Twice in the year after my stepdad Chris died, I woke up to see I had a missed call from his cell phone — both times at 3:33 a.m. After the first call, my phone also showed I had a voicemail from him. But when I listened to the message, it was just some muffled background noise, as if someone were on the other end but not saying anything.
Since then, 333 has become a significant number for our family. We constantly catch the clock at that time and see it on receipts, boarding passes, phone numbers, buildings and license plates. I later learned that repeated number sequences like this are known as “angel numbers” — which makes the timing of those phone calls all the more special to me.
I know not everyone believes in this kind of thing. Some people would say Chris’ number probably got reassigned after his phone service was shut off, and it was purely coincidence that I got two calls at the same time. Some would chalk it up to a random tech glitch. But others, like myself, find meaning in these occurrences. We view these signs as little reminders that we’re still connected to people we love after they die, even if we can’t explain how.
“When a loved one dies, the love does not die with them. Signs can be a healthy way of keeping that love alive.”
Grief therapist Becky Stuempfig, who is based in Encinitas, California, told HuffPost that seeing or looking for signs from the deceased can be a normal and healthy part of the grieving process.
“Signs can be a way for the bereaved individual to keep the deceased person as a part of their present day life rather than part of their past,” she said. “When a loved one dies, the love does not die with them. Signs can be a healthy way of keeping that love alive for the bereaved.”
“People often assign spiritual meaning to signs, which can help them feel that their loved one is still with them despite not being in the physical world,” Stuempfig continued.
We asked our Facebook audience if they had ever received a “sign” from a loved one who passed away. Below, they share their stories.
Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
“When my Papaw died, I took a rose from his big funeral flower arrangement. When I got home, the petals were fairly dried. I pulled them off, put them in a Ziploc, and then put that Ziploc in a photo album that I closed and kept under my bed.
“The morning after his funeral, when I woke up, the petals were strewn across the ground in a neat pattern.” — Chelsey V., Tennessee
A Special Seashell
“In 2014, I had a baby boy stillborn at 20 weeks, two days with anencephaly. We named him Gabriel. At the time, I had a 3-year-old daughter and another son who had just turned 1.
“We aren’t religious and I wasn’t sure what to tell my daughter when she asked about the baby when I came home from the hospital. I told her that he was up in the clouds. She seemed content with this response and continued on.
“A few weeks later while we were waiting on the return of his cremated remains, we were discussing what we were going to do and decided on spreading them in the ocean. It was late, the kids were long asleep, and they were too little to understand even if they could hear us. The next morning my daughter said something about Gabriel and I said, ‘No, honey, remember — he’s up in the clouds.’ She looked at me and casually said, ‘No, Mommy. He’s in the ocean!’
“It didn’t end there. A few months after, I went for a walk alone on the beach where we laid him to rest. It’s very rocky but occasionally you will find a shell or sea glass. I found a shell and brought it home to my daughter for her collection. She happily added it and continued on. A few weeks after that she said, ‘Mommy I lost my shell.’ I said, ‘Which one?’ She had a collection and I had forgotten about this particular one, as it was a common thing to give her shells.
“She said, ‘Oh, you know! The one Gabriel left at his beach for you to bring home to me!’ Chills. We found it under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning after all the presents were unwrapped, right after I had announced that we were expecting our ‘rainbow baby’ in July 2015.
“Sadly, she doesn’t remember any of this and is almost 12. I truly believe some children can see more than we can and that she had been getting signs from her baby brother from the other side.” — Joella B., Canada
A ‘New’ Email
“My boyfriend died in August 2019, however it wasn’t confirmed that he’d died for almost two weeks. Five or six nights after his death, but prior to my knowing of his death, he appeared in a dream hugging me, holding my head to his chest while I cried. I couldn’t hear what he was saying in the dream, and didn’t understand why I was crying.
“Shortly after confirmation of his death, my cell phone began giving me false notifications of a ‘new email’ from him. However, the notifications were of the last email he’d sent to me three days before his death. The subject line was ‘just a brief note’ and the message was ‘I love you.’
