How do you talk to the dead?
I decided to write this FAQ in part as an answer to a joking comment made in a book, about the "five easy lessons" for talking to the dead. Because it's really not that difficult or complex. Anyone can talk to the dead and probably be heard by them--of course, whether or not they chose to listen is another matter, and it's hard to carry on much of a conversation if you can't hear or sense their end of it through EVPs or psychic abilities. However, these are general things you may want to tell the dead.
The dead are often genuinely confused as to what's going on. Unless I think a spirit is a guide, I always start off the same way I would with a person in the ICU or waking up from an anesthetic (which are other disorienting and confusing situations). The only difference may be that they usually don't need to be orientated as to who they are (which odds are they know better than you do). Basics include what, when, and where. Ask if they understand that they are dead (they often don't) and need to move on. Explain the physical location of where they are (e.g. "You're in my house in Kalamazoo"). Point out the current date and year. If you know it, you may also want to mention how they died (e.g. "You were in a car accident" or "You had a heart attack"). Keep your statements simple and straightforward. You may want to also orient them as to who you are and why you are there. Re-orientation often has a calming or soothing effect.
There can be many reasons why the dead stick around. It isn't uncommon that they simply don't know how to move on. There's a couple ways you can approach this. One is to tell them to look for the light and move into it. A second method is to tell them that there are spirit helpers already around them (if you're worried this isn't true, then mentally ask for some guides to show up -- they will always respond), to just look/think/listen for these beings and they will be able to see/recognize/hear them. Remember that these are often really stressed out folks. And just like the living, who mentally code terms in auditory, visual, and kinesthetic terms, not every modality will be equally clear to them. If they are visual, saying "listen for your guides and you'll hear them" won't be as effective as saying "look for your guides and you'll see them." How do you know which phrase to you? You often don't. The solution is to simple use different combinations of terms to cover all your possible bases.
There are rare occasions when the dead know what has happened and are simply too possessive or stubborn to go. For these folks, I'll explain firmly that this is no longer their house, it belongs to someone else and it is time for them to go. Period. No arguments.
It's sad, but true, that a fear of what might happen to them (or those left behind) can cause some spirits to be afraid to move on. This can be especially true with those who held rigid, fundamentalist beliefs or who think that the bad things (real or imagined) that they did in life have condemned them to an eternity of suffering. Hanging around when you're stuck really serves no good purpose. You can approach this in a variety of ways.
- Explain that it is safe to go to the light, that all can be forgiven.
- Ask people whom they love or trust who preceded them in death to come from the light and explain what they will find. These beings can then provide their own reassurance and guide them back to the light.
- Explain that they CAN return to visit the living again after they've gone to the light. A lot of folks are afraid to go because they want to help those left behind. They can actually learn how to communicate better (often via dreams) and acquire guide skills if they finish their transitions, which lets them better connect to those left behind. Going to the light is not the end. They have choices afterward, which can include visiting (and aiding) loved ones.
Every once in awhile there seems to be a spirit who just can't "see" the light. I may visualize or imagine the tunnel of light opening up, "seeing" it as very bright and them walking into it. Sometimes, once I can mentally "see" the light, I will tell them, "Look, there it is. Just go into it. You'll be okay." If necessary, you can ask an angel or guide in the form of a spiritual or religious being to provide reassurance (or, in the case of Catholics, a priest to hear their confession and administer last rites) so they feel safe to move on. You can read the FAQ page here
for more ideas of ways to deal with ghosts. In the case of pets, you may want to "see" someone coming from the light to get them and care for them (whether their owner or a loving spirit who can fill in until the owner makes his or her own transition to the light, when they can be reunited with their pet).
There are a few cases when the ghost feels like it has unfinished business that it needs your help completing before it can move on. Typically, this involves a message they want passed on to someone who is still living. Murder victims may want to name their assailant. Others may just want to say "I love you" or "I'm okay now." If you aren't psychic yourself, you may need to find someone who is to get this message. HOWEVER, just because a spirit asks you to tell someone something, doesn't mean it's a good idea to do so. There are times when I tell a ghost that I won't do it, that it's simply the wrong time, or that it's better for them to communicate the message themselves after they have gone to the light, through dreams. You need to use your own judgment and common sense here.
Nearly all of the spirits I run into are guides (who don't need help), people (who usually only need reorientation and reassurance), or the occasional pet. The best overall approach is to talk to them in a kind, compassionate way. Some ghosts are smart, some stupid, some mean, some delightful. However, they're seldom dangerous. Calm is the order of the day. You don't need to yell at them -- spirits don't have ears anyway, and they "hear" mental conversation as well as what is said out loud -- and fear tends to escalate situations in a distinctly unhelpful manner.
If you need one rule of thumb in all your dealings with the dead, it's to talk to them like you would the living.
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