Visitation Dreams – Dreaming of the Deceased

Visitation Dreams – Dreaming of the Deceased




Many of us have lost loved ones, unexpectedly as I did with my brother, or after an illness as was the case with my father. Sooner or later, we will all experience the grief and trauma of the death of a meaningful person in our lives.

Virtually every folk tradition and religion tells us that we, our souls, survive after death, and most assure us that those who have passed on can communicate with us by our dreams.

People of all ages, cultures, backgrounds and beliefs have reported that they have communicated with a deceased loved one while they were sound asleep. They’re convinced that the experience wasn’t “just a dream,” and that the dream character wasn’t a dream character at all, but their deceased loved one. These types of dreams are commonly referred to as visitation dreams.

Psychologists and dream researchers love to catalogue and categorize data, and while many tend to categorize and sub-categorize these types of dreams in various (and different) ways, I prefer to stick with a simple, general definition, for reasons I’ll explain momentarily. I define a visitation dream as: a dream experience where the dreamer feels that the deceased person was truly present in the dream. This feeling can occur during the dream, and/or upon awakening.

To give you an idea of the different categories developed by different researchers, I’ll give you a fleeting sampling.

Deirdre Barrett lists four types of these dreams:

  • Describe the state of death
  • Deliver messages to the living
  • Seek to change the circumstances of their death
  • Give loved ones a chance to say goodbye

Patricia Garfield, in a piece that appeared in the anthology Trauma and Dreams, lists 11 types of visitation dreams:

  • The survivor may or may not realize the person is truly dead.
  • The deceased suffers the symptoms that caused their death.
  • The dead bids farewell to the dreamer.
  • The deceased travels in some sort of means.
  • The survivor receives a phone call.
  • The deceased appears young and healthy.
  • The deceased either criticizes or approves of the dreamer.
  • The dead offers advice and/or comforts the dreamer.
  • The deceased returns for a romantic or sexual encounter.
  • The dead seems to encourage the dreamer to join them in death.
  • The deceased is going about daily routines or may just be present.

T.J. Wray and Ann Back Price, in their book Grief Dreams: How They Help Us After the Death of a Loved One (2005), opt to go with four types:

  • Visitation Dreams
  • Message Dreams
  • Reassurance Dreams
  • Trauma Dreams

I could continue, but I’m sure you get the idea. There is no universal categorization, nor is there already a generally agreed upon number of themes or types. Robert Moss offers thirteen different visitation themes, and others up to twenty.

No matter how many, or how few, ways you categorize visitation dreams, they all have one component in shared… the delivery of a message. The message may be in the form of guidance, knowledge or a warning and are as different and personal as the dreamer and the deceased themselves.

Simply dreaming of a deceased person isn’t necessarily a spirit communication. There is a difference between a grief dream and a visitation dream, and here in lies the confusion. Many of us dream of our deceased loved ones shortly after their death. These dreams help us work by our grief, guilt, pain and loss. Because such dreams are so emotional, they get confused with visitation dreams. In grief dreams your dearly departed may show up for dinner or to join you in a round of golf, or do what any other dream character might do. They generally don’t have a specific message or speak to you directly. These types of dreams are often nightmarish, upsetting or “not real,” as opposed to visitation dreams which are often described as feeling “so real and vivid.”

Some clues to help you determine if your dream is a visitation dream are:

1. The dream feels more real than an ordinary dream: you experience more clarity, focus, and steadiness of mind. The colours seem more vivid, your senses are heightened.

2. There’s a feel or sense that the person is really them, not just a memory or stand in for someone or something else. “That was Aunt Penny – I know it was her.”

3. The dream plot is very thin (not much of a storyline or plot). Usually the dream narrative consists of the interaction between you and the deceased person.

4. Strong emotions are commonly reported: love, forgiveness, anger, fear. However, many dreamers have reported a surprising without of emotion in these types of dreams, which is what made them so noticable and “different.”

5. There’s “physical” contact between the spirit and the dreamer, usually a hug or a reaching out.

6. The deceased person often looks younger and healthier than when they passed on.

7. The deceased person imparts a specific message, often verbally, in person, via phone, fax, computer, letter or text message. Additionally, you may also just “know” what the message is.

According to 1927’s Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, in 1925, a North Carolina man awoke from a dream in which his late father – looking very much alive – told him to “find my will in my overcoat pocket.” Checking the pocket, the man found a piece of paper that directed him to a specific chapter in the family Bible. Between two pages in that chapter, the will was stashed.

For many dreamers who have received visitations from loved ones, they feel grateful, relieved and comforted. The messages received and the very confirmation that there is life beyond death has, for some people, been a life changing experience. For others, it has changed their beliefs and their perception of reality. Are visitation dreams really our deceased loved ones communicating with us? To date, there’s no scientific method capable of answering the question. It’s up to you to decide if the dream you had of your dearly departed was “just a dream” or a message from beyond.




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