After a loved one dies, comfort can come in many ways. It might be a song on the radio, a waft of familiar perfume or an old photo album.
For some, however, reassurance arrives in a most unusual form: they believe they've received a "visitation" from the other side — with their friend or family member appearing to them in the form of an animal, reports Daily Mail.
Sir Paul McCartney recently revealed how he believes his wife Linda, who died of breast cancer in 1998, came back as a squirrel "to give me a sign". It's not clear how the 76-year-old former Beatle knew the creature was an embodiment of his wife's spirit — although he did admit to having been dabbling with a few hallucinogenics at the time.
Sceptics may scoff, but for a surprising number of people, Sir Paul's words struck a chord, for they too believe lost loved ones have returned in animal form. Here, some tell us why they're convinced that spirits walk among us — on two, four or even six legs.
MY GRANDMA APPEARED AS A HERON TO UNLOCK JOYFUL MEMORIES
Krissi Foskett, 38, and her husband Kevin, 56, own a cleaning company. They live with daughter Abigail, 16, and son Stephen, 15, in Rosyth.
When I was little, my parents split up, so I spent a lot of time with my grandmother, Barbara. After I moved to Scotland I didn't see so much of her, but we kept in touch on the phone. She was in her late 80s and was a very no-nonsense, independent person.
Two years ago, she fell ill, and I was boarding a flight to visit her when I got the call to say she'd died. I was so devastated I collapsed.
A week later, I was trying to write the eulogy for Gran's funeral while on holiday on the west coast of Scotland. But I really struggled — it was as if my memories were blocked.
Then, one day, I was sitting overlooking the water and a beautiful heron landed a few metres away. At that exact moment, a flood of memories came rushing back. I really sensed the heron was Gran. Suddenly, I couldn't stop writing about her. Within 35 minutes, I'd written the entire eulogy.
The funny thing is, if Gran heard me saying this she'd say: "Stop being silly, Krissi." But while I'm not religious, I do believe the universe is too big for it all just to be about us.
Since that day, when I'm feeling low or stressed, herons do seem to appear. I feel it's my gran saying: "Come on, you can handle this."
MY FIRST HUSBAND TURNS UP AS A ROBIN TO HELP ME
Gill O'Neill, 45, owns a nursery. She lives with her second husband Lawrence, 50, who works in office procurement, in Cambridge and she has five children aged between 26 and ten.
Phil, my husband of 19 years, died in November 2015, a year after being diagnosed with cancer. He was only 53, and the grief and shock were unbearable for both of us.
But he's found a way to comfort me after his death — by coming back as a robin. There is a saying: "A robin appears when a loved one is near," and I truly believe that has been the case with Phil.
Whenever I need his advice, or am thinking about him, a robin appears. I know he'd say, "What a load of rubbish", but it's happened too often to be simply a coincidence.
I think Phil gave me permission to fall in love again. The night of my first date with my second husband, Lawrence, I was sitting in my car "chatting" to Phil about it, and suddenly a robin appeared on my car.
He's helped me make other important choices, too. Phil and I set up the nursery I own together, and after his death I got really stressed wondering whether I would have to sell it. On the day I had to make the decision, I left to take the rubbish out and two robins were sitting on the bin.
I felt Phil had brought my dear old dad, who died in 2013, with him, and they were saying: "Don't sell." So I didn't.
When I told the children, my eldest daughter thought I was mad. But my twins were only seven at the time, and often they'll say: "I really miss Daddy" and then they'll see a robin nearby. It gives them comfort that he's thinking of us.
MUM RETURNED AS A STAG TO STOP US SELLING OUR HOUSE
Jenny Smedley, 68, is an author from Norfolk. She is married to Tony, 70, a retired radio presenter, and they have a grown-up son and three grandchildren.
I know sceptics will say I'm crazy to believe my mother returned to me after death, but I feel sorry for them. If you're not open to messages from people who have passed away, you're missing out on such magic.
The visitation came after we moved to our lovely bungalow in Norfolk in 2014. It's the kind of place we've always dreamed of owning, with views of the countryside and roses around the door.
It's exactly the sort of house my mother Win would have loved — although sadly she died more than 20 years ago.
Then, in 2016, we were told two 100-acre electric substations were going to be built directly behind our house. We were terribly upset. It was going to make such an impact on our beautiful home.
One day last summer, I woke very early and wandered around our property with the dog. I had been thinking so much about Mum and how I would have loved to have shared this home with her — and how now we might have to sell up.
I walked around a corner, and standing at the bottom of the garden was a huge stag. I'd never seen one nearby before. The sunlight was directly behind him, picking out every prong of his antlers, and he looked perfect. We stared at each other and there was a 'moment' that passed between us that I can't describe. It was utterly magical. Then he sprang into the air without a sound and was gone.
I am utterly convinced that stag was Mum, telling me to stay put in our dream home.
She was giving us a vital message about the future — because to our huge relief and surprise, a few months later we learned that the substation was going to be built a few miles away instead of right next to us. Our home was safe. I know if I could talk to Mum now she'd say: "Thank God you understood what I was trying to tell you."
DAD PLAYED A PRACTICAL JOKE ON ME - AS A MOTH!
Jo Lawson, 35, lives with her partner Frank, 42. They are both civil servants and live near Wigan with their daughters aged five and 11.
My dad Robert was a larger-than-life character — a real tease who loved making me squeal by throwing spiders at me. I loved him dearly and was devastated when he died in May aged 61, after being diagnosed with a brain tumour.
A few weeks later, I was standing in the bathroom when a huge black moth, half the size of my hand, started fluttering around my head. I hate creepy-crawlies and screamed the place down — but when I asked Frank to get rid of it, he couldn't find a trace of it.
Two weeks later, I was folding laundry when it happened again: a massive black moth fluttering around my head.
I'd never even seen a moth like that before, so I tried googling it to see what it might be. That's when I learned that, in Mexico, a large black moth is believed to be a dead soul visiting you. It was disconcerting at first — but now I find it reassuring to know Dad tried to visit me. It truly felt like his way of saying: "You've got to keep on living."
DAD ATTENDED HIS OWN FUNERAL - IN THE FORM OF AN OWL
Tina Jenkins, 60, is a TV producer. She is single and lives in Chertsey, Herts.
My father loved his garden. He spent his whole time digging vegetables, and even though he was in his mid-80s when he died, he was still pretty fit.
So when he died of bladder cancer in 2012, we scattered his ashes in his beloved garden.
Moments later, a massive barn owl appeared on the fence. It was almost luminous, with creamy feathers and a moon-like face. It reminded me of Dad, as he'd always had a sort of owlish look.
The whole family stared at the owl, and it stared straight back for about six minutes, never moving.
Funnily enough, Dad had no sense of spirituality; he was very practical. But I'm convinced he came back to us that day — I think there's more to the world than just the "ordinary".