Why Do Spirits Stay Earthbound?

The question of why some spirits remain earthbound has been debated since the time man first encountered a ghost. And no, I was not there to witness it. I may be old but I am not that old. Yet, anyway. Humankind has always been perplexed when it comes to this question. There are many standard answers, answers that ring of cliché. Of course, their simply being cliché does not make them wrong, necessarily. What we are going to do here is look at this question as well as those answers, hopefully in a fresh way. I am also going to throw in a few questions of my own. Let’s think about this a bit. The common answers we hear are as follows: 


The spirit does not realize it is dead.


The spirit is staying near someone or something it loved in life.


The spirit is afraid to cross over.


The spirit wants to watch over loved ones who are left behind.


The spirit has some unfinished business it wants to tend to.


The spirit has a message for someone.


The spirit just does not want to leave. 


The spirit does not know how to cross over.


The spirit is being held back by excessive grief.

Let us take a look at the first one. You might ask how is it possible that a spirit does not know it is dead? It is a good question, after all. There are many ways in which a person can die suddenly. It could be an accident, a heart attack or stroke or some form of unexpected violence. Imagine if you will, you are driving to work one morning. Maybe you have your mind on something other than just driving. If you do, you are just like everyone else in the world. Most people are in a trance state when they are driving. You may be caught up in the music you are playing or you may be thinking about what you did or didn’t do on the weekend. You may even be thinking about how much you dread going to work that day. Nah, that doesn’t happen, right? Anyway, as you are driving, someone shoots through a red light or a stop sign and you broadside him at 50 miles per hour. Before your brain even has time to register what is happening, you are dead.

Fine, you may say, but that hardly answers the question about how you cannot know you are dead. Well, the spirit of the person does not feel physical pain. That alone creates confusion because if you just broadsided a car, you would expect to be in a lot of pain. However, you are not. That confusion is going to foster a sense of unreality. We all disassociate whenever we face a crisis. Therefore, it stands to reason that your mind is going to do some serious disassociation, especially since your spirit has just disassociated from your body. I cannot think of too many things that would rank higher than that as a crisis, unless, like me, you are a Mets fan.

That confusion is only going to grow as your spirit tries to communicate with the living. Remember, we are not talking about a rational mind at this point. The spirit has just been thrown from the body and is facing something it cannot comprehend. Keep in mind that your spirit probably still sees itself in a physical form, even though the actual body is still crumpled in the vehicle. You still seem to have a body so you cannot be dead, right? That state of confusion is going to grow as emergency vehicles begin to arrive. Chances are you will try to communicate with the people at the scene and you will be surprised when they seem to be ignoring you. “Why won’t they answer me?” you are probably saying to yourself. With that, your frustration grows and that frustration only clouds the issue even more. It certainly won’t take long before you feel totally lost.

Since your death was so sudden, there is a good chance that none of your previously deceased relative will be there to help you with the transition. Needless to say, at some point in time, you will figure it out but it can take a long time. I would think you would figure it out pretty fast but based on cases I have worked or read about, some spirits just don’t get it. Also, it should be noted that there probably is no sense of time in the afterlife so a day, a week or a minute will all be the same. Of course, that alone will add to the confusion. Perhaps you will go home, assuming you can figure out how to do it. At first, that might be difficult. Mediums have reported that many spirits attend their own wakes and funerals. However, many don’t. It may take some time to clear your mind and reconcile yourself to the fact that you are dead.

I worked a case where a spirit was channeled by a medium. This spirit had absolutely no idea that she was dead, even though records show that she had been dead for over 50 years. She couldn’t understand why her home was no longer the same as she remembered it. Also, she kept looking for her dog. For whatever reason, she just did not realize that she was dead and for the record, she had no intention of leaving the building, even though it was no longer hr home. Could she be helped to cross over? Yes, she could but she would have to realize she was dead and she would have to want to cross over. There is no realistic way to force her to leave since she has every bit as much right to be there as do the living. Perhaps she has more. Of course, it would probably be better for her to cross over but she has to make that choice.

The next possibility is that the spirit has chosen to stay with someone or something it loved in life. It might be a family member; it could be a house it once lived in and loved. Some people are so devoted to their loved ones that they feel the need to stay with them. It is sad when this happens because the spirit is missing out on a chance to go to another level. Plus, it has to be terribly frustrating to be so close to a loved one but be unable to communicate with him or her. One question that this brings up in my mind is why don’t more spirits stay earthbound. I have lost many loved ones and I would have thought that some of them would stay around. Of course, for all I know, maybe they did. It could also be that they were met by someone who helped them cross over right away. They may have realized that our physical lifetimes are but a short moment compared to infinity and they know they will not have to wait long before they are reunited.

A spirit may choose to stay with an object it cherished or the spirit may choose to stay in a house where it was the happiest. This is the case in the majority of haunting situations. The spirit may have spent most of its life in the house and it just does not want to leave it behind. That spirit may or may not want anyone else to occupy the house. Some spirits are content with the new occupants and may even want to try to communicate with them. Of course, the living residents of the house may be terribly frightened because they are looking at ghostly activity and are coloring their reactions based on their belief systems. What I mean by that is that someone who knows little or nothing about the supernatural will most likely be terrified simply because they see the spirit or its activity and feel that they are being threatened. In actuality, they are misreading the situation.

