Have you ever had a dream that made you question your sanity, your morals, your desires or your fears? Dreams of being chased, going back to school, falling off a cliff or driving a car without brakes can be quite unsettling, and we quickly credit a wild imagination for such scenarios. For the bereaved, these universal themes merge with memories and images of our deceased loved one, creating strange symbols and bizarre landscapes that fuel the fires of grief.
Carl Jung, turn of the century psychoanalyst, philosopher and spiritual seeker believed that our dreams were a spontaneous and symbolic depiction of what was happening in our life at that moment. He believed that the dream self taps into a personal warehouse of our thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and experiences to communicate its need for healing the wounded and broken parts of our being. In an effort to express itself more fully, the dream self will search for archetypal images and themes in the universal warehouse of humankind’s collective experiences to convey its message.
For the bereaved, this inner warehouse becomes crowded as memories of our deceased loved one surface, competing with personal conflicts and spiritual issues that need attention and resolution. Our dreams then will reflect the status of our grief journey and uncover the issues and hidden agendas that block the path to acceptance and reconciliation.
In the privacy of our inner world, we can act out behaviors or express emotions deemed unacceptable to us or to others.
Our fear of being overwhelmed by the “bad” dreams forces us to escape the situation by waking up, leaving the dream message incomplete. For the unaware dreamer, nightmares and recurring dreams seem to cause more pain and stress because the dreamer dismisses the very thing intended to bring understanding and healing.
We can begin to understand and interpret our dreams using metaphor, personal associations, universal symbols, myth, folklore, and scripture. If we are open, trusting, and receptive to this process, we can discover the gift of the dream in whatever form presented.
My appreciation for dream work began in 1991 with a precognitive and prophetic dream predicting the death of my five-year-old son, Kevin. Fear and doubt pushed the images aside that day and I chalked it up to another one of those weird dreams.
Less than twelve hours later, my son lay unconscious, bleeding to death on the snow-packed street at the foot of our neighbor’s driveway. While I had been in the kitchen making dinner, the nightmare flashed before me. Fearful, I rushed out the door to meet him on the sidewalk. To my horror, Kevin had been struck down and driven over by a truck as he rode his bike on the sidewalk past our neighbor’s home.