate with Departed Loved Ones
By Jane Greer
St. Martin Press Copyright © 2003 Dr. Jane Greer
All rights reserved.
From Therapist to Soul-Searcher — My Journey Begins
Death lies on her like an untimely frost Upon the sweetest flower of all the field.
— WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, Romeo and Juliet
The death of a loved one inevitably changes the course of your life. For me, as a therapist, that meant using my experience as a way to help others, turning my pain into something positive, growth-promoting, and most of all healing.
As I've said, my mother's death caused a seismic upheaval in my own life. I have been a mainstream, psychoanalytically trained and certified therapist and a licensed marriage and family counselor for more than twenty years. I am also a media consultant and an author who has written standard self-help books addressing such issues as betrayal, psychological or emotional gridlock, and adult sibling rivalry. Since I'm the sex columnist for Redbook magazine on-line, I had planned, at the time of my mother's diagnosis, to continue my writing with a book about sexual relationships. The subject of the book you're now reading is by far the last one I would ever have thought I'd be writing about.
At first I struggled with the idea of sharing such a personal relationship. To do so goes against my most basic training as a psychotherapist, which is to avoid self-disclosure. Finally, however, I realized that my experience had taught me something really vital to the healing process — something that, in order to honor a valuable lesson I learned long ago, I needed to pass on.
Although it didn't become entirely clear to me until after my mother's death just how much psychic ability has been given to each of us, I've always had an abiding faith in the power of the mind and a desire to explore the farthest reaches of our mental abilities. It was, in fact that faith and desire that led me to become a therapist in the first place.
My doctoral dissertation involved research into the special bond that exists between both identical and fraternal twins and whether it would either negatively or positively affect their marital relationships. Most of us have heard twins talk about the psychic bond that allows them to sense one another's thoughts. We hear about twins separated at birth who, years later, discover that they've both married women named Sue or have both become doctors specializing in the same branch of medicine. There are stories of twins who, as children, communicate in a special secret language and who sometimes even refuse to communicate in their actual native language.
Many of the twins I interviewed in the course of my research spoke about the closeness of that bond, often referring to themselves as "womb mates." But I was particularly struck, when I went on to begin counseling twins who had lost their twin siblings, by their insistence that no one could understand the magnitude of their loss. In expressing it to me, they said, "It's like losing a part of yourself." The twins I encountered believed absolutely in the existence of an ongoing connection with their deceased sibling in spirit that was not simply metaphorical but as real as the bond they'd had in life. It was just that conviction that led Raymond Brandt, who had lost his identical twin sibling at the age of twenty, to found the Twinless Twins Support Group, in whose activities I had the opportunity to participate for several years, as a forum for helping twins deal with their unique loss and grief.
At the time I hadn't had any personal experience with after-death communication, but I accepted the phenomena this group was reporting as in some way very real. I understood that their unwavering sense of connection played an important part in these people's ability to survive emotionally and heal their grief. Even then, the twins' stories had a formidable impact upon me. In retrospect I've come to see that the absolute certainty of their belief had a lot to do with opening my own mind to the possibility of the soul's survival after death.
One patient, Alexis, whose twin sister, Alice, had died suddenly and tragically in a small plane crash, described the loss of her twin by saying. "It takes you to a place described by Rilke as the massive darkness of grief.'" Then she added, "I have seen the abyss." When I spoke to her on the phone these many years later, the grief was still palpable in her voice.
She also, however, talked about the many ongoing messages, phenomena, and experiences that have kept her and her twin connected. Alice comes to her not only in dreams but also through the appearance of natural phenomena such as birds — very often an eagle — and, particularly, rainbows.
As children they'd spent summers in a cottage in upstate New York situated on a lakeshore where they frequently rode their bicycles. One day they'd just picked bouquets of Queen Anne's lace and were looking up at the sky when they saw a magnificent rainbow shining through the sun. They'd both remembered the experience as something very special, and Alexis described it to me as "a moment of pure joy."
After Alice died, Alexis was driving west one day out of the Sierra Nevada Mountains when she saw "the most intense rainbow I have ever, ever seen" pointing directly toward a small town she'd never been to before. "I immediately knew it was my sister," she said, "telling me which way to go." Subsequently, she bought land in the area, and she has lived there ever since. Now, in dreams, Alice sometimes appears on the hood of a car as the masthead of a ship, still pointing the way —"still," Alexis says, "acting as my guide."