The other side of the coin is that the spirit may not want anyone else to live in his house. In that case, the residents may well experience threatening or malicious activity as the deceased individual tries to force out the living people. The spirit may decide to break cherished objects or it may do everything it can to frighten the people. It may open and slam doors, turn electrical appliances on and off or it may make an effort to show itself. By the way, those are tough cases to work because the spirit has the right to be there and it is not necessarily evil. Of course, once it does some malicious things, it has crossed the line and can then be thrown out. However, it may choose to simply harass the living by moving things around or hiding them. Sometimes they can be reasoned with; sometimes not. Sometimes praying for the spirit helps.

Another reason why spirits remain earthbound is because they are afraid to cross over. Some spirits may be afraid of what awaits them on the other side and feel it is safer to stay earthbound. They may consider it the lesser of two evils. Let’s face it, none of us know exactly what awaits us when we die. We have a few ideas bases on medium communications, our religions and near death experiences but we don’t know for sure. That uncertainty may be enough to keep a spirit where it lived. Then you have the guilt factor. A spirit may be fearful that it will have to atone for its sins. Rather than face possible punishment, it may stay behind, hoping to escape what it fears. It is kind of like the old saying, “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.” Staying earthbound may seem to be the lesser of two evils.

When it comes to spirits who fall into this category, you can sometimes help them cross over by convincing them that we have a loving, forgiving God. It helps when you explain to them that eventually, they will have to cross completely over and that their best chance of happiness lies in doing so. Letting them know their loved ones are waiting for them can also help ease their transition. 

Another reason spirits sometimes stay around is because they want to watch over their loved ones. In this case, the spirit may feel that the family left behind will be in serious trouble without him. He may feel guilty because he knows that they will have difficulty financially or perhaps it is a parent fearful that the surviving spouse will have difficulty raising their child as a single parent. Fears like that may keep the spirit close to his family. In general, the spirit will learn at some point that even though they are having problems, he is powerless to help them At that point, the spirit may choose to cross over.

Sometimes the spirit will remain earthbound because they want to see their children grow up or they may stick around waiting for a specific event. It may be a wedding, the birth of a child or grandchild or even a christening. Once they have witnessed the event they were waiting for, they cross over.

In other cases, the spirit may have some unfinished business it wants to tend to. The above situation can fall in this category but in some cases, it may be that the spirit is waiting to conclude a business project or maybe he wants to see the house he was building finished. The spirit may want to say goodbye to someone or perhaps apologize for some transgression on his part. In that regard, the unfinished business may be a message it wants to convey to someone. It may be something as simple as saying, "I love you," or it could be to let his survivors know that he is okay where he is. Of course, in a case like that, it probably isn't going to happen and eventually, the spirit will realize that and make the transition to the next level. 

Every so often, you come across a spirit that simply does not want to leave for whatever reason. It may be some of the ones already mentioned; it may be that he just likes the earth plane and that is as far as he wants to go. Eventually, he will have to move on but God knows when that will be. In other cases, the spirit simply does not know how to go forward. This is likely to occur when the person who dies has no other loved ones on the other side. There could well be spirit guides waiting to help him but he may not know that he can follow them. That spirit is lost. When you come across a spirit who is in this situation, you can sometimes coax him to leave by telling him to go to the light or to follow a guide.

The last category is a sensitive one. In many cases, excessive grief on the part of surviving loved ones holds the spirit earthbound. He sees the grief and feels that he cannot leave because of the suffering his passing caused. He may feel that as long as he stays near to the grieving survivor, he is somehow helping them. In time, he may realize that his remaining earthbound is not helping the situation. However, he may still be torn and stick around anyway. For that reason, it is important that even when we grieve, we must let the spirit know that it is okay to cross over. I have had the misfortune of losing many loved ones but the one thing I always say when they die is to please cross over. Don't stay earthbound for me because it is better for the spirit to move on and quite frankly, I can't feel them around me anyway. It is better all the way around if they progress and grow. Only time eases grief and it never takes it away.

These are the most common reasons why spirits remain earthbound. There may be others but in years of experience, these are the ones that dominate. Ideally, spirits should move on, for their own sake. This world is difficult enough for the physically living; to stay on the physical plane in a spiritual state must be difficult. Of course, I always wonder what will happen when I die. Will I take my own advice or will I remain stuck for one of the above reasons. Maybe I'll create a tenth reason.

Knowing all of this is fine but it does cause me to wonder about a few things. If a spirit has the ability to stay earthbound and can, in some cases, communicate, I wonder why none of my relatives have attempted to stay earthbound. Perhaps they have but for whatever reason, they are not able to communicate or I am not able to receive their communication. What surprises me about this is that I come from a spiritual family who have been big believers in ghosts and how to contact them. I don’t mean to sound selfish because I truly hoped they have all crossed over right away. However, if anyone would try to communicate from the other side, I would think my family would. That leaves me to wonder if there might be other factors that go into this. There are tons of ghost stories out there, even after you eliminate the residual energy imprints, but you would have to think there would be more. Again, the problem may be that all spirits may not be able to make contact. It is certainly one of the mysteries of life and apparently death, as well.

© 2003 T. Cooney 

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