It can feel downright unsettling and supernatural to have a deceased loved one visit you in your dreams. Dreaming of a deceased loved one can make it seem as if you’ve had a visit from the other side. This experience can be exhilarating, confusing, and sometimes a bit scary. The entire notion of deceased loved ones visiting in dreams has yet to take hold in the scientific or medical community.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Are ‘Visitation Dreams’ or ‘Big Dreams’?
- Why Do We Have ‘Visitation Dreams’ About Deceased Loved Ones?
- Tips for Coping With Visitation Dreams
When someone you love dies, you may experience different stages and types of grief that may lead you to have these types of dreams. Visitation dreams can sometimes provide comfort and healing to the bereaved. They’re also a window to the possibility of life after death and spirit communication.
What Are ‘Visitation Dreams’ or ‘Big Dreams’?
Visitation dreams are known to help you cope with your grief, loss, and sorrow. They are dreams of a deceased loved one that is so vivid that you confuse them for a visit from their ghost or spirit. Science has yet to quantify these dreams and attributes them to issues related to brain chemistry and derailed sleep cycles.
Because science has no explanation, and religious and spiritual texts only refer to them in unverifiable parables, the medical community has not taken these types of dreams seriously. Medicine generally discounts these types of ideas, and the industry leaves it up to the parapsychologists and ghost hunters to give them a paranormal meaning.
On the other hand, psychologists and grief counselors do see these dreams in which your deceased loved ones communicate with you as validation of a person’s grief, but not necessarily as messages from the other side.
The famed psychologist Carl Jung coined the term “Big Dreams” to describe visitation dreams. He believed in his years of research that when a person dreams of their deceased loved ones, it’s a reflection of a person’s insight into different spiritual levels. He refers to common types of dreams as “little dreams” and those with more profound significance and insight as “big dreams.”
Several psychologists who’ve worked with patients having such dreams agree that there are specific characteristics attributed to dreaming about your deceased loved ones. The notes regarding the commonalities found are not part of a formal study, rather an observation of several encounters as reported by patients. Here are some of the common things you may experience or see in these dreams:
Here are some characteristics of visitation dreams:
- They feel real
- They seem authentic
- Your deceased loved one(s) visit
- They have a purpose
- They convey clear messages
- They are reassuring and calming
- They can warn of danger
- They comfort
- They leave you feeling peaceful
- You feel as if your loved one was there
Why Do We Have ‘Visitation Dreams’ About Deceased Loved Ones?
Some people view visitation dreams as signs from deceased loved ones. They believe that your loved ones use the relaxed state of consciousness induced by sleep as a gateway into your subconscious mind, making it easier to communicate with you when you're sleeping.
The psychology community sees these dreams as more of a coping mechanism that the mind manufactures to help deal with the pain and sorrow associated with grief.
None of us know precisely why we have visitation dreams about our deceased loved ones. Some would like to believe that it’s because there are angels who protect us from harm who come to forewarn us. Others believe that our deceased loved ones are still living among us only in a different realm or dimension. Whatever the reason for these dreams, know that you don’t generally have to be afraid of them.
Tips for Coping With Visitation Dreams
Sometimes a bereaved person may feel distressed when they have these types of dreams. The following tips will help you cope with visitation dreams so that you can learn to not only deal with them, but better control them so that you can:
- Regulate your emotions
- Maintain a continuing bond
- Provide hope and encouragement
1. Don’t be afraid
There’s no need to be afraid of dreaming of your deceased loved ones. Sometimes, however, the dreams vividly display the manner of death, such as in cases of accident, murder, or suicide.
These types of dreams can be alarming. If this is happening to you where you’re afraid of seeing such details repeatedly in your dreams, discuss this with a grief counselor who can help you sort through these visualizations.
Grief after a traumatic loss tends to manifest in such ways that you repeatedly relive the details of the death in your mind. You may be experiencing this type of grief when you dream of your loved ones dying in this way.
Traumatic loss often occurs without warning, and may involve violence. It’s also common for traumatic loss to include bodily harm, and may be seen as preventable, unfair, and unjust.
