From white feathers to birds, readers tell Eimear O’Hagan about signs their loved ones send from the other side   


In February this year, clinical psychologist Vanessa Moore wrote in YOU about the signs she receives from her late husband, in the form of white feathers. We received many emails and letters from people sharing similar experiences. Here, four readers share their stories…

‘I pressed the doorbell and felt mum with me’

Gillian Walker, 75, lives with her husband Peter, 75, in Wivenhoe. She is the mother of two children and four grandchildren. A couple of months after my mother Anne passed away in late December 2008, my brother phoned me and told me that out of the blue, his doorbell – which he’d bought soon after Mum died – had started playing a piece of music by the clarinettist Acker Bilk. It was a fancy doorbell, with a choice of ten tunes, that he’d had set to Westminster chimes since he’d bought it.

He told me that not only was it playing this new tune – one of the ten options – but it was happening when there was nobody at the door. It continued to happen despite being reset to the chimes. 

I knew instantly that it was a sign from mum. She had loved Acker Bilk’s music so much we even had it played at her funeral.

I wanted to experience it myself. As I pressed the doorbell and heard the familiar melody, I said, ‘Hello, Mum’.

I felt so comforted knowing she was there for me. My brother moved out of my house several months later. He left the doorbell behind. This marked the end to the mother’s signals. It’s been more than a decade, and I still smile when I think back to it.

I don’t believe someone’s energy simply ends when they die. This was her way of telling me that she is content no matter where she has gone.

‘I don’t buy biscuits, but I still find crumbs’

Hazel Douglas turns 70. She is divorcée and resides in Norwich.

I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to my dad Harry before his death. He died in hospital – where he was awaiting heart surgery after suffering a stroke – and I didn’t make it in time.

Dad was 95 but that doesn’t make it any easier to lose someone, nor accept that you didn’t have a final moment with them.

I believe the many signs Dad sent me after his death in 2018, three year after my mum’s death, are meant to let me know that he is still with us in some way.

The first came three days after he had died. I would visit him several times a week, and I’d read the Daily Mail while he read the Daily Mirror. He loved puzzles and sports pages. It was a great day.

I received my Mail copy shortly after his death. In the middle were the puzzles and sports pages from Mirror. I froze – I couldn’t believe my eyes. I immediately ran to the newsagent to check if the papers were mixed up by accident. It was not my fault.

Not long after that, my brother and I were in Dad’s house, summoning the emotional strength to begin sorting out his belongings. I looked up to see a robin staring at me through the windowsill. It sat on the windowsill for several minutes, its gaze never moving. It was Dad encouraging me to keep going and doing what needed to be done.

But by far the most unusual sign I’ve received was when I put my dressing gown on one morning and reached into the pocket to find a handful of digestive biscuit crumbs in it. I’m not a biscuit eater – I don’t even keep them in the house – but I know somebody who loved them… Dad.

‘Their spirits returned in the form of birds’

Sally Treganowan, age 73, lives with her husband Mike, aged 70, in Tunbridge Wells.

It’s not just people who send messages after their death – I’ve been lucky enough to receive signs from two of our deceased dogs that their spirits are still with me.

In 2000, my husband and I adopted Chrissie and Hollie, a pair of eight-week-old mongrel pups who’d been found abandoned at a council dump in Sheffield. We don’t have children – our pets are our babies – and Chrissie and Hollie had the best life, living between our homes in Sussex and the Dordogne in France.

In 2014, Chrissie was put to sleep by our French vet after developing a liver condition, and as she slipped away, a little robin looked in the window of the vet’s surgery at me. I recognized it as her.

After she died, we drove to Northern Spain in our motorhome with Hollie, too bereft to go home where we would feel Chrissie’s absence so keenly. After a stroll on the beach, I was stopped by the sight of a tiny robin asleep on the steps to our motorhome. I was relieved to know that she was still there.

Hollie also passed away peacefully in France in 2016 following a heart attack. Once again, she came to us in bird form, just hours after her death, as a red kite, screeching and swooping over our swimming pool – she had always been the noisier, crazy one of the pair.

Since then, we’ve seen a robin and a red kite on several occasions: a kite once flew ahead of our car for several miles as we prepared to leave France when we sold our house there, and we’ve also found a robin sleeping in our motorhome.

It’s a sad thing, but it makes my heart happy. It hurts so much to miss Hollie, Chrissie, and Hollie. It’s wonderful to feel like I still have a connection with them.

We now have a new dog – another rescue called Sophie, who was abandoned at the side of a motorway – but we will never forget Chrissie and Hollie. I believe the signals they have sent are their way of saying they’ll never forget us either.

‘A butterfly let me know my son was OK’

Jane*, 55, lives in London with her husband Michael*, 55.

Parents who have lost a child know that the pain and feeling of missing a child is something that never goes away. But the signs that my son sent me have been so comforting and have only confirmed my belief in an afterlife.

Charles* was 19 when he died unexpectedly after suffering a reaction to a drug he’d taken. His entire life was ahead of him, and he was just a few steps away from starting university. We are devastated by his passing.

Two days after Charles’ death in 2019, I went for an afternoon walk in a park along with my best friend, who was also his godmother. We were both shell-shocked when the most beautiful red admiral butterflies landed on our knees as we sat on a bench.

Instead of it fluttering away after a second or two, it sat for several minutes before moving to my friend’s knee then up her chest, beside her heart. It returned to my knee and I was able to snap a photo because it was so calm.

I’ve always been a spiritual person and, already familiar with the symbolism of butterflies that represent rebirth and new life, I knew without doubt that vibrantly coloured butterfly was Charles’s way of letting me know he was OK.

A day later the same type of butterfly appeared in our garden, and not long after that, on the first Father’s Day since Charles’s death, Michael and I spotted it fluttering around us as we took a walk.

Close friends and family all share my belief that it’s a sign from Charles. We can keep him alive by talking about him and keeping photos of his around the house. 

Although no parent should live beyond their child’s lifetime, knowing that his spirit lives on in a way that is meaningful to him and that I can still be connected to him has brought me great peace.

 *Names have been changed