“Nothing can be born and nothing can die.”
–Thich Nhat Hahn
An area our dreams can be helpful is in the area of grief and loss. There are many reasons the departed might show up in our dreams, a reassurance, a message, a deep healing.
Our dreams can offer us a renewed relationship with those who have crossed over. They may provide comfort that, as my now departed Natural Dreamwork mentor Mary Jo Heyen suggested, the loving connection endures. Yet on the other hand, as many of us do, we may have conflicted relationships with the departed and the dreams may offer ways to bring this to the surface to shift, transform, heal both the relationship with the departed and with ourselves. As Mary Jo states “the deceased may come into our dreams for similar reasons as the archetypes do…. To teach us something…to encourage us.” They can offer us messages on how to live into life.
I recently had a client who had suffered multiple losses during Covid, a brother, her father, and her long-time pet. After our first session, she had this dream:
I’m wandering in a crowd with a dear friend when I suddenly see my Dad. I say”hey Dad, what are you doing here?” He says “I just came to tell you I’m doing fine.”
I have her step into this moment, feeling into it, bringing it to life, feeling his presence, her joy, their brief but profound interaction. She became tearful, touched by this encounter saying how well and vibrant he looked. Her previous visual memory was of her helplessness seeing him fall, an accident that lead to his subsequent death, but she was transformed by this enlivened image, this enlivened visitation.
As for dream teachings, I offer an example from my own life. My own mother died almost ten years ago and we had a cordial yet rather formal and superficial relationship. It took years for her to show up in a dream. But when she finally did, it was like this:
…she steps gracefully down a staircase. She looks youthful, beautiful, vibrant, in a flowing white gown. She hands me a rambunctious puppy and then gracefully floats back up the staircase, not speaking a word.
I step into the dream, feeling a deep connection, a deep love, in awe of my mom’s vibrancy. I understood this dream from her, as a gift of permission, of encouragement to be playful, rambunctious. My mother had trouble in life letting go and being playful. Hence, dreams can offer us messages on how to live into life.
In yet other dreams, they can help us heal complicated relationships, can offer resolution, offer new ways of perceiving. One of my ongoing clients offered this dream:
I’m sitting in the driver’s seat of the car with my Papa (grandfather). We’re sitting in the VA parking lot. I’m pulling out of a parking space and Papa starts to have a heart attack. I start to panic. He looks at me and tells me “nothing dies in this state.” I look at him baffled and angry and yell back “That’s not true. My mother died!”
I have my client step back into the dream. His Papa has his hand on his heart, he puts his hand on his heart, but in the dream he shows no signs of physical distress. His mind had assumed his Papa is having a heart attack, but he offers this message, “No one dies in this state.” As a young adult, his mother died unexpectedly in a car accident and his Papa was his only family support left. He has had numerous dreams prior to this one coming to terms with the loss of his mom. He woke up from this dream with the words of Pink’s song “I am here… I am here.” This dream offered multiple healing opportunities, with his Papa, his prematurely departed mom, and his existential relationship with death.
All dreams offer profound gifts of course but of particular potency are the dreams of the departed.
Image: Paradiso, Canto 34 – Gustave Dore 1868
Jan Dean Ph.D. offers dream sessions from a Natural Dreamwork approach. You can reach her at 501-240-8869 or email her at email@example.com