Note: names of clients and friends have been changed to protect their privacy.

For a year following the death of my sister Paula I found coins on the ground wherever I went. Pennies. Dimes. Quarters. The coins seemed to appear whenever a memory of Paula came floating forth bidden or unbidden; or when a wave of grief washed over me – which was often at that time.

About four months after Paula’s death I awoke one day feeling weighted down by the pain of loss. I thought getting out of the house would help lift my spirits so I drove to a community far from my home to take a walk on a bustling city street. As I was passing a 31 Flavors Ice Cream store, tears welled-up in my eyes. I come from a family where every event – happy or sad – is marked by eating ice cream and suddenly I fell back in time to the day my sister died. On that day, after a week-long death vigil, my mother, my sister Anita and I skipped dinner and indulged our sorrow by eating over-sized ice cream sundaes. As I was recalling this, I looked down and there at my feet were several crumpled dollar bills and an abundance of quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. The sight made me laugh out loud. As no one else was around I claimed the coins as my own, went into the 31 Flavors store, and ordered a two scoop sundae with hot fudge, whipped cream and nuts. I wasn’t at all surprised when the money I had found came to the exact amount needed for my purchase.

Later that night I shared with my husband what had happened. “It is so like Paula to send me money for ice cream!” I said.

My husband was skeptical. After all, what I was saying was grounded in a sense of knowing, not logic. “It’s more likely,” he said, “someone didn’t do a very good job of stuffing change into their pocket.”

No, I thought, no. Such a mundane explanation will not do! I knew in my heart that Paula had sent me pennies from heaven.

What Are Pennies From Heaven?

After a loved one dies we often look for signs of their continuing existence in the spirit world. We may sense these signs are direct communication from our loved one. Or we may sense an angel or God has contacted us on our loved one’s behalf to let us know that all is well. For some people such signs and messages come in the form of coins, a phenomenon known as “pennies from heaven.”

Pennies from heaven are a type of after-death communication. According to a recent survey by OnePoll, 63% of Americans have experienced some sort of after-death communication. The communication can come in a variety of ways. For example: we awake to the scent of a favorite food a loved one used to make for us. Or we feel someone gently touch us but nobody is there. Or our loved one’s pet now in our care acts strangely as if they are seeing someone that is to us unseen. Grief is a very individualized, unique to each person, and the experience of after-death communication often reflects that individualization, that uniqueness.

Three Stories of After-death Communication

A client once told me that for several months after her sister died, the Beatle’s song “Let It Be” would come on the radio whenever she was in the car. “Let It Be” was the same song that was playing on the radio at the time of her sister’s death. My client knew “sending the song” was her sister’s way of saying “Hi sweetie, I’m okay now.”

My friend Julie shared this story of after-death communication: due to having young children at home, Julie couldn’t travel to another state to be with a childhood friend who was actively dying. Julie was filled with anxiety, sadness and a sense of helplessness: Was her friend in pain? Was she being well cared-for? When Julie looked out the kitchen window she noticed a transplanted rosebush that had never bloomed was suddenly brimming with bright pink flowers. Surely this must be a sign from God or her friend that things were going well? A few hours later Julie looked out the window again and saw that all the rose petals had fallen to the ground; just then Julie received a phone message that her friend had died.

“I knew - I just knew - the petals falling were my friend saying good-bye on her way to her next life,” Julie said. “Her terrible suffering and pain were finally over. I collapsed onto the floor. I just couldn’t stand-up I was crying so hard. I was so sad, but comforted, too, that my friend had found a way to say good-bye.”

My friend Nan’s after-death communication came in the form of an animal.

“About a month after my brother died,” Nan said, “I was driving in my car when I looked over and saw a red fox running along-side my car as if he was trying to catch my attention! Then later, my husband pointed out that a red fox was taking a nap in our back yard – he stayed there all afternoon. I looked it up – a red fox symbolizes spirituality and the afterlife. I knew the fox was my brother telling me everything was okay - he was at peace where he was now.”

The Gifts of After-death Communication

For many people, after-death communication is part of the grief-healing journey, a gift from the spirit world that helps them adjust to a physical environment in which a loved one is now missing.

After-death communication brings comfort, assuring us that our loved one’s essence still exists in a realm or place unseen by us. And the essence of our relationship continues on as well. We now know that the bond of love, care and support we shared with our loved one remains unbroken as signified by a sign or message we have been given; knowing this can help to ease the pain of physical separation in the early stages of our grief journey.

After-death communication can also help ease the suffering we may be carrying regarding what our loved one suffered in the dying process. Whether a loved one died suddenly or after a long illness, in the early stages of grief we can be weighted down by questions: Is he at peace now? Is he happy? Is she finally free from pain? After death communication can ease this burden. After all, we have been given the message all is well.

Death Can Expand Our Spiritual Awareness

When I told my husband, Michael, that my sister had sent me pennies from heaven, he wasn’t able to take a leap of faith and embrace what I was saying - until his father died several years later, transforming his perspective.

My father-in-law, Jerry, loved ducks and had an extensive collection of duck decoys, statues and sculptures, some of which Michael and I inherited. Three months after Jerry’s death, Michael and I were riding in our car, talking about how Jerry often drove us crazy and how we missed him. As we approached a stop sign we noticed a very large, very odd looking duck standing at the side of the road. The duck had a bright red head with hair that seemed to stick out on the sides, a white ring around the neck, an over-stuffed brown body, and enormous orange feet. We lingered at the stop sign moved to laughter by the duck’s comical appearance. Michael commented how the duck’s unusual hair was so like his father’s hair. Then we drove for a while in silence until Michael pulled over to the side of the road, obviously struggling to put into words what we had seen and what he was feeling.

With wonder in his voice he finally blurted out, “It’s just like my Dad to come visit us as a funny-looking duck!”

As happened for my husband, it is not unusual for the death of a loved one to expand our spiritual awareness, causing a shift in perception and perspective of what might lie beyond the physical world. Where we once approached the idea of after-death communication with skepticism, we now welcome signs and messages knowing they are part of a continuing bond of giving and receiving of love, support and care that we still share with our loved one.

The Place Where Lost Things Go
(From the film Mary Poppins Returns)

Do you ever lie
Awake at night?
Just between the dark
And the morning light
Searching for the things
You used to know
Looking for the place
Where the lost things go

Do you ever dream
Or reminisce?
Wondering where to find
What you truly miss
Well maybe all those things
That you love so
Are waiting in the place
Where lost things go

Memories you’ve shed
Gone for good you feared
They’re all around you still
Though they’ve disappeared
Nothing’s really left
Or lost without a trace
Nothing’s gone forever
Only out of place

So maybe now the dish
And the best spoon
Are playing hide and seek
Just behind the moon
Waiting there until
It’s time to show
Spring is like that now
Far beneath the snow
Hiding in the place
Where the lost things go

Time to close your eyes
So sleep can come around
For when you dream you’ll find
All that’s lost is found
Maybe on the moon
Or maybe somewhere new
Maybe all you’re missing lives inside of you

So when you need her touch
And loving gaze
Gone but not forgotten
Is the perfect phrase
Smiling from a star
That she makes glow
Trust she’s always there
Watching as you grow
Find her in the place
Where the lost things go