Simon McCarthy-Jones, author of Can’t You Hear Them?, talks to Human Givens about what is known – and what has been ignored – in explaining the experience of hearing voices.
The experience of ‘hearing voices’, once associated with lofty prophetic communications, has fallen low. Today, the experience is typically portrayed as an unambiguous harbinger of madness caused by a broken brain, an unbalanced mind, biology gone wild. Yet an alternative account, forged predominantly by people who hear voices themselves, argues that hearing voices is an understandable response to traumatic life-events. There is an urgent need to overcome the tensions between these two ways of understanding ‘voice hearing’.
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By Elke Barber, young widow and author of ‘Is Daddy Coming Back in a Minute?’ and ‘What Happened to Daddy’s Body?’ offers her thoughts on the mind of a grieving child, and how best to reach them.
What picture pops into your head when you hear the word ‘death’?
Chances are, a pretty uncomfortable one. But crucially, one that you understand. You understand immediately what death means, and all the sadness, grief and emotion that is associated with it.
Do you know what a three-year old thinks of when he hears the word ‘death’?
Nothing. Because, chances are, he has never heard of it before. He doesn’t know what it means! He doesn’t even know that such a thing exists…
In April 2009, I was faced with having to explain to my three-year old just that: death. My husband had suffered a totally unexpected fatal heart attack; no family history, no previous symptoms, aged only 34. And our son Alex was the only person with him at the time. He managed to raise the alarm and get an ambulance there, but sadly Martin died at the scene. All of a sudden I found myself a young widow and a single Mum to two grieving children: Alex, aged three, and Olivia, aged only 11 months…
“He’s still so young – he won’t remember.”, and “He won’t understand.” were the well-meaning phrases I heard most often at the time. But I quickly learnt that these preconceptions couldn’t be further from the truth. I remember Alex lying in bed one night, not too long after his daddy’s death, and innocently asking “How many more sleeps until Christmas?” – I tried to work it out in my head, only for him to follow this with “And how many more sleeps until I have to die Mummy?” – I was completely taken aback… Continue reading