Dreaming About The Dead – Is It Them Or Someone/Something Else?

You’re NOT Dreaming About Your Lost Loved One – Nightmare of someone Grieving

It’s not uncommon for us to hope or wish that our dreams can put us in contact with someone unreachable, especially loved ones who have died. Sometimes dreams of our loved ones fill us with hope, reassuring us that their soul is at peace or that we are able to continue some kind of relationship with them after. Other times these dreams are traumatic and seeing them can leave us shattered after waking up.

I think it important we realize when we dream about someone we should be curious as to what the person represents rather than immediately assume it’s the person we want to be in touch with.

A friend of mine suffering from recent grief shared with me a nightmare she recently had.

My hope is that sharing this nightmare and its interpretation that it provides solace to those also suffering from not merely grief but of struggles with self-worth.

Reliving a Traumatic Death

My friend relived her final moments in saying good-bye to her spouse. The setting was the exact same hospital, even with the exact same staff. It all seemed precise in its details to how she remembered that day.

She was approached by the doctor about withdrawing life support, of saying goodbye to her spouse. It was a hard decision that day, and that feeling of reluctance resurfaced in the dream.

But then a detail changed. She looked into the room, and her spouse was not in the bed. 

She turned and saw him walking down the hall, seemingly in perfect health. Her instinct was to run to him, and embrace him. He, in turn, stepped aside, avoided the embrace, and wore a face that reflected more disappointment and disapproval than joy or excitement.

It was a nightmare to return to the vivid details of that day, and the horrific turn of events in the dream (the rejection) only intensified the nightmare.

My friend woke with a sense of despair, a worry that her husband’s spirit was expressing disappointment or ill-will for her moving on, for removing life support.


In our discussion about this nightmare, we both focused on how odd and yet how significant the sudden change in the dream felt. Everything had been a reliving up until the spouse came alive and my friend ran to him.

But something told me very clearly that this was not the spirit or regard of the deceased, but rather that this scowling figure was the embodiment of my friend, a reflection of herself.

My friend confessed to struggling with guilt and forgiveness of herself for making the hard decision of pulling life support. Though she followed his wishes, she couldn’t shake the feeling of being responsible for “killing him”. Such a sensation is not uncommon, I have found, among those who are met with the tough decision of withdrawing medical interventions for their loved ones. No matter how clear the loved one had communicated their wishes, no matter what solace their faith gives them, the pang of guilt still burns in the griever.

My friend also shared her struggle of feeling self-worth and compassion towards herself. Prior to this nightmare I had been told about self-depricating thoughts and words she uses against herself and a struggle with accepting self-care for herself. Doing for others (be it family, co-workers, etc) comes easy to her, but doing for herself requires quite a bit of energy.

“This was not your husband,” I firmly said. “That was you not accepting a hug from you. You’re pushing yourself away. You’re denying yourself of that embrace, of reconciliation.”

The sentiment seemed to resonate with her, and in my time of evaluating dreams I’ve never felt more confident that the image of the person has so little to do with the actual person in our life, but rather what that person represents.

There’s different takes on what the spouse represents in dream interpretation. But considering that we often consider our spouse our “other-half” it’s not a stretch for us to view our spouses in our dreams as the other side of ourselves. The work for us to determine what part of ourself it is we are seeing when our spouse appears to us in our dream, whether they are living or not.

Visitation of the Dead in Dreams

I’ve had my own history of having dreams of those I love who have passed, and I’ve heard of a dozen different similar accounts. Most of my experiences of these dreams are a brief visitation of my departed loved one, a very short conversation with them, always ending with me waking up in tears. I’ve spoken with others who have shared in similar dreams that have a kind of bitter-sweetness to them.

Perhaps the strangest dream of this I had was losing my grandmother while I was half-way around the world. I had a dream about her wherein she was asking where I was and how I was doing, as if she knew I was traveling. I woke up that evening to a text from my family sharing that she passed peacefully in her sleep. I knew her health had been waning, though I had been given no real indication ahead of time she would pass during my trip. The timing was uncanny, dreaming of her the night before and then receiving the news.

As with all seemingly metaphysical experiences, we have to be discerning. Some of these things are merely our subconscious speaking to us, trying to hash out a deep need. That being said, some instances have led me to consider if some of these interactions with the departed are real, and even holy. My mind goes to “Way of the Pilgrim” wherein a wandering Orthodox Christian hermit has a dream of their spiritual father instructing them what to read and then waking to find pages in his bookmarked. 

We are susceptible in our dreams, which leads me to caution us all to be very discerning with the content of them. Because our own minds and the bodiless intelligences can misguide us, we should arm ourselves before sleep, asking for holy protection from our Lord and from the saints and our holy appointed angels. The rule of thumb that seems most advised on this issue is: if seeing your loved one leads you to pray for them, for yourself, and to repent further, then bless God.

So my prayer is that we remain curious about these dreams and what underlining messages our own heart (or even God) might be trying to tell us and to be discerning with dreams of the departed.

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