Dreaming of Dead Relatives: Dreaming of a loved one who’s died can stir up a range of emotions, from feeling comforted to reliving the grief all over again. And of course, there’s the question of whether loved ones can visit us in our dreams after they’ve died. Here, experts weigh in on what these dreams could mean, what to do about them, and how to know if you were visited.
Usually, dreams about dead family members can feel scary and downright unsettling. But it’s quite normal to experience such dreams, especially if you lost your loved one recently.
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Dreaming of Dead Relatives
If you dream about a deceased loved one visiting you in a dream, its meaning depends on your current state of mind. Your dreams are comprised of your inner thoughts and emotions, so you may need to find a way to release them.
This type of dream is also known as a visitation dream. They are usually vivid and feel so real that you may consider the dream an authentic experience when you wake up. This usually results in a shift in your grieving process.
The first thing you should do when Dreaming of Dead Relatives is to look at how they communicate with you. A peaceful approach could mean that they are trying to bring you a sense of comfort or peace after their passing. Looking sad could mean that they are disappointed in something you’re doing.
Why Do I Dreaming of Dead Relatives?
There are many reasons dead relatives might knock at your subconscious doorstep while sleeping. For instance, maybe you feel alone in your life or stuck at one point.
The visitation is a sign you need guidance or reassurance that all is well. However, Dreaming of Dead Relatives serves as a warning of unexpected changes.
Below are some reasons your family members might visit while in your REM stage of sleep.
1. You Are Still Actively Grieving
If the loss happened suddenly, it’s normal for your relative to be fresh in your thoughts. Dreaming of Dead Relatives could symbolize your grief process, especially if you struggle with complicated grief. When you lose those who are the most important to you, grieving can be a long process. Your dreams can serve as one of the ways you cope with the loss of a spouse, or grieve the loss of a child.
2. You Are Projecting Emotions
Disturbing Dreaming of Dead Relatives may show themes of projection. If your relative expresses anger or other negative feelings toward you, that may symbolize your feelings about yourself. This projection could be situational and based on a specific event, but it can also be more general.
3. You Are Having a Visitation Dream
Visitation dreams are incredibly realistic. People feel that their dead relatives have physically touched or communicated with them. During this visitation, the loved one often provides a message of hope or guidance.2 It is speculated that these dreams can offer permission to grieve and heal from your loss.
4. You Are Expressing a Fear of Death
Thanatophobia (also sometimes known as death anxiety) refers to extreme panic about death. But even if you don’t have elevated anxiety levels, it’s very normal to worry about your own mortality. This fear can become more pronounced after losing a loved one or when encountering a concerning medical issue.
5. You May Have Delayed Grief
Delayed grief can happen when someone suppresses their feelings about the loss to try to move on. The loss may be so painful- or you may have other pressing concerns- that you simply don’t have the space to be with your emotions. For example, people may delay coping with the death of a parent, as they’re making funeral arrangements and managing the business their parent left behind. However, the grief still remains, which might explain why you Dreaming of Dead Relatives.
6. You Desire Connection
You may Dreaming of Dead Relatives if you’re struggling with loneliness. If you and this relative were close, your dream may provide temporary companionship and comfort. Dreams about dead relatives might also symbolize that you lack a particular type of connection in your current life.
7. You’re Spiritually Connected
Research shows there appears to be a relationship between Dreaming of Dead Relatives and spiritual connection. People who report having such dreams also tend to report lower levels of death anxiety. Furthermore, such dreams tend to strengthen religious beliefs.3
8. You Were Recently Thinking About the Person
Many people report that they experience dreams about dead relatives after they think about them. This aligns with the idea that our dreams often reflect inner thoughts, feelings, and perspectives from daily life. If you’re thinking about your relative before you fall asleep, your brain may integrate those thoughts into your dreams.
9. You Need Guidance
People often experience dreams about dead relatives as they navigate significant life transitions. When faced with difficult decisions, we often struggle with themes of ambiguity. A dead relative may appear in your dream and tell you what you should do- or they might encourage you to consider an alternative you hadn’t realized.
10. You’re Trying to Fulfill a Wish
Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, suggested that dreams represent unconscious desires. These desires may be forbidden or impossible when you’re awake. Dreams serve as a way to let your mind experience what you otherwise can’t. This theory believes that if you can’t be with a deceased loved one anymore, your dreams are the way you can still enjoy their company.
What to do about it.
In the case of a visitation dream, there’s nothing to necessarily do besides take comfort in the fact that you feel your loved one reached out to your through the dreamworld. Loewenberg says you could also write it down in a dream journal and keep it in a safe place to treasure it going forward.
In other cases, she says, “it’s definitely a call from your subconscious to try to come to terms with what’s going on.” Whether it’s a feeling of unfinished business or not being able to accept they’ve passed, it’s important to find a way to accept whatever it is.
How to Talk to Others About Your Dreams
If you feel comfortable, it can be healing to share your dreams with others. You may find that it helps you feel more connected to loved ones, especially if they had a close relationship with that particular relative. You can also consider journaling with grief journaling prompts to better remember and track your dreams over time.
Our family is probably the most important thing to us, which is why a dream about a dead family member is loaded with meanings.
The most obvious ones are that we lost someone and missed them or their guidance or our inclination to change the unchangeable or inevitable.
This dream can symbolize the end of a relationship, the arrival of great responsibility, as well as our fear of embarking on (big) projects. It can also serve as a warning to distance yourself from someone, a reminder to leave something in the past, or a message that some changes are good.
We hope this is enough interpretation for one dream, but as always, additional explanations are available for those who ask questions in the comments.