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PhD Research - Department of Psychology and Sociological Studies - University of Northampton (UK) - Candidate Dr Piero Calvi Parisetti



Scholars have speculated that beliefs in the afterlife may help the bereaved cope by offering the possibility of spiritual reunion and continued attachment with the deceased (1,2). Studies have tested this hypothesis, showing that bereaved persons who specifically believed in an afterlife (as opposed to a generic religious faith) fared psychologically better than nonbelievers (3, 4). In particular, it has been shown that “bleak or uncertain views about the afterlife are associated with multiple aspects of distress post-loss” (5).

The core idea of this research proposal is that such “bleak and uncertain views” can be challenged and replaced by less negative ones by systematically considering the vast empirical evidence suggesting the survival of human personality of bodily death (6). It is proposed that the knowledge and critical examination of facts can lead the bereaved to develop or reinforce a rational belief in life after life, and this, in turn, can lead to a reduction of grief. 

Research questions

1.    To what extent can the knowledge and critical examination of facts affect existing attitudes and beliefs concerning the survival of human personality of bodily death?

2.    How do any changes in attitudes and beliefs affect indicators of grief and psychological wellbeing in bereaved individuals?







1. Benore, E. R., & Park, C. L. (2004). Death specific religious beliefs and bereavement: Belief in an afterlife and continued attachment. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 14, 1–32.

2. Wuthnow, R., Christiano, K., & Kuzlowski, K. (1980). Religion and bereavement: A conceptual framework. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 19, 408–422.

3. Abrums, M. (2000). Death and meaning in a storefront church. Public Health Nursing, 17, 132–142.

4. Smith P. C., Range L. M., Ulmer A . (1992). Belief in afterlife as a buffer in suicidal and other bereavement. Omega, 24, 217–225.

5. Carr, D., & Sharp, S. (2013). Do afterlife beliefs affect psychological adjustment to late-life spousal loss? Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 69(1), 103–112,

6. Rawlette, S. H. (2021). Beyond Death: The Best Evidence for the Survival of Human Consciousness. 2021 Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies. Online access:


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