Faculty Showcase will explore widowers’ sense-of presence experiences

Dr. Jason Troyer, Maryville College’s assistant professor of psychology, will present “‘Is That You, Honey?’ Sense-Of-Presence Experiences of Older Widowers,” on March 8, at 10 a.m., in the Lawson Auditorium of Fayerweather Hall.

Troyer’s presentation, which is this spring’s Faculty Showcase, is free and open to the public. In it, the professor will share research he conducted for his doctoral dissertation on the sense-of-presence experiences of older widowers during the grieving process.

“It’s not unusual for widowers to have these experiences - times when they believe they feel a deceased wife’s touch, hear her voice, see her in the house, or just feel her presence in the immediate vicinity,” Troyer said. “These episodes can happen right after a wife dies or years afterward. It can be considered part of the grieving process.”

Even though research suggests as many as 40 to 70 percent of older widowed adults will have some type of unusual or unexplainable experience, little research has been completed on sense-of-presence experiences, according to the professor, perhaps because men are reluctant to talk about them.

“Most individuals are very hesitant to share these experiences for fear of being labeled as ‘unstable’ or ‘demented,’” Troyer said. “The vast majority of individuals who have these experiences say they are very important and meaningful, but they feel like they can’t share them with anyone. I thought that combination of having a meaningful event, yet not being comfortable sharing it, was worthy of further investigation.”

Troyer also said he believed the research was important because older widowers have committed suicide at 12 times the rate of older widows (for comparison, eight times more often than teenagers).

Troyer has been a member of the Maryville College faculty since 2004. He holds a doctorate in counseling psychology from the University of Kansas and master’s and bachelor’s degrees in counseling and psychology from Truman State. At Maryville, he teaches courses in introductory psychology, counseling, psychology of adolescence, abnormal psychology, adult development and aging and death and dying.

In the spring of 2007, Troyer was awarded the Spirit of the Covenant award at Maryville College.

The Faculty Showcase is sponsored by the Society of 1819, an honorary society for individuals who have included Maryville College in their estate plans.

For information concerning the Maryville College Faculty Showcase or the Society of 1819, contact Diana Canacaris at diana.canacaris@maryvillecollege.edu or at 865-981-8198.

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