2. Treat it as a gift
Visitation dreams don’t happen to everyone. Sometimes a person may be yearning to see their deceased loved one, but they can never get them to visit them in their dreams.
Others who might not want to get a visit from the other side repeatedly dream of their deceased loved ones. Although it may be uncomfortable to get these types of dreams, consider them a gift that can stop at any time.
3. Seek counseling
When visitation dreams become disturbing, or you simply can’t understand why you’re dreaming about a deceased loved one, find a counselor who specializes in grief counseling or a psychologist trained in dream interpretation.
They can perhaps walk you through some of the reasons why this is happening to you and bring clarity to your situation.
4. Try continuing bonds therapy
Continuing bonds therapy is a form of grief therapy that allows you to maintain the bond with your deceased loved one even after their death. This type of treatment helps when you are inconsolable over the loss of your loved one, particularly your child or spouse.
Continuing bonds therapy was first introduced in 1996, in a book called Continuing Bonds: Another View of Grief. It went against traditional grief and bereavement models of treatment that required a bereaved person to detach from and let go of their deceased loved one.
Instead of detaching from your loved ones when they die, the authors suggest that a bereaved person continues the bond with their loved one in different ways throughout their lifetime. This book and other books on grief may help you process your bereavement experiences in a way that makes more sense to you.
5. Practice guided meditation
Guided meditation helps you to plan out your dreams ahead of time so that you are not surprised by them. When you learn to control what you dream about, you’ll have less dream anxiety and are better able to face these types of dream visitations.
Guided meditation starts with setting time aside to sit quietly and contemplate on your deceased loved one. As you focus on your breath, allow your thoughts to go to memories of your loved one. You can practice recalling what they looked like, what they felt like, how they smelled, etc. Once you’re in a relaxed state of mind, guide your subconscious into your dream state with thoughts of your loved one in mind.
6. Ask your loved one to visit you
Sometimes you’ll want your deceased loved ones to visit you. It may be that you need to get advice from your grandfather, or you miss your mom and want to talk to her about your upcoming wedding plans.
You can make it a daily habit to speak to your loved ones and ask them to visit you in your dreams.
7. Take notes
When you’re prepared to have these types of dreams, you’re better able to remember the details of things you want to talk about to your loved ones.
Leave a notepad by your bedside so that you can write down what you want to address with them in your dreams. Note-taking can also help you remember the details of your conversations with departed loved ones upon waking. Most of the time, the messages received are hard to forget.
8. Ask for peace and protection
If you’re facing a particularly tough situation, ask your deceased loved ones for peace and protection.
Whether you believe in angels or life after death, it may feel comforting to know that you have angels watching over you protecting you from harm.
9. Explore the meaning of dreams
Educate yourself about what’s happening to you by reading books on grief and dream interpretation.
The more you learn about why these things occur, the less anxious or fearful you’ll be to have these types of dreams.
10. Seek religious or spiritual counseling
Religious or spiritual explanations are not for everyone. Depending on what your personal beliefs are, you may want to consider talking to a religious or spiritual leader about the dreams you’re having.
They can help you better understand them in this type of context as opposed to what medicine, science, or parapsychologists have to say about them.
11. Allow these dreams to come
Relaxing into your dream state and allowing visitation dreams to come through without worrying too much about what they mean may give you much-needed rest rather than stressing over their more profound meaning.
You can change your perspective on how you view dreams so that you’re able to get a restful night’s sleep.
When Your Loved Ones Visit in Dreams
Visitation dreams are sometimes a welcome respite from longing or yearning for your loved one who has died. Whether you believe these dreams are real, from the divine, or something straight out of science-fiction - a visit from the afterlife can be healing to your soul.
- Barlé, N., Wortman, C. B., & Latack, J. A. (2017). Traumatic bereavement: Basic research and clinical implications. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 27(2), 127–139. doi.org/10.1037/int0000013.
- Klass, D., Silverman, P. R., & Nickman, S. L. (Eds.). (1996). Continuing bonds: New understandings of grief. Taylor & Francis.