why we dream of losing loved ones
Dreaming about your own or a loved one’s death is more common over the new year period than any other time, so it’s likely you or someone you know has had one recently.
While death dreams are scary, experts say they may not be your worst nightmare in terms of what they mean.
The average person has up to five dreams a night so it’s no surprise that most of them end up in the abyss of your subconscious.
But certain dreams — death — are hard to ignore and can leave you feeling rattled, restless and shaken upon waking.
They can be detailed, dark, graphic and spark fears, tears and restless nights.
But experts believe dreaming about death is likely a good thing, despite the horrible feeling that comes from seeing yourself or a loved one die while asleep.
The meaning of our dreams has been studied for years, since Dr Sigmund Freud stated that they were our subconscious telling us what wishes we wanted to fulfil in life.
Dr Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, considered dreams to be a form of suppressed longing and our unconscious desires, thoughts and motivations.
Freud’s contemporary, Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung, said dreams were the mind’s way of communicating important things that a person may not be able to see consciously.
But modern experts say death dreams should not be taken literally.
This came as a relief considering in the last two weeks I’ve had four death dreams, all involving watching people I love die in horrible and disturbing ways — from car crashes to cancer.
Experts like dream analyst and former scientist Jane Teresa Anderson believe death dreams are a normal reaction to daily life stressors. Some go as far to say they can help in working through traumatic life events.
Hobart based Anderson is somewhat of a psychotherapist of dreams, and she has been helping people to decode theirs since 1992.
She has also authored six books on the subject and hosts a regular podcast analysing dreams.
NEW YEAR, NEW NIGHTMARES
Ms Anderson said death dreams were very common during the holidays, especially the new year.
She said they (and all dreams) were a result of what the conscious mind had processed within the last day or two.
“A lot of people do tend to have death dreams at this time of year,” she told News Corp, adding that this was because people had more time to sleep in and let their dreams play out as intended without interruption.
She also said the pressure on an individual to do better and change old habits during the new year period also explained why people were more likely to have death dreams in this time frame.
“We all get to new year and we say “oh, my New Year’s resolution is to stop this … I’m going to put an end to this …” Sometimes our dreams can be our unconscious response to what we’ve decided to kill off or put an end to in our life,” she said.
Ms Anderson said the new year and Christmas period was a high time for an individual’s family and personal issues to be dragged front and centre — conflict, grief, anxiety, relationship breakdowns or change, fears of future etc.
She reasoned that these troubles can often make their way into our dreams.
SAFE PLACE FOR BAD THINGS
Psychotherapist Jeffrey Sumber saysthat dreams allowed people to play out puzzling emotions and experiences in a safe place.
“Dreams also allow us to process information or events that may be painful or confusing in an environment that is at once emotionally real but physically unreal,” he said.
He told Huffington Post a dream about death could help to resolve anxieties or anger towards the subject.
“We dream in order to learn about ourselves and develop undeveloped elements of our personality. The only way to avoid anything from the unconscious is to do our inner work and make peace with it.”
According to Ms Anderson a common confronting death dream that often sparked fear in the dreamer was seeing yourself die.
“You open a door and look into a room and see yourself, you are dead” or “you feel yourself falling and hit the bottom, step out and see yourself dead,” she described as common scenarios people were faced with in a sleep state.
But Ms Anderson said dreaming about your own death was usually symbolic of a life transformation and indicative that a positive change was happening in your life.
“Death dreams have a theme of what is ending, what’s changing in your life … This ending is the start of a new beginning,” she said.
“It’s really important to say that most deaths we might dream of are probably positive, in order to move onto new things we have to let go of old things.”
She said people who were weighing up big life decisions commonly had death dreams as a way of getting unconscious insight into a subject, paving the way for better decision making.
“What it is doing is giving you the insight to your mindset and how your unconscious mind is working. You can look at them and see how you feel about a subject and make a great decision.”
She said dreaming of your own death usually indicated a life change — such as marriage, pregnancy or simply seeing the world differently — where you will put an end to something and start a new way of being.
Dreaming of your own death can also be an indicator that bad habits of self destructive behaviour needs to be put to rest.
EVERYONE DREAMS OF DEATH
“We all have death dreams, if you haven’t had one before now it is really quite surprising. They are really common,” Ms Anderson said.
While they’re horrible, she said it was highly unlikely they were predictive of an upcoming death.
“If all those death dreams were predictions we wouldn’t have many people left walking around on the planet,” she said.
However she did say a death dream could be a health warning or prompting cause for concern about an unhealthy lifestyle that needs addressing.
“Just to be on the safe side and put your mind at ease go and see a doctor and get a general health check,” she said.
Another common death dream is where you see your partner, parent, ex-lover or friend die.
Ms Anderson said these scenarios usually served to show your true feelings about the person involved.
They can also indicate that your relationship with that person is moving into a different stage.
For example, seeing an ex-partner die could be your subconscious saying that your ready to move on from the relationship.
Dreaming about your parents dying could suggest you are undergoing a significant life change that will alter your relationship with them.
Dreaming the death of your child is commonly linked to them growing up, from child to teenager and into adulthood.
SPEAKING OF DEATH
While you might be itching to tell the subjects of your death dreams what you saw, Ms Anderson urged against it.
She said it was best to try to understand why you were having the dream and have a logical explanation to share with them first.
“Share it with friends and people who are skilled in understanding or share it with a dream therapist. I wouldn’t go straight to the person as it does freak them out. You might be able to say later “I had a dream you died and I’ve worked this out” and teach them the things you’ve learnt about it,” she said.
Before speaking with others, she said it was important to take the time to explore why you might be dreaming the way you are.
“We all dream, a lot of us remember them and get really worried about them. What drives my work is trying to make dreams something that people feel happy to talk about and the potential for self-realisation and understanding,” she said.
For example, if you dream of the Grim Reaper or a deathlike figure chasing you, it can mean that you sense something needs/will to come to an end that has been haunting you for a while.
Fortauntely, these disturbing dreams seem to be more positive than negative, and the only scary about them is that they highlight that change is coming no matter what.
For more information on dreams visit janeteresa.com.