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Afterlife has always been a cause of inquisitiveness for humans. The secrets of the spirits seem to be a world that we constantly try to decipher. The existence of a next world has captured our intellects and curiosities like nothing else can, for centuries now. Journeys that our loved ones take after passing over are topics for studies for years now. Based on the many schools of thought, we can now decode the voyage of the spirits.

Let us dive into the age-old question of how long a spirit lingers after death.

Scientists, mediums and psychologists may not always agree with the nuances of the final journey a person’s spirit will take. But there are some undeniable concepts to help us understand the process of passing away.

The time window

Going by various verified sources, there is no single time window for all spirits to leave. There have been several instances when loved ones have made their presence known many decades after they have passed on. There also have been instances of people seeing apparitions of dead relatives they had never met, to receive messages from them. This suggests that familial love extends to people whom spirits have not even met in the physical realm.

Some cultures believe that a spirit will remain lingering for forty days after death. This seems to be a way to put peoples fears of contacting the dead at rest. Though dearly loved in this world, it may be daunting to meet the spirits of relatives after their deaths.

The reason a timeline cannot be specified is that some spirits have to fulfill certain deep desires that they could not when they were here. They linger for as long as it takes to attain that desire. On the other hand, the spirit could give up the wish and travel further peacefully.

The time it takes for each individual spirit is different and depends on how fast they learn certain lessons in life. The frequency of encountering a crossed-over loved one in the physical world can decrease with time. This is attributed to the fact they are more and more at peace with their new surroundings.

Personal experiences

There have been many instances when spirits have visited their relatives in their subtle form right after their deaths. In some cases, to alert their loved ones of their passing. Let us look at some instances of spirit encounters to examine how long a spirit lingers after death.

Short time

An author and well known medium Susan Grau recalls how a spirit saved her life in almost real time. When she was about four years old, she was tricked into climbing into a freezer. The kids that tricked her, then locked it. As kids often do, they promptly forgot about their friend locked in the freezer. Then, almost as clearly as someone was talking to her, Susan’s mother heard a voice say “Your baby’s in the freezer.” over and over again. Though she ignored it at first, Susan’s mother decided to check the freezer. That is how Susan is still alive today.

Not-so-short time

An incident involving a fatal accident can throw some light on how long a spirit can linger after death. A mother driving her two children along a deserted highway accidentally crashed her car, killing herself instantly. This road was not regularly patrolled. The patrolmen heard some static over their wireless devices that were unaccounted for. The day after next, as they began their patrol in two cars they lost communication with each other.

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Her spirit stayed back long enough causing static in the patrolmen’s communication device until they were confused enough to drive the length of the road looking for each other. Her children were found in the process, after two days of the mother’s passing.

Long time

To support the claim that different spirits leave at different times, here is an incident recorded on social media. A three-year old claimed to have an imaginary friend who played with her all the time. The child told her mother how the friend only she could see, made a funny face with his nose squished back. She described him to have round spectacles and brown hair.

The mother thought nothing of it until she was going through an old photo album and her daughter causally peeked into it. Her daughter spotted a six-year-old boy with brown hair and round glasses and told her that he was her imaginary friend. That six-year old boy was the mother’s brother. He had died when he was six and she was four. She then recalled that he used to make the same funny face when he played with her.

And so there is no definite way of telling how long a spirit will linger after death. Different spirits, different times.

The different planes

There is a school of thought that believes in different planes co-existing in the same time frame. According to it, the spirit can exist in the physical world and can be omnipresent. The spirit can be both in the physical and nether planes at the same time. People who have had near-death experiences report that time is a physical construct that does not apply in the world of the afterlife.

There could be a truth to it. Many cultures support and foster the effortless passage of spirits to the next world as a natural next step.

Types of communication

Shifting objects

The most common way a spirit will announce its presence is by placing small objects of sentimental significance around the person they love. It could be a small feather or a coin placed at seemingly bizarre places where nobody could have placed them.

Giving off fragrances

Another widely experienced phenomenon is the fragrances of our loved ones. At times of distress people have noted the signature fragrance of their loved ones. It usually comes out of nowhere and will stay for a few moments.

Appear in dreams

People have dreamt of the people they loved, giving them important messages after they have passed. These can be distinguished from other dreams by their striking vividness. We are bound to remember these for many years.

Flicker lights

They flicker lights when they want their presence to be acknowledged. Friendly spirits who want to send across a message can just turn off and on lights at your home.

Show us signs

Our loved ones send us signs that pertain to important life decisions that we may be debating. This is their way of nudging us in the direction they want us to move in life.

Reasons they stay earth-bound

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There can be various reasons that a spirit could linger in the physical world after death.

Emotional pull

The major reason that a spirit will linger after death is that it simply cannot let go of the bonds. The inevitable bond that it had formed over the years that it had lived here. Spirits find it unnatural to take the next step and could be lingering around for lack of directions. In some cases they find the Light and are pulled towards it. But in most cases they wait for a higher energy to lead them.

Negative emotions

Strong negative feelings towards somebody or something will weigh heavily on a Spirit. So during the time of departure, if there is a strong feeling of negativity it will pull back the spirit towards the Earth’s gravitational field.

Fear of retribution

Sometimes people fear the consequences of their actions and so stay away from the Light after death. Those spirits will linger around for as long as they cannot overcome their fear. It is determined that the Divine does not judge us, but we ourselves do. So seeking spiritual help to understand the process of death and not fear it, would be of great help.

Unfinished business

Having some desires that are not met could be a reason that a spirit will linger after death. This is often portrayed in television and movies. The more popular ones being Ghost and Ghost Whisperer. They both look into the unresolved issues of spirits and how the resolution of them can allow a spirit to journey into the next world.


It is said that if a person takes his/ her own life their spirit should live on earth for as long as their physical body would have. Some spiritual masters believe that accidental suicides do not hold the same trauma as a deliberate one. For some medical conditions where euthanasia is used, the trauma is lighter. The length of time a spirit lingers after death is not certain. Certain experiences can prove that a spirit can either stay only for moments or for weeks or for eternity in this physical realm. The sure shot way to overcome our own mishaps with our afterlives is to realize that it is the next step of life. It is not to be feared because we will be loved on the other side too.