Less than a month after the crash, Alexis was in Mexico, where she bought what she described to me as "a beautiful pair of hand-blown glass angel wings." Although they were very carefully packed, the right one broke on the trip home. Since that time, she says, virtually every time she acquires a pair of anything, half the pair breaks or is lost, and each time that happens she knows it's because the spirit of her twin is moving to another realm — as she should, because that's what her spirit is meant to do.
When twins are identical, the physical similarity can also compound the pain and complicate the grieving process. People still sometimes mistake Alexis for her sister, and for a very long time her brother-in-law, who was also on the plane but survived, simply couldn't be with her because, she says, the physical resemblance was much too painful.
That special bond so many twins had described to me was intensified for Alexis in the aftermath of Alice's death. Feeling their ongoing connection has prompted her to undertake further explorations of her own spirituality. Doing that, and knowing that the deep commitment she and her sister shared in life is still in place, has brought her much peace and comfort.
Summoning Psychic Energy
My openness to the kind of psychic and spiritual powers described by Alexis and other twins was given additional impetus by the supervisor of my graduate clinical training. Tom was a monsignor in the Catholic Church whose cousin was a well-known psychic who'd assisted in many police investigations. As a result, he himself was very much open to, and discussed with me, the extraordinary powers of the mind and how much untapped psychic energy we all have available to us. Subsequently, Tom taught me how to access that power by using hypnosis as a means of tapping into and using our psychic energy for creating constructive behavioral change.
One of the things he said to me was so immediately enlightening that, to this day, I've never forgotten it. "Think," he said, "how powerful the mind is in terms of negative, frightening thoughts that cause mental illness. Then think how powerful the mind can be if you harness that energy for positive use, which is what hypnosis does."
As I'll be discussing further when we talk more about healing, seeing things positively, which is the crux of hypnosis, can have a remarkably powerful effect. By learning to tune into our negative feelings and reframe them in a noncritical, nonjudgmental way, we can open up the channels to our own psychic energy.
We all know what it's like to have a gut feeling, but most of us have been taught to ignore or override those inner feelings. We think we shouldn't be feeling the way we do. We become judgmental of our own emotions, and we tell ourselves we're just being oversensitive, we're overreacting, we're selfish — or any other number of negative judgments we make about our feelings.
As children, until we're taught otherwise, we're much more likely than we are as adults to accept those gut feelings at face value. When we're hurt, we cry. When we're happy, we laugh. We aren't always second-guessing ourselves or telling ourselves to listen to our head instead of our heart. In effect, we're much more in tune with our own psychic and emotional energies.
The Romantic poets extolled this childish wisdom and understood the spirituality that is expressed by such unmediated emotions and reactions. Or, as William Wordsworth put it in his "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood":
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar.
My dear friend Charlie has two sons, one of whom he has described to me as being an exceptionally spiritual and psychic child whose abilities illustrate the power we all may have available to us when we are open to the possibility of harnessing it. Charlie has told me several striking instances of Gavin's psychic sense. One such story was about the time he went up to his soccer coach after practice and announced, "I think you have a hundreddollar bill in your pocket." Incredibly, he did. On another occasion they were in a grocery store when Gavin, out of the blue, said to the cashier, "You're from Chicago, aren't you?" And she was. When she asked how he knew, Gavin simply shrugged and said, "I just knew."
Rather than being disturbed by Gavin's ability, his parents have accepted and encouraged it, and so it has continued to flourish. I believe that all of us are capable of recapturing that primal psychic connection and accessing the kind of knowing that comes from quieting our judgmental mind and trusting our gut feelings. In clinical terms that's what happens in hypnosis, but it's much the same phenomenon as what we experience in meditation, which is one of the primary techniques for opening the mind to greater psychic and spiritual awrareness.
The Power to Heal
Several years ago, as an adjunct to my private practice, I began to work with Maria Papapetros, a well-known psychic whose office was in the same building as mine.
I had found that when my patients were so severely afraid of the unknown that they weren't making any progress either in therapy or in life, Maria could help them to see the choices and possibilities that were open to them. This helped to calm them, reduce their fears, and make them more optimistic about their future. Similarly, Maria began referring clients to me, particularly when she felt they were so weighted down and paralyzed by their own problems that they weren't going to be able to act on the information she was giving them.
