After losing a loved one, it’s helpful to look for signs that they’re still with you. There are countless symbols of mourning, and these are often a source of peace and comfort. One of the most common symbols of hope after a loss is the rainbow.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Do Rainbows Typically Symbolize?
- What Could It Mean to See Rainbows After a Loved One’s Death?
- What Are Some Other Weather or Natural Events That Are Believed to Mean Something After a Death?
While everyone comes to their own conclusions about the meaning of certain natural occurrences, many believe rainbows are a sign that their loved one is at peace. This symbolism comes from the story of Noah’s Ark in the Bible, and many have their own stories of rainbows as well.
What exactly does it mean when you see rainbows after a death? Are they really signs from deceased loved ones, and where did this symbolism come from? Additionally, are there similar signs that could be seen from beyond the grave? In this guide, we dive deeper into the meaning behind rainbows and death.
What Do Rainbows Typically Symbolize?
We’ve all heard the song “Over the Rainbow” by Judy Garland, and this song shines a light on the symbolism behind rainbows. First and foremost, rainbows are a sign of hope. Though you might currently be experiencing a thunderstorm, ‘Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue.” More importantly, “The dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.”
Rainbows have been linked to all different types of meaning, but beauty is really in the eye of the beholder. It’s up to the viewer of the rainbow to determine what’s the most meaningful to them at the moment. Here are some of the most common symbols found in rainbows.
Rainbows are often a symbol of hope and better days. Like the Judy Garland song, a rainbow is a reminder that the storm can’t last forever. Rainbows are caused by the sun shining into droplets of water, shattering white light into brilliant colors. This means that even the darkest of times brings light.
In Western culture, movies, and art, rainbows are commonly seen as a sign that the storm will soon pass. This meaning dates back to the Bible in Christianity. After the great flood, God sent a rainbow to Noah on his ark to let him know that he can go forth without fear.
Because rainbows come after a storm or rain, they’re a sign of change. These are a symbol for new beginnings and new starts. For anyone going through a large life event or a rough patch, any sign of change is a welcome one.
Rainbows are also similarly associated with encouragement. If you need a sign to keep going and to keep pushing forward, a rainbow is a welcome reminder that brighter days are on the horizon.
Rainbows, though generally positive, also have some uncertain undertones. Though you might spend ages seeking the beginning of a rainbow, you’ll never actually find it. Rainbows are a trick of the eye, and there is no actual start place. The more you chase one, the further away it seems to go.
This is especially prevalent in Irish culture. According to Irish legend, a rainbow marks where leprechauns buried a pot of gold. However, the closer you try to get to this pot of gold, the farther the rainbow appears. It’s elusive, not something attainable.
A deeper reading of the Judy Garland song from The Wizard of Oz reveals something similar. The song ends on an uncertain note, ‘Birds fly over the rainbow, why then, oh why, can’t I?’ Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, there is really no magical place where all of your dreams come true.
Outside of Western culture, rainbows take on a different meaning. In Buddhism, there’s something known as the ‘rainbow body.’ This is a level of realization, and it’s the final perspective one reaches before attaining complete knowledge (or nirvana).
The rainbow body is only achieved before death, and it’s said that the physical body liberates into a nonmaterial body of light. Like a rainbow, this spiritual being exists anywhere and whenever.
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Last but not least, many cultures see rainbows as a type of bridge. They connect the living and the dying. Because the rainbow bridge metaphor is so common after the loss of a pet, rainbows are one of the most popular signs from deceased pets.
In Norse mythology, for example, a burning, vibrant bridge connected the kingdom of gods and men. This is also true in Japanese mythology, where the Floating Bridge of Heaven is actually a rainbow. This is the bridge the creators of the world, according to Japanese legend, descended to create land.
No matter which culture you’re from, rainbows are bound to offer more than meets the eye. Everyone has their own story, and everyone is looking for more in the striking beauty of a rainbow. Whether they’re seen as a bridge between worlds, a sign of enlightenment, or something mysterious, there’s no denying their appeal.
