Q: Dr. Krishna, I lost my father recently. He was very close to me. I am unable to face this situation. The problem is I see him every night and talk to him too. Is this his ghost or soul visiting me to console me? I want to follow it to the other world to meet my father again. But I am getting scared. Please help me.
Krishna: Sorry to hear about your loss. So moved to know that even in this tragic circumstance you thought of me to get help.
A few years back I was in the same sad situation, not once but twice as I lost both my parents, although I didn't see any ghosts or souls like you see now. So I can understand what you are going through. I can see the exact picture.
Before telling you how to cope with it, I will have to give you a brief scientific explanation, and sorry for doing that in the present circumstances, but to properly understand the situation, and resolve it efficiently, this is vital.
Education in trauma science involves giving information about coping strategies - both natural and counseling based.
Trauma, including one-time, multiple, or long-lasting repetitive events, affects everyone differently. Some individuals may clearly display criteria associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but many more people will exhibit resilient responses or brief subclinical symptoms or consequences that fall outside of diagnostic criteria.
The impact of trauma can be subtle, insidious, or outright destructive. How an event affects an individual depends on many factors, including psychology of the individual, the type and characteristics of the event, developmental processes, the meaning of the trauma, and sociocultural factors.
Survivors’ immediate reactions in the aftermath of trauma are quite complicated and are affected by their own experiences, the accessibility of natural supports, their coping and life skills and those of immediate family, and the responses of the larger community in which they live.
Coping styles vary from action oriented to reflective and from emotionally expressive to reticent. Clinically, a response style is less important than the degree to which coping efforts successfully allow one to continue necessary activities, regulate emotions, sustain self-esteem, and maintain and continue with life.
Initial reactions to trauma can include exhaustion, confusion, sadness, anxiety, agitation, numbness, dissociation, confusion, physical arousal, and blunted affect. Most responses are normal in that they affect most survivors and are socially acceptable, psychologically effective, and self-limited. Indicators of more severe responses include continuous distress without periods of relative calm or rest, severe dissociation symptoms, and intense intrusive recollections that continue despite a return to safety. Delayed responses to trauma can include persistent fatigue, sleep disorders, nightmares, fear of recurrence, anxiety focused on flashbacks, depression, and avoidance of emotions, sensations, or activities that are associated with the trauma.
Most survivors exhibit immediate reactions, yet these typically resolve without severe long-term consequences. This is because most trauma survivors are highly resilient and develop appropriate coping strategies, including the use of social support, to deal with the aftermath and effects of trauma. Most recover with time, show minimal distress, and function effectively across major life areas and developmental stages. Even so, people who show little impairment may still have subclinical symptoms or symptoms that do not fit diagnostic criteria for acute stress disorder (ASD) or PTSD. Only a small percentage of people with a history of trauma show impairment and symptoms that meet criteria for trauma-related stress disorders, including mood and anxiety disorders.
Some trauma survivors have difficulty regulating emotions such as anger, anxiety, sadness, and shame—this is more so when the trauma occurred at a young age. In individuals who are older and functioning well prior to the trauma, such emotional dysregulation is usually short lived and represents an immediate reaction to the trauma, rather than an ongoing pattern.
Other efforts toward emotional regulation can include engagement in high-risk or self-injurious behaviours, disordered eating, compulsive behaviours such as gambling or overworking, and repression or denial of emotions.
However, not all behaviours associated with self-regulation are considered negative. In fact, some individuals ( need I tell you I am one of them?) find creative, healthy, and industrious ways to manage strong effects generated by trauma, such as through renewed commitment to physical or mental activity or by creating an organization to support survivors of a particular trauma.
Numbing is a biological process that helps some where emotions are detached from thoughts, behaviours, and memories.
Some face common physical disorders and symptoms include somatic complaints; sleep disturbances; gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, neurological, musculoskeletal, respiratory, and dermatological disorders; urological problems; and substance use disorders.
Most people feel the denial aspect. You feel as if the person who left you permanently has just gone outside on some errand and would come back soon. Every door bell ring makes you think the person is ringing it.