We recognized that a lot of people are afraid of psychics, of being given answers to the unknown, or simply of the fact that the psychic knows more than they do. Equally, many people are frightened by therapy. They might be unhappy or miserable in a relationship or a job, but they're fearful of doing anything about it. Many simply don't know what to do or how to do it.
We wanted to demystify both therapy and psychic help, so we began holding joint seminars titled "The Mind and the Psyche," focusing on the power of choice and of creating your own reality through the decisions you make. Change is always frightening because you don't know what you're getting into and you naturally wonder whether you might not simply be going from one bad situation to another. Maria helped to ease people's fear and anxiety by letting them know that good things were just around the corner, but they'd have to start walking to get there. When she saw they were afraid either of standing on their own two feet or of defending themselves in an unhappy or abusive relationship, she referred them to me. I then worked with them to help them recognize their own inner strength so that they'd be better equipped to make the changes that would allow them to take better care of themselves both emotionally and physically.
Pam, a patient referred to me by Maria whom I still remember vividly, was trapped in a negative relationship with a totally commitment-phobic man. He kept dangling the carrot of marriage before her and then disappointing her time and time again. I worked with her to have the courage to end it and then suggested that she go back to Maria to see what might be out there for her. Maria exactly described to Pam the man she would meet and marry. Remarkably, she literally met him the next night. Because of Maria's reading, Pam felt she recognized him as someone she should get to know rather than dismiss as simply not her type. As a result, they're married today and have a wonderful daughter. That woman needed to develop the emotional skills that would enable her to leave her unhealthy relationship, but she also gathered confidence and found it comforting to know there was something good on the horizon — or around the corner.
In my work I help people learn to manage their anxieties, calm their fears, and recognize the negative psychic energy they've been carrying as a result of past conflict and trauma. We then work on how they can gain the insight that will free them to use that energy in a more positive and creative way. As a psychic Maria can also show people that they can overcome their negativity and that they do not have to fear making the changes that are open to them. We are both helping people to bypass the skeptical, judgmental conscious mind and open up to the positive psychic energy that resides within each of us.
While the abilities of professional psychics and mediums appear to be naturally more highly developed than those of the rest of us, they, too, tell us that we all have psychic ability. Some of them even point to the fact that we can all connect with the spiritual realm. I believe with absolute certainty that we can not only connect but also make a conscious and deliberate choice to initiate contact and communicate with a departed loved one. In other words, psychic messages flow both ways, and, for that reason, I've chosen to call these contacts "transcommunications."
Later on I'll be teaching you, as I have taught my patients, how to use affirmations and simple meditation techniques to access the psychic energy sources that allow transcommunication to occur. Before you can do that, however, you must want to open yourself up to the possibility that this kind of energy does exist. Like anything you reach for, facilitating transcommunication isn't difficult — if you really want it to happen. The exercises I'll be providing are easy to master. Like putting the key in the ignition of your car and turning it to start the engine, the techniques I suggest will help you to create the vibrational link that allows communication to occur. If you're willing to overcome your fear of the dark (or in this case the unknown) and flip on the light switch, you'll be amazed at the vistas you'll be able to see.
Until you've done that, you'll always be second-guessing yourself. But once you've come to believe it's possible, you'll no longer have any reason to doubt that this kind of psychic and spiritual energy does survive physical death. You'll come to realize that you can continue your relationship with your deceased loved ones by learning how to connect with them. Most importantly, you'll learn how to recognize the messages they send your way.
As you'll discover from the stories I tell, even the most open people, those who have recognized contact and practiced transcommunicaton, can miss the messages that come at them. What I've found to be profoundly gratifying in my work with patients as well as my interactions with friends is when people tell me they would have missed or wouldn't have recognized a sign or message if I hadn't suggested they look for it. My hope is that you, too, will begin to look at things from a new vantage point so that you will be able to see the light of spirit.
Becoming aware of your options can help you to move forward when you seem to be stuck in negative patterns of behavior. In the same way, understanding that you have the option of continuing your relationship with a deceased loved one can have the therapeutic effect of allowing you to deal with your grief in a different way so that you can move on with your life. (Continues...)
Excerpted from The Afterlife Connection by Jane Greer. Copyright © 2003 Dr. Jane Greer. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin Press.
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