by Elena Tafone
Can loved ones send us messages from heaven? According to Bill and Judy Guggenheim, co-authors of the book Hello From Heaven! the answer is yes—and such communications are more common than you think.
During their seven years of research, the couple interviewed more than 2,000 people who’ve experienced what they call after-death communication, or ADC. They estimate that at least 60 million people—20% of the population of the United States—have had an ADC experience. Other polls estimate that number is much higher.
Some of these experiences take place before the person even knows their loved one has passed. Others happen years later, often during a time when the person needs such a message. The Guggenheims say the messages of ADCs are similar—they offer love, comfort, and reassurance—though the way they’re communicated often differs. Here, Bill Guggenheim breaks down the 12 different categories of ADC experiences.
There’s a difference between being in a room alone and having your departed loved one there with you in spirit. You can feel it. The feeling that they’re there with you may also be a way the recently deceased communicate with us. According to Guggenheim, “The most common ADC experience is feeling the presence—getting the sense that the person is nearby or near you.” Experiencers also described being able to sense their deceased loved one’s emotions during the encounter.
Hearing the voice of the departed—auditory ADCs—are also very common. While some people hear an external, audible voice, many claim that the voice comes from within. This internal voice is not just a thought. People who’ve experienced this phenomenon say the voice is definitely not their own—it’s a distinct entity. Sometimes, this voice sounds like that of the departed. Other times, it is nondescript, comforting and otherworldly.
In the wake of a loved one’s passing, you might also feel a reassuring touch—like someone patting your back or even giving you a hug. “That’s one of the less common ones because, frankly, very few of us can recognize the touch of another person,” says Guggenheim. “If you’re married, you know the touch of your husband or wife. Or the touch of your children. But you probably wouldn’t know many other people by touch alone.”
You might experience a sudden waft of the person’s cologne or perfume. Other common scents include tobacco smoke and the smell of favorite foods or flowers. “You can be sitting in an office someplace in winter and all of a sudden smell lilacs,” says Guggenheim. “And there are no flowers—definitely no lilacs—anywhere near you.”
Your loved one may appear partially—in a hazy, mistlike form, for example—or in a full-body apparition, one that appears fully solid and lifelike. The person almost always appears healthy and luminous. “Quite a few visual ADCs occur in the bedroom,” Guggenheim explains. We’re most receptive to these appearances in the state between waking and dreaming.
Unlike full or partial appearances, which may feel like the departed is appearing in the same room as you, visions are more like glimpses into the great beyond. Guggenheim describes ADC visions of the deceased as two-dimensional images, sort of like a projection. You may see this image before you, or it might appear in your mind, when your eyes are closed. Guggenheim suggests that what you’re seeing is a glimpse of your deceased loved one in heaven.
These experiences take place in the “alpha state” of consciousness, when you’re in deep prayer or meditation. In this relaxed state, it’s easier to sense or even see your departed loved one. If they give you a message—either verbally or nonverbally—it’s similar to other ADC messages. The deceased often want to reassure the living that they’re okay, that everything will be okay, and that those who have been left behind need to move forward with their lives.
God often uses our dreams to guide us. He also uses them to provide comfort in the wake of loss. Dreams where the deceased speak with you—visitation dreams—are different than regular dreams. “They’re more real than ordinary dreams,” says Guggenheim. “In a typical dream, it all seems very real, you wake up, you say, ‘Oh, wow! I’m going to remember this forever!’ and about an hour later—unless you’ve written it down—it starts falling away. Whereas, an ADC, people vividly recall years and years later. It’s like it just happened last night.”
Some people in the Guggenheim’s study reported experiencing this rare kind of ADC while sleeping or in a meditative state. In an out-of-body ADC, experiencers separate from their physical body and enter a liminal space where they are able to see and communicate with their deceased loved one. “That’s the closest thing to dying and then returning to your body,” says Guggenheim. “It’s like a near death experience in a way. And some of them know how to direct themselves and go someplace else. Others don’t and they just spontaneously occur.”
Like us, the departed may use phones to relay a message. Some of these phone communications take place in dreams, but other experiencers claim that their phone actually rang in real life. The deceased gives you a short message that sounds far away. These are not actual phone calls. You can’t converse with the person. According to Guggenheim: “These are more like Western Union telegrams, in a way—meant to uplift and comfort.”
Lights going on and off, radios changing stations, items inexplicably falling off of shelves—all of these could signal that your departed loved one is nearby and trying to get your attention. Oftentimes, the items are related to the deceased. For example, their framed photo might keep falling off the wall. Or a radio may turn on inexplicably and the station will be playing the deceased’s favorite song.
Instead of appearing visually or speaking to us directly, deceased loved ones often send us simpler signs, ones that represent something greater. Common ones to see include butterflies, rainbows, birds, flowers—imagery associated with love and happiness. Or you may find small objects such as coins and feathers. Guggenheim says that what sets these sightings apart as signs is the significance of the object or the behavior of the bird or butterfly. “If it comes and lands on your hand or shoulder or knee, that’s very different than just seeing a butterfly,” he says.
Click on a picture to enjoy more inspiring photos and stories.
Explore the collection of slideshows and discover inspirational quotes, beautiful photos, and powerful stories of hope.