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Dreaming about Death

Dreams about death are disturbing. Yet they are not unusual and when understood, they can be both healthy and encouraging. Like the Death card in the Tarot, the image of death in dreams is a metaphor for the end of one thing and the beginning of something new. In many dreams, death represents the end of one phase of life so that the dreamer can move on into the next phase of maturity and growth.

Death of a loved one

In dreams about death, much depends on who is pictured as dying.

Let's begin with dreams about a parent dying, because these are very common among teens and young adults. Most adolescents want more independence, in fact, they demand it! This is normal, because it is important for kids to become less dependent on their parents and increasingly independent through the middle school and high school years. After high school, young people should be ready to set off for jobs or college and life on their own. Usually this transition takes place gradually over the years, but sometimes it can be rather sudden: "Mom and Dad dropped me off on campus, then sold the house and left without a forwarding address!"

While the conscious mind might be eager to grow up and be independent, the subconscious mind, and the inner child within the deep unconscious, might want to hold on to the security of childhood a little longer. Independence might feel like abandonment. In this case, dreams arise in which the loss of parental control is grieved as if it is parental death.

{If you need to talk about your dream privately, I'm here to help. Tell me your dream.}

Dreaming of a spouse's death could symbolize a change in the relationship, and not necessarily a negative change. Suppose a stay-at-home mom Denise decides to go back to college after the youngest child enters 1st grade. Her husband might be supportive of this change with his waking self, but his subconscious self might suffer the loss of Denise's "traditional" role, and need to grieve.

In other cases, dreams about a spouse's death may be "what if" dreams, providing the opportunity to explore how one might react to a worst-case scenario. Let's suppose that Alice has a recurring dream that her husband. Tommy, is killed in a terrible highway accident. In one dream, she collapses in helpless grief. In another dream, she becomes a revenge-seeking dragon. In yet another dream she take the broken pieces of Tommy's car and builds a castle by the sea. Researchers have find that such "what if" dreams are not only helpful in relieving the stress of anxiety, but actually prepare the dreamer to deal with future stressful situations.

Castles by the sea

Dreaming about the death of a relationship
sometimes takes on the quality of prophesy. Becky cried to her best friend, "I dreamed that Jack was cheating on me, and the next week he says he wants to break up!" Although Becky might be convinced that she saw the future in her dream, the reality is probably much more simple. The subconscious mind often picks up subtle clues and patterns of behavior that the waking mind overlooks or denies. When the subconscious mind puts these observations into a dream, it can feel eerily precogniscient.

When any relationship ends, whether it is a romance, a friendship or a professional association, the person who was once very close will fade out of the dreamer's life. When the relationship was intensely intimate or had lasted for many years, its end can cause feelings of grief and a period of mourning, much like those associated with an actual death.

In more melodramatic times, a parent might say of a wayward child, "She is no longer my daughter! She is dead to me!" The subconscious mind is incurably melodramatic, and portrays the dreamer's emotions in lurid symbols. When a relationship ends, "It is death!

Dreams of a former lover dying can be particularly scary. One 14 year-old dreamed of her ex-boyfriend bursting out of her bedroom closet with his body engulfed in flames!  Terrible and realistic as these dreams can seem, it is almost always the relationship, not the ex, that has died.

{If none of this really explains the dream that bothers you, we can work on it together. Tell me your dream.}

Dreaming of a child's death
can represent many different things. They might reflect changes in the parent/child relationship as the child grows and matures. They might be "what if" dreams, relieving the stress of normal parental concerns. But they can also be totally symbolic, with the "child" used as a symbol of something completely different.

Think of common expressions we use for special things, hobbies or projects: "That antique car is his baby," or "Her photography is her life."  We invest a lot of emotion when developing a project from a simple idea to a tangible reality. If something happens to "kill" the project, or even if it is completed successfully and is sold, it is possible to experience actual grief, as if we lost "our baby." Such experiences can translate in to dreams of a child's literal death. 

lonely car 

Dreaming about one's own death often indicates a transition from one stage of life to the next, such as childhood to adolescence, or middle age to old age. Young people sometimes dream of dying around the time their school days are coming to an end and they are about to don the cap and gown. A bride or a pregnant woman about to become a mother might be horrified by dreams of her own death. These dreams signal the psyche's realization that the person she has always been is about to "pass away," as she takes on a new identity as a wife or mother.

Dreams about dying might also indicate the need to let go of some old habit or way of life. When the old habit is dangerous, such as smoking or drug abuse or even poor eating patterns, such dreams of death can be life saving! In other situations, dreams of death can provide the motivation to make important decisions about living.

Let's suppose that before deciding to go back to school, stay-at-home mom Denise felt like a bird in an empty nest after the chicks had flown. Perhaps she also had a medical issue that required a hysterectomy. The sudden end to her child-bearing ability coupled with long days without her children at home could have triggered dreams in which Denise saw her own death. She saw herself climbing up a long hill only to drop off a precipice into darkness. After thoughtful discussions with her husband and a trusted friend, Denise decided to go back to college to finish the nursing program she had begun before being married. At that point the dream of climbing up the long hill ended with her leaping off the precipice and flying away on powerful wings.

Dreaming about one's own death most often indicates the need to let go of some old habit or way of life. New growth cannot take place until the old withered stuff is discarded. In Scripture, the same concept is found in the text about old and new wine skins (Luke 5:36-38) and the parable of grains of wheat (John 12:24-25.) The circle of life is incomplete without cleansing death.

{I'm right here for you, and we can talk about your dream privately. It isn't difficult. Just tell me your dream.}


But I Did Dream of My Death

Dear Zia Lucia,
I woke up alone in my own bedroom hearing voiced downstairs, so I got up to see what was going on. When I looked into our front room, it was filled with people, and there was a casket surrounded by flowers with a dead body laid out for viewing. I couldn't tell who the dead person was, so I asked one of the men standing near me. He said it was me!  Now I am very concerned, because my father and my grandfather both had dreams of their own funerals shortly before they died. What should I do?

Zia Lucia's Response,
I will not tell you that you are not going to die, because that would be foolish; we are all going to die sooner or later. If it is true that your father and grandfather were given warnings, then you must take this dream quite seriously. I do say "if," because true precogniscience is extremely rare; there are almost always other explanations for such dreams. But in light of your family history, it could be that you are deeply blessed in having the opportunity to prepare for your own passing. In the normal course of events, we have no warning of impending disaster, and so have no time to do those things which are most important. You have been given this opportunity, which you should use whether your dream happens to come true or not. Be thankful for you have "experienced" your horror in the best possible way. You can take advantage of this wisdom and have a much better life - and a better death - because you are blessed with this dream.