Then you dream of the person several times. Because you think of the person constantly, you dream of the person quite often.
That is how your mind and brain tries to cope with painful situations.
This is quite normal and natural for some.
Symptoms that arise from traumatic experiences are hyperarousal (also called hypervigilance) if they cause severe inconvenience. Hyperarousal is the body’s way of remaining prepared. It is characterized by sleep disturbances, muscle tension, and a lower threshold for startle responses and can persist years after trauma occurs. It is also one of the primary diagnostic criteria for PTSD.
Hyperarousal is a consequence of biological changes initiated by trauma. Although it serves as a means of self-protection after trauma, if it gets out of control you have to meet a counsellor.
And that is why you thought of me.
Traumatic experiences can affect and alter cognitions. From the outset, trauma challenges the just-world or core life assumptions that help individuals navigate daily life . For example, it would be difficult to leave the house in the morning if you believed that the world was not safe, that all people are dangerous, or that life holds no promise. Belief that one’s efforts and intentions can protect oneself from bad things makes it less likely for an individual to perceive personal vulnerability.
Cognitive or thought-process changes that can occur in response to traumatic stress. These can be ....
Cognitive errors: Misinterpreting a current situation as dangerous because it resembles, even remotely, a previous trauma
Excessive or inappropriate guilt: Attempting to make sense cognitively and gain control over a traumatic experience by assuming responsibility or possessing survivor’s guilt, because others who experienced the same trauma did not survive.
Idealization: Demonstrating inaccurate rationalizations, idealizations, or justifications of the perpetrator’s behavior, particularly if the perpetrator is or was a caregiver.
Trauma-induced hallucinations or delusions: Experiencing hallucinations and delusions
This is what you are facing now. That your father's soul or ghost is visiting you and talking to you. That if you follow it, you can meet your father in person in some other world!
Intrusive thoughts and memories: Experiencing, without warning or desire, thoughts and memories associated with the trauma. These intrusive thoughts and memories can easily trigger strong emotional and behavioural reactions, as if the trauma was recurring in the present.
These are common stress reactions for some.
I will now tell you what things make you to cope with these tragedies
Increased bonding with family and friends. Human beings are ruled by emotions most of the time. When some emotions bother you, some emotions can batter those bothers. Love, hope, inspiration and interest will help you. But the problem is these relatives and friends who can give you those leave you soon after the initial tragedy event even before you could recover completely mentally. I had my mother when I lost my father but didn't have any supporters when I lost my mother and had to face it alone and resolve it in my own mind. So I can understand it. If you don't find anybody that can understand you or help you, please come and meet me in person. I will help you.
Redefined or increased sense of purpose and meaning. Now that you have seen first hand what life really is, think and understand its actual meaning and purpose.
Increased commitment to a personal mission. Do the things you really like. Immerse completely in the work that will make you meet your goals
Revised priorities. Tragedies teach us a lot. Your ego, selfishness take a back seat and with this turn your perceptions too change. Follow these new routes.
Increased charitable giving and volunteerism. Helping others makes you very happy. This makes you cope with your situation efficiently and manage and steer it towards the right direction.
All people face such situations in their lives. Our parents, elders in the family, and teachers teach us from childhood to adulthood how to manage without them. We might not realise this when they are alive, but after they leave us, we realise its significance. Your parents want you to be strong. That is why they teach you life's lessons. So fulfill their aspirations.
This situation won't be permanent, and recovery and resilience is possible with time. Hope that time comes soon for you.
Memories and tears help you cope. It is okay to feel sad and cry sometimes.
Finally, this is very important, it is not your dad's soul or ghost that is visiting you. It is your trauma induced hallucination. And a culturally conditioned mind's mirage. Your brain is trying to help you by constructing these images. You might have heard such stories throughout your life. So your mind is making you meet your dad in an imaginative way because you want to be with him!
Try to manage your trauma efficiently, be strong and these delusions too disappear.
There will be nothing to fear or worry about after this.
This article too might help you: