What does it mean when someone who has died shows up in your dream?

At a certain juncture in our lives, we all encounter the departure of a cherished individual. The repercussions of such a loss can be profound and enduring, impacting us in manners we hadn’t foreseen.

One prevalent occurrence following the loss of a loved one is the occurrence of dreams featuring the departed. These dreams might hold significances we haven’t contemplated, given that our subconscious mind takes the reins while we sleep. Encountering the presence of a loved one who has passed away within our dreams can offer both solace and perplexity.

Dealing with sorrow takes a distinct and personal route for each person. Some might openly shed tears, while others could retract into themselves or evade discussing their sentiments. Yet, dreaming of those we’ve lost is a collective encounter that can provide insights into our emotional state and function as a reminder of the profound bonds we shared with them.

Dreams occasionally encompass messages from departed loved ones, a phenomenon termed “visitation dreams.” Patrick McNamara, an associate professor at Boston University, has delved into this concept extensively. He expounds that visitation dreams transpire when a deceased individual appears to the dreamer in a manner reminiscent of their living self.

McNamara, who also contributes to Psychology Today under the pen name “Dream Catcher,” has shared his perspectives on dreams and their connotations. He posits that visitation dreams generally fulfill a specific intent for the dreamer.

These dreams are believed to aid individuals in coping with feelings of sorrow, loss, and desolation. By undergoing visitation dreams, individuals might discover solace and a sensation of connection to their departed loved ones.

In one of his blog entries, McNamara recounts a dream he had subsequent to his parents’ passing. This dream, classified as a visitation dream, led him to consider that it could be evidence of life after death. Despite his skeptical scientific background, McNamara couldn’t dismiss the idea that he had communed with his deceased parents—a conviction he thinks would be even more resolute for someone less skeptical about dreams.

McNamara isn’t the sole figure engrossed in these dreams; numerous studies have delved into this phenomenon more profoundly. One study, documented in the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care in 2014, scrutinized the impacts of grief-related dreams. The findings illuminated that dreams involving the deceased are frequent, often laden with significance, and can contribute to the process of recovery following a loss.

The themes within these dreams often involve past occurrences, individuals who passed away without ailments, recollections of the person’s ailment or demise, the individual in the afterlife appearing hale and serene, and the individual conveying a message.

In 2016, Canadian researchers studied the dreams of 76 individuals who had lost someone close. The study demonstrated that 67.1% of these individuals believed more in an afterlife due to their dreams involving the departed. Roughly 70% perceived their dreams as “visitations,” and 71% stated that these dreams made them feel more connected to the deceased person.

Psychologist Jennifer E. Shorter from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, CA, has also delved into our minds and the dreams we experience.

In her research titled “Visitation Dreams in Grieving Individuals: A Phenomenological Inquiry into the Relationship Between Dreams and the Grieving,” she notes that the precise number of individuals experiencing visitation dreams remains unclear.

These dreams can occur shortly after the passing or long after. She ascertained that visitation dreams typically exhibit four primary characteristics:

The individuals in the dream retain their appearance from life, often appearing healthier or younger.
The departed individual often imparts something about their present state, signaling their well-being.
The message within the dream is more of a mental connection than a physical presence.
The dream generally evokes a sense of peace and orderliness, almost in harmony.

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