Can I talk to dead people?

Dear Paul,

A good friend recently died that I cared for dearly, in fact, he and I were dating. We were friends first and foremost. He was an amazing, respectful, caring guy and now he's gone. Can I contact him? I miss him so much!

- Mourning


Dear Mourning,

First of all, thanks again for your patience with my response to you. As I think I told you in my last short email, things have been busy for me, and I have found it hard to find time to respond to emails.

I don't know if my advice will be helpful in any way at all, but I will try...I am no expert, but I do have a few thoughts as I read your email.

I am very sorry to hear of your loss, more than anything. It is always difficult to lose someone we love, which I know all too well. My mom died a couple of years ago, and that loss still affects me. I share this with you just so you know that you are normal to continue thinking about your close friend who died. I still think of my mom quite often.

Probably the best piece of advice I can offer you in dealing with your situation is to continue a relationship with your friend who died. I hope that does not sound totally strange, so let me explain what I mean. That Catholic Church teaches us this cool concept of the ‘communion of saints', which for years was just three religious words to me. However, since the loss of my mom and other dear loved ones, it has become a powerful reality.

Of course, we are forbidden to do spiritually dangerous occult practices like séances and fortune telling, but we can continue in relationship with our dear loved ones - in Christ. We should not seek to "contact the dead" through Ouija Boards, psychics or any variation of witchcraft because they open us up to, literally, "the dark side". There is some knowledge to be found in those practices; sometimes things might be revealed that only the deceased person knew about. And yet, I am reminded of St. Thomas Aquinas' definition of angels as "pure intelligence". We Catholics believe that demons are fallen angels -pure intelligence that is twisted and deceptive. I mean, if there were not something intriguing about these practices, no one would be interested in them. However, these ‘voices' and ‘revelations' desire to get us hooked, because if we keep these dangerous spiritual doors open then evil has an access point in our lives. As a matter of fact, the exorcism well-known in the St. Louis area (on which the movie, "The Exorcism" was loosely based) started from a teen innocently trying to contact his deceased aunt with a Ouija Board. So, avoid any of these practices at all costs - and if you have tried any of these things in the past be sure to bring them to the sacrament of Reconciliation for healing. That being said, it is comforting to know that through our relationship with God, we can stay in relationship with our loved ones on the "light side", and seek their prayers for us as well. Whenever we do the litany of the saints in church, for example, we ask for the prayers of deceased individuals who are in Heaven and who we can relate to, again only through Christ.

Talking to the deceased as a form of prayer this is not an exclusively Catholic thing, either. Several years ago, an elderly gentleman I know (who is Protestant) lost his wife of over 50 years. He told me, almost embarrassedly, that he still talks to his wife all the time. He seemed visibly relieved when I told him about our Church teaching on the communion of saints. What I mean by a continued relationship is that it is OK to write letters to, talk to, and especially to ask for our deceased loved ones to pray for us. I ask my mom to pray for me all of the time, because I believe that she is now with Jesus and can pray for me better than she ever could while here on Earth. How cool is that?

Keep in mind, as you ask him to pray for you, that if he really loved you as much as you have expressed, that he would want the best for your life. That means other healthy relationships with guys, too. I am not saying you should start dating anyone, though, until you would be at peace with that. But I do believe that this relationship with him set a standard for you, and that is a gift. You are blessed to know what it means to be treated well and honored, and you should settle for nothing less than the best in other future dating relationships. I would also suggest that every time you go to church, and when you pray, that you commit him to the Lord. Ask Jesus to take him, and to help you to let go where you need to, and hold on where you can. I think that kind of prayer could be powerful.

If within a six months or so things are not better after you have faithfully tried these things, you might want to consider getting some counseling, perhaps through school, which might help you through the mourning/letting go/grieving process.

Be assured of my prayers!