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Children Who Remember Past Lives

GhostsThis recent Washington Post report confirms for me the possibility of past lives. I am including the link here but a subscription may be required.

Children who remember past lives. Here are the highlights:

What happens when your toddler is haunted by memories that aren’t hers?

In the beginning, it seemed like Nina was just an imaginary friend. Two-year-old Aija had invented plenty of fictional characters before, but her parents — Ross, a musician, and Marie, a psychologist — noticed right away that Nina was different. (The family spoke to The Washington Post on the condition that only their middle names be used because of the sensitivity of the subject and because Aija is a young child.) From the time Aija learned how to talk, she talked about Nina, and her descriptions were remarkably consistent. Aija told her parents that Nina played piano, and she loved dancing, and she favored the color pink (Aija emphatically did not). When Aija spoke as Nina, in the first person, Aija’s demeanor changed: Her voice was sweeter and higher-pitched, her affect more gentle and polite than what Marie and Ross typically expected from their rambunctious toddler.

Aija sometimes told them that Nina was afraid of bad guys coming to get her, or of not having enough food to eat; Aija once hid a bowl of cereal and told her mother it was for Nina. One day, when Marie was using the food processor in the kitchen, Aija reacted with horror to the sound: “Get the tank out of here!” she shrieked. Marie couldn’t fathom how her daughter knew the word “tank.”

It all seemed more curious than concerning — until one afternoon in the early spring of 2021, when Marie came to believe that there was something more to Nina. That day, Marie recalls, she and Aija were playing together in their living room, enacting little scenes with toy figurines. Then Aija suddenly turned to her mother and said, “Nina has numbers on her arm, and they make her sad.” Marie’s mind raced. “What did you say?” she asked her daughter, willing her voice to remain calm. “Nina has numbers on her arm, and they make her sad,” Aija said again, pointing to the inside of her forearm. Then she added: “Nina misses her family. Nina was taken away from her family.”

It wasn’t just the words that sent a jolt of adrenaline through Marie’s body, or the way her child said them — clear and certain, with the letter R pronounced correctly, which Aija usually couldn’t manage — but there was also something about Aija’s expression in that moment. Nearly three years later, Marie tries to explain it: “There was just —” she pauses. “There was such deep pain there.” It seemed beyond what a toddler should know: “The look on her face, it was too old,” Marie says. “Does that make sense?”

It does, and it doesn’t, even to her, even now. What she knows: that her toddler had never heard anything about the Holocaust, and could not possibly recognize the significance of numbers on a forearm. Marie knows how this story might sound, and she is exceedingly careful about sharing it. 

Marie also knows that she is not alone — that since the 1960s, more than 2,200 children from across the world have described apparent recollections from a previous life, all documented in a database maintained by the Division of Perceptual Studies within the Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. Sometimes a child presents enough identifying information for relatives or researchers to pinpoint a deceased person, but that level of specificity is elusive; about a third of the cases in the database do not include such a match.

The phenomenon, with its aura of the paranormal, has long been fodder for books, academic studies, newspaper stories and dramatized documentaries. All of these explorations tend to orbit the same existential questions: Is reincarnation real? What happens after we die? How can this be explained? But there is, of course, no scientific means to conclusively prove — or disprove — a mechanism that might explain how a person could recall living a past life.

Soon after Aija told her mother about the numbers on Nina’s forearm, Aija also began to wake at night in a state of agitation. Crying and pacing in her room, she would say she was afraid of eyes staring at her in the dark, or “bad guys” who would take her away, or bluish clouds that were “coming to kill us all.”

By that point, Marie says, she had done more reading about children who seem to recall past lives, and felt convinced that Aija was experiencing the same phenomenon. “I always tried to remain open-minded,” Marie says. Ross was less certain, but he agreed that whatever was happening seemed extraordinary.

Children Who Remember Past Lives


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