Dream Interpretation | Dead Parents and Relatives | Symbolic, or Spiritual Contact?
A dream about a deceased loved one is likely to be symbolic, same as with dreams about death. Dreaming about deceased loved ones help you process grief and deal with loss. It’s not actual spiritual contact or “real” in the strictest sense. It’s symbolic.
However, in my experience and that of other dream interpreters like Edgar Cayce, spiritual contact via dreams happens. Visitation dreams just are not nearly as common as symbolic ones, so I always tell people to be careful about drawing hasty conclusions.
The belief in spiritual contact via dreams is widespread. However, it’s wise to rule out other possibilities before drawing the conclusion that a dream about a deceased loved one is a visitation from their spirit. Here’s a dream that illustrates what I mean: help interpreting dream about father who passed away:
My father passed away in 2010, and twice since then he has been in my dreams. Once was a dream set at a memorial service for him where everyone seemed happy. He gave a going away speech, and when I tried to hug him he didn’t see me, hear me, or even know I exist. We were very close as father and son and this upset me. In the second dream, I saw him at work. I chased after him trying to get his attention, but again it seemed like he couldn’t hear me.
This dream is not about spiritual contact with a deceased loved one. It’s about accepting loss. The dreamer’s father is no longer around to talk to, which is why he can’t get his father’s attention in the dream. The dreamer has probably caught himself a dozen times thinking “that’s something I should tell dad about,” then remembers his father is no longer around. The dreamer is on his own now.
However, it might not be completely true that we are on our own after the loss of a close loved one who provided guidance, advice, and comfort. A fascinating case is documented in Edgar Cayce: On Dreams. After her mother dies, a woman has a series of dreams interpreted by Cayce. The initial dreams focus on adjusting to life without mom around, processing the loss and working through the grief. Then they transition to clearing roadblocks in her attitudes and feelings (she didn’t believe spiritual visitation was possible) and learning some important life lessons. The dreams culminate with actual spiritual contact with the deceased mother. From then on, the dreamer and her mother communicate regularly, and the mother provides outstanding advice, including inside knowledge about a relative who’s contemplating suicide, and medical advice that gets the dreamer through a difficult pregnancy.
Distinguishing between spiritual visitation and symbolic dreams
In Cayce’s experience and in mine, dreams about spiritual contact have a distinct ring to them:
- The messages are always positive, though sometimes pointed. No guilt trips or anything like that.
- The messages frequently convey information about the health and welfare of the dreamer or family members. The deceased mother in the last example gave specific advice about health matters that were verified by physicians, gave insight about family members, and was especially helpful with getting the daughter through a difficult pregnancy.
- The dreams are often more straightforward than symbolic (though some dream symbolism can come into play), the messages communicated clearly and lovingly.
- The strength of the contact seems to depend on the abilities and emotional state of the dreamer and the deceased.
- A message universal to dreams of spiritual contact is the deceased convey that they are all right, even happy, in the next life, not in distress. It’s the living they are concerned about!
- Another key feature of spiritual contact is the person in the dream talks and acts like a real person–like the person you know. You can look them in the eyes and see intelligence and personality. Dream characters usually behave like actors who stick to a script. When you look at them closely or go off-script by asking pointed questions, they tend to distort and act out of character. They don’t respond like you would expect a person to respond.
- The communication is mind to mind, aka “telepathic.” Mouths don’t need to move, and words aren’t as important as thoughts and feelings.
- The loved one who comes to you in a dream has an agenda. Rarely do they drop by just to chit-chat (though it’s possible, especially after previous visits establish a foundation for continuing contact). My understanding is that reaching through from the afterlife to contact people in this reality requires energy and skill that a minority of people (alive or not) possess. And the contact can only be sustained for a short period.
- And finally and most importantly, the dreams are exceptionally vivid and realistic. They stand out from ordinary dreams.
Her godson came to her in a dream
Here is a powerful account of a dream following the death of a loved one, similar to dozens of others I’ve read:
My godson passed away last year. He was 9, he passed after a car accident. While he was on life support in the hospital, I would visit him every day. One day I came home and I was emotionally exhausted, and I just wanted to sleep and not think about anything. I was putting a couple of things on my bookshelf when something fell and landed on my arm. I picked it up, and it was a birthday card from 4 months earlier from his mom, but he had signed it. He passed away a day or 2 later, and I think he was saying goodbye.
[I’ve been really depressed lately, and two days ago] I dreamt about my godson. He ran up to me and wrapped his arms around me; no one else could see him in my dream except me. I kissed him on his forehead and told him I miss him. He told me he misses me too, and told me not to be sad, that he was happy and would keep visiting us.
I woke up sad that my dream was over, but happy that he came to see me. I miss [him] every day, and can’t wait to see [him] in my dreams again.
This dream experience checks off a few boxes on the list of the qualities of spiritual contact dreams:
- The messages are positive.
- Concern is shown for the living.
- The godson is happy in the afterlife.
- He has an agenda.
I followed up with the dreamer and she added this:
It felt so real. It was different than a normal dream, somehow.
I asked her to describe how it was different:
It’s hard to explain. It felt more real, it was more vivid. I could hear the birds and insects (we were outside) and the chatter of people in the background. I knew he wasn’t supposed to be there, I knew no one could see him, but I didn’t know it was a dream. I felt everything, I smelled everything, I heard everything. It was like I was really standing in front of him. Dreams are different, there isn’t background noise, you can’t feel everything. And his voice was inside my head, he was speaking out loud but also speaking inside my head, if that makes any sense.
With that info, we can check off two more boxes:
- The vividness and sense of realness.
- Telepathic communication.
I’m comfortable suggesting to this person that the experience is actual spiritual contact with her godson. The last thing I want to do is give her false hope, and if I’m wise I’ll always add the caveat that I can’t say for sure. What’s more important is what it means to her.
Now consider ‘deceased father in shared dream’:
The night after my father’s funeral, my grandfather, step-mother, and I all had the exact same dream with the exact same message: My father said to us, “Everything will be fine. Don’t worry about me. Got it all figured out. I love you.”
I take this dream at face value because I’ve read so many similar accounts. The dreams of all three people are identical in content. The accounts can individually be picked apart, so there is always the possibility these family members experienced something symbolic and extraordinarily coincidental. I wouldn’t be surprised if three related people all dreamed in the same night about a recently departed family member–they have just experienced a tremendous loss and their dreams are going to reflect it.
Some branches of dream psychology vehemently insist that these dreams are wish fulfillment and nothing more, even going so far to say it is primitive and counterproductive to suggest otherwise. Assume for a moment though that what the dreamers report is true and three family members had the exact same dream the day after the funeral of another family member. What do you think it means?
My understanding is that family members who are too grief-stricken to handle contact with a recently departed family member won’t get it. The first rule of spiritual contact is ‘do no harm.’ Nothing can be forced. You have to be emotionally and personally ready to make contact. This fact can be vexing for people who wait and wait for contact with a deceased loved one and it doesn’t happen.
I can’t tell you if the next example is actual contact or wishful thinking, but it’s fairly typical for dreams about deceased loved ones. Read ‘son meets deceased father in a dream’ and I’ll pick up with the discussion next.
The part that strikes me is the father is alive and well in the dream. It can be a way of saying that the son has processed the fact that his father died long ago before he really knew him and is OK with that fact. But it can also be a way of saying that consciousness survives death and it is possible for people to go on living in another state of being. They can be happy. They can love. They can communicate with the living through dreams.
Here is another dream where the dead communicate with the living. A grandfather visits a very young grandson–a grandfather who died long before the grandson was born–and gives him some solid advice about life. Again, it is very possible there is a symbolic explanation for the dream. The grandfather could be an invention of the boy’s unconscious mind to deliver the message, so in this sense the grandfather’s identity as a dream character is a “mask” for a part of the dreamer that provides sagely advice.
Then again, he was three years old and had a dream involving adult subjects that few if any children that age are even aware of, and he recognized a picture of his grandfather based on what he remembered from the dream. It’s not scientific proof, but one of many examples of similar dreams.
But where’s the proof?
God likes to remain anonymous and we are free to believe what we want, and I think those are good reasons for why we will never have absolute proof of spiritual contact or life after death. However, I have run across a number of accounts of the spirit of a deceased loved one visiting in a dream and passing information that’s unknown to the dreamer. The woman who had many dreams interpreted by Edgar Cayce was given remarkable information from her mom in dreams. Read about this dream where the spirit of a father warns about a leaky roof. I remember an amazing account of the spirit of a relative warning that a snake was in the shower…and a snake was actually found in the shower! What are the odds of it being coincidence? Sally Rhine’s book The Gift has many mind-blowing accounts.
So proof, in this case, is in the preponderance of evidence. It’s not proof in the absolute sense, but it’s the best you’re doing to get unless you are visited, too.
For further exploration, check out these dreams featuring communication between the living and their loved ones:
My Dead Grandmother Contacted Me – This appears to be spiritual contact via the dream.
I Keep Dreaming of My Stepfather. Started the Night He Died. – This dream uses the deceased person as a character. It’s symbolism.
Looking my Grandma in the Eyes – Note what the dreamer says about the eyes.
Reddit Discussion About Contact with Deceased Loved Ones – Note the many accounts of visitations in dreams.
Dreams about deceased loved ones have many different interpretations, as you see from what is covered here, but they all share something in common: All are opportunities to heal, to move on, to cherish memories, to say goodbye. The images from the dreams are vivid and can be used to create daydreams that promote healing and growth, a process pioneered by Carl Jung called active imagination. Whether or not the dreams are actual contact with people in the afterlife, they are only meant for the good of the people who experience them.
On a final note, read what Camille Wortman, an expert on grief and loss, has to say about communicating with the deceased. Whether real or imaginary, it is viewed as beneficial and part of the healing process.
Also, I like what Erin Pavlina has to say about the subject. Here is an excerpt from her blog post about contacting deceased loved ones:
The most common way spirits try to communicate with their loved ones is through dreams. If you have a dream that your loved one comes to you and gives you a message, it often feels very real, very clear, and like you really were talking to them. I believe 100% that these are real communications. Dreams are the one time and place where your ego and objective mind are relaxed and you believe anything is possible. Your vibration is high and you’re open for anything. Spirits can more easily reach your subconscious mind than the clutter of your conscious mind. So be on the lookout for “those” dreams. Not all dreams of deceased loved ones are communication, however. Sometimes your own subconscious mind simply conjures their essence into a dream. The difference is how it feels and what happens in the dream. When there is real communication, usually the deceased spirit offers a message of love, reassurance, and connection. Sometimes they tell you what’s coming up in your life, so pay attention.