“I received over 50 of these notifications over a 16-day period. I checked with my cell carrier to see if there was an explanation for this glitch, but there was no explanation they could come up with. Oddly, I had other emails sitting in my inbox that I wasn’t getting multiple (false) new email notifications over; just the one email from him.
“Then the evening before his first birthday after his death, I stopped to pick up a personal pizza from a restaurant we’d gone to on his last birthday and ordered the same pizza I’d had at that time for carryout. They brought two pizzas claiming they’d felt one was ‘overbaked,’ and gave me both. We weren’t super-frequent customers so they had no way of knowing us or our typical order. The second pizza did not appear to be overbaked at all.” — Karen G., Wisconsin
A White Bird
“My mother-in-law had glioblastoma and was on hospice in our home for one month. It was an extremely emotional and taxing time, seeing her as the disease process continued on and we kept going about our daily lives. It was disheartening, as she had more and more trouble communicating with us, seeing us and simply just being present. But we knew it was the right thing to have her with us at home.
“My mom-in-law passed away on a Friday. On Saturday, my husband and I left early in the morning to meet with his family as arrangements were made and were away from home most of the day.
“On Sunday morning, we heard something hit our sliding glass window. We looked outside, and saw the most perfect white bird — we are not sure if it was a dove or not — sitting there peacefully. We were speechless.
“We took this as a sign that my mom-in-law was at peace, and she absolutely wanted us to know that. She always did tell us exactly how she felt, and we were so glad she did. She must have known how sad we were that we lost the opportunity to communicate with her as she was on hospice. She always did everything she could to put her family first, and even after she passed away, we felt that. We are very grateful for this story; it truly does bring us peace and comfort.” — Jessica S., Pennsylvania
A Safe Haven
“My dad died on Halloween morning in 2007. The following Friday, I had come from my home three hours away to stay with my mom. My brother, who lived half an hour away, came over as well. We both went to our high school’s football game that night, and I planned to stay the night at Mom’s.
“I came home from the game early. After the game ended, my brother called me to tell me that as he was walking home, he came across a barefoot toddler in pajamas, wandering a half block from Mom’s house on a cold fall evening.
“We told him to bring her to the house where we called the police. She couldn’t tell us her name or where she lived. They found her home, and got her safely back. The little girl had gotten out of bed and out the door without her parents noticing.
“Had we not lost Dad and been at Mom’s house to give her comfort, the little girl would not have been found by my brother. We are convinced Dad was alerting us to her and guiding us to get her safely home.” — Denise R., Minnesota
Some Mysterious Texts
“In January 2015, my Dad went to the emergency room with a blocked intestine. He was 80 years old. He told my mom not to stay with him, as they were not concerned and hoped to clear the issue with IV fluids. During the night, he suffered pulmonary aspiration. Due to the failure of the emergency room nurses to check on him for many hours, he passed.
“Needless to say, it was an extremely difficult time in our lives. My mom was devastated as they were true soulmates and had been married for 55 years.
“My brothers were able to fly in to see him before his body was cremated. I arrived the following day. As with most unanticipated deaths, the next few days were chaotic and we sleepwalked through the funeral.
“That following Sunday evening, after I returned home, I was watching TV and thought I would check in with my mom via text. After the first text, I sent a second and got a weird response; sent a third and got another weird response. The responses were so strange that I actually thought something was wrong with my mom, like maybe she had a stroke or something.
“So I called her cell a couple of times and she didn’t pick up. I began to panic and then called her landline. She picked up and I asked her what she was texting. She informed me that she was in the bedroom and had been in the shower. I asked her who was texting and she said her cell was in the living room and went to retrieve it. She was shocked at what it read.
“We think the ‘J & M’ are their first name initials: Jack and Marsha. We think Oklahoma was ‘OK’ but spell check changed it. And we think Joe Montana was ‘J & M’ again. My dad did not text so he was clueless.
“Also, he and I had discussed at length that the use of electricity might be a way to contact loved ones after death, but I thought he would use lights. We believe he contacted me because of our prior conversations about what happens after we die, if there’s a God and because we were exceptionally close.” — Kimberly C., Hawaii