What Could It Mean to See Rainbows After a Loved One’s Death?
If you see a rainbow after a loved one’s death, there are a lot of things it could mean. Again, the beauty (and meaning) is always in the eye of the beholder. You’re free to believe whatever you wish about rainbows, especially after the loss of a loved one. Most believe spotting a rainbow after a loss means:
- Heaven: For those who believe in Heaven, seeing a rainbow is a confirmation that their loved one is at peace in Heaven.
- Watching over: Another common belief is that your loved one is currently watching over you, and their spirit is near.
- New beginning: After a loss, it’s often difficult to move on. A rainbow is a reminder that new beginnings come each day, and you can always keep moving forward.
- Hope: Rainbows are also a sign of hope, often from a spiritual standpoint. Whether they’re seen as a sign of angels or a higher power, they’re a boost of encouragement.
- Spiritual awakening: In many cultures, rainbows are a sign of a spiritual awakening. Seeing a rainbow at a funeral or shortly after one is a sign that your loved one’s spirit is in its next destination.
- Peace: Most of all, rainbows are a sign of peace and togetherness. Even if you don’t believe in an afterlife, they’re a beautiful sign of nature and the connectedness of all.
If you see a rainbow after a death, it can mean any or none of the above. It’s up to you to draw your own conclusions and find the meaning that makes the most sense to your narrative. Most of all, see the rainbow as a reminder of hope and change. A common gravestone symbol, rainbows are often a sign of positivity and remembrance.
What Are Some Other Weather or Natural Events That Are Believed to Mean Something After a Death?
Across the globe, there are many unique symbols associated with death. Many of these are connected to our natural world, especially as people try to find meaning in their daily lives. In addition to rainbows, here are other natural events that many believe have meaning after a death.
Flowers on the grave
One of the most common natural events that are tied to death is flowers on the grave. According to superstition, if wildflowers appear on the grave, this is a sign that this person led a good life. Their soul is at peace.
On the other hand, a barren or dusty grave means they might have gone to hell. This practice led to the common practice of placing flowers on the grave today, and many cemeteries keep all graves in good condition.
Thunder at a funeral
If you’ve ever heard about thunder at a funeral, it’s said to be a good thing. According to Victorian superstitions around death, if there’s thunder at a funeral, it’s a sign that the soul of the departed was accepted into heaven.
However, in other parts of the world, thunder at a funeral is bad luck. It just goes to show that the same natural event can have many different meanings.
Rain after death
Depending on who you talk to, rain after death means a number of different things. First, it can be a sign of mourning and sadness, helping you find peace in nature after a loss. In the Victorian era, rain at a funeral was actually a good omen. It was a sign of cleansing, growth, and renewal.
Ultimately, just like all other natural events, it’s up to you to draw your own conclusions. Just as there are many animals associated with death, there are also different weather events that we’ve given great symbolism throughout history.
Symbolism Behind Rainbows and Loss
While there might not really exist anywhere ‘over the rainbow,’ we can still see this natural phenomenon for the beautiful symbol that it is. Over time, cultures and beliefs affect the way we see the natural world. Though we know rainbows are simply a trick of light passing through water, they’ve become so much more than that.
For those who recently experienced a loss, a rainbow is a sign of hope, new beginnings, and peace. No matter what comfort you find in the appearance of rainbows, know that you’re not alone.
- “Bifrost.” Norse Mythology Guide. 2019. Norse-Mythology.org.
- “Cemetery Folklore - The Lighter Side of the Grave.” University of Montana Missoula. N.d. Missoula.MT.us.
- “Creation of Japan: Myth.” Japan Foundation. February 2002. JPF.org.au.
- Hollard, Gail. “Christian Buddhist Explorations: The Rainbow Body.” Shambhala Publications. Shambhala.com.
- “The Rainbow.” Knowth. Knowth.com.