Universally and over the centuries, autumn and autumnal rituals symbolized both appreciation for the sustenance of life through the bounty of harvests and the dreams and yearnings of the living to be reunited with their dead.
Mythologically, autumn is when the nights become longer so it's also considered the season where the 'walls are thin' between worlds, particularly with the Underworld or 'Land of the Dead.'
Perhaps because there is more "darkness" we are sleeping more and, ultimately, dreaming more that this is the prime time for having visitation dreams.
So what are visitation dreams?
Patricia Garfield, PhD., author of The Dream Messenger: How Dreams of the Departed Bring Healing Gifts writes, "Regardless of your beliefs about whether there is an afterlife or not, one thing is certain: you will dream about the person who has recently died."
A visitation dream is the experience of the dead visiting us in our dreams. This could be in the form of a personal visitation, a verbal message (simply hearing someone say “Hello”), a sensation or even through an animal or another form.
For most of them, the experience had a healing effect on their lives and gave them comfort.
For others, the dreams can be nightmarish, especially those who witnessed the decline of their loved one and consequently had unfinished business that left them feeling hopeless and depressed.
What are some types of visitation dreams?
Patricia Garfield lists 11 types of visitation dreams:
- Alive-Again Dreams (deceased appears and the survivor may or may not realize the person is actually dead).
- Dying-Again Dreams (deceased is once more suffering symptoms that caused death).
- Saying-Goodbye Dreams (deceased appears and bids farewell to the survivor)
- Taking-a-Journey Dreams (deceased is usually traveling in some sort of vehicle)
- Telephone-Call Dreams (deceased telephones the survivor).
- Young-Well-Again Dreams (deceased appears young and healthy)
- Approval-Disapproval Dreams (deceased severely criticizes of strongly approves of the survivor).
- Advice-Comfort-Gift Dreams (deceased offers advice and/or comforts the survivor).
- Passionate-Encounter Dreams (romantic or sexual).
- Deadly-Invitation-Dreams (deceased appears to encourage the survivor to join them in death).
- Daily-Activity-Dreams (deceased is going about daily routines, may simply just be present)
How can the visitation dream be healing?
They are a universal phenomenon and when you know how to work with them, they have the potential to completely heal grief and restore hope.
Dreams can be a map that can lead a grieving person through their journey toward healing, helping them explore all of their complex feelings and experiences in a safe and empowering way.
Overall, many people have reported healing effects after having a visitation dream, especially if the dreamer needs comfort and/or is questioning faith.
Some ways to work with grief
How we grieve is as unique as a fingerprint, so finding ways to connect with deceased loved ones can take time. Here are a few suggestions to help with your practice:
- First, engage with the process. The more engaged a person is in the work, the deeper the healing can take place.Write your dreams down in a special place/book/journal. This includes getting support from family and friends as well as professionals who specialize in the field of grief.
- Work with the emotions in the dream, especially if there has been trauma or "unfinished business." Perhaps these dream can be a guide for finding peace with the death.
- Finally, be open and patient even when you might not understand the meaning of the dream at first. The meanings often enfold and reveal themselves over time. Often in dreams, the messengers are unexpected. There have been reports of dreams, even waking experiences, where the dead has come in many guises, even animal forms!
Find grief support
Because we are a society that has difficulty with death and dying, it is important to be educated about it. But also be gentle with the process. It can be a raw , vulnerable and terrifying place often described as a dark forest, a black hole, or a wilderness. This means practicing self care.
If you or someone you know is grieving, find your local hospice/palliative care or community counseling services that offer individual and group counseling or a local dream counselor to work with dreams.
There have been many controversies regarding the importance of whether or not these visitations or lucid visions of the dying are real and that there is indeed life after death. What should be emphasized is not the issue of what is real but what has been shared collectively and even more importantly what has been transformed by the experience.