Ethics, grief and the paranormal.
Some of us investigate the paranormal out of curiosity. Some of us like a bit of a thrill. Some of us dedicate our time to the research side of things. Some of like to run tours to show people what could possibly be out there. It can be a bit of fun, but there is a serious side that sometimes we can easily forget. While we can sit here and debate ‘what is a ghost?’, the wider population in general believes that a ghost is the spirit of a person who was once living. Regardless of if this is really the case or not or even if they exist, people believe they do and it means that this ‘spirit’ they believe in has family, friends and a life that they have left behind. It means there are people who are grieving over people they have lost.
Dealing with grief
Quite often investigators are contacted by people who have lost a loved one. They either believe they are being haunted by a dearly departed soul or wish that they were. Often they wish to make contact with this person because they need some sort of closure or just to know that they are OK. Maybe there are things that they wish they had said or done and see this as an opportunity to close the door on any unfinished business. How to proceed from here is a highly delicate situation. They are vulnerable and sometimes quite desperate to make contact. While we as human beings want to be able to help them and we may feel that doing an investigation for them is being helpful to them, they really need to be speaking to a counselor about their grief to help resolve these feelings. I would be wary of assisting anyone within 6-12 months of losing a loved one. It is still likely to be a period of shock, loss and grief for them. Unless you are an experienced counselor, you probably should be referring them on to see one. Quite a lot of paranormal investigators who work with private cases are trained counselors. If you come across a case that may seem to fit this bill and you don't feel you are qualified to deal with it, it doesn't make you any less of an investigator to pass them onto someone who is more qualified and able to help them. In fact it means you are putting their welfare first and that is what you makes a you a great human being. There are some that will not take no for answer and won't want to seek help and will keep persisting until they can find someone to give them the answer they want. All you can do is help to guide them in the right direction.
It may not necessarily be someone who personally contacts you for help. Quite commonly you see it happening online. Perhaps someone has posted an image in Facebook group saying that they see a light shining over them and they believe it is a loved one looking after them. People will ultimately try an debunk it and can sometimes get quite aggressive over it forgetting the fact that this image perhaps gives this person some kind of comfort. Respect and kindness can go a long way. Just knowing they are not alone is sometimes enough for someone who has lost a loved one. When I say not alone I don't mean it in the sense that a spirit is with them, but not alone in that they have support behind them. Even if it is from a complete stranger knowing they have support and someone they have connected with even just for a brief moment can mean the world.
Are some locations off bounds?
On the other end of the scale, it means that we also have to do what we do with respect and act professionally. Investigating in places such as asylums can sometimes become a heated topic for example. Some people believe that we should let the souls of these people rest and that it is disrespectful to investigate. I personally feel that by going in with respect and giving them a voice and an opportunity to tell us their story is a good thing. It can help us learn more about them and what they may have gone through. Sometimes maybe they just want their story heard and it my even help them to move on. It is all about how you handle yourself. I am not running around the dark screaming and yelling profanities. I am asking them to come and talk to me. It is up to them if they choose to answer or not. There are locations though that should remain untouched in my opinion. If there is a traumatic event that is within living memory, you don't really want investigators running around. In some locations, even so much as taking a selfie is considered disrespectful so a paranormal investigation would be off bounds. 9/11 is probably the location that really comes to mind. Locals are often upset and offended when tourists come and post happy selfie. Of course if allowed you can take photos of the sites as it does act as a reminder of our horrific past, but happy selfies is often seen as disrespectful by some. Imagine how they would feel if you were doing an investigation? There may be other places that for religious or spiritual reasons should remain untouched. It is something you have to look at on a case by case situation. Sometimes, if you even have to ask the question 'Should I be doing this?', maybe you already have your answer. Trust your instincts.
Discrediting a person's character
It is equally important in these circumstances not to publicly give information or make assumptions about people that you have perhaps communicated with. Remember they had family. Perhaps you may come across some information the family are not aware of. We have no real way of knowing what is coming through is ‘true’. It could be real information coming through and it could be us connecting the dots from sketchy information. It can happen in mediumship as well, people can get it wrong, and mediums are very careful about the information they give out. By releasing this information for all of social media, what happens when a family member comes across this information? How would you feel if it was one of your family members and all of a sudden someone is on FB claiming they did some horrible things? Quite a lot of people get offended and upset if someone posts a photo at a cemetery of a headstone that has a person’s name on it. So imagine how they would feel if you started making assumptions about this person and things they may or may not have done in life. Paranormal investigators have a bit of a flair for darkness and drama and quite often that can be reflected in the information we present. You don't tend to hear about all the 'nice' and 'positive' experiences people have. It always seems to be focused on the more negative energies and experiences. It is never done with any bad intent of course, we believe we are just telling a story, we just need to be mindful of the information we are presenting. I know a lot of locations I have worked with in the past would not allow us to mention names or make 'assumptions' about anything. As investigators we also need to stop the common thought that the spirits that may be at a location are all 'nasty'. It is this approach that often leads to the assumptions. Sometimes it is best to let the location speak for itself, and it is up to the individual to interpret themselves.
How soon is too soon?
Timing is also a precious issue. Steve Huff who is always in paranormal headlines causes quite the controversy when 24 hours after the death of famous celebrities, he would conduct ghost box sessions and not only claim that they have come through but post it publicly to the world who are still grieving. It is hurtful and quite frankly just in bad taste. There is no exact guideline over when it is too soon to investigate a location or incident. Each scenario needs to be looked at differently and quite a number of factors need to be taken into consideration.
This may be an unpopular opinion to some and it is not targeted at anyone. I have seen many live streams and personal information about private cases all over social media lately. I know that the intention of the investigator is to 'help', but posting it all of social media is not necessary. If the client is the one asking for it to be posted on social media, I would also question why they want you to come out. Do they really need help or do they want a free investigation? (it does happen). A lot of private cases end up being mental health issues and it is not information that needs to be made public. Recently on popular paranormal reality shows they have treaded the fine line of ethics when some cases were clearly medical/mental health related and should not have even aired on television. You don't need to live stream from a private house. You don't need to do a write up or a post video recap. Private cases are called private for a reason.
While it may be something that you are doing for fun, you still have a responsibility to your peers and bound to I guess what we could call an invisible code of ethics. The paranormal industry is largely unregulated. It means you can pretty much do anything. It can be difficult sometimes to know if you are crossing a line. We have potentially all done it unknowingly and you learn your lessons. If you are ever in doubt over if you should investigate a certain location or incident, consult your peers. How do other investigators feel about it? How would you feel if you were related to someone who was there or involved? I know we can do it, but should we do it? If you really really really feel that you have to do it, keep it off social media. At least this way, it is unlikely people will be hurt by actions.
We never intend to be disrespectful or hurt someone's feelings, but it can and will happen. If or when it does, own up to your mistakes and learn. I know I have done things that I look back at now and think, maybe I could have handled that differently. We all learn from our own experiences - mistakes myself included. I guess ultimately, if you have to ask the question should I?, It means that deep down part of you already feels that you shouldn’t, and you should always go with your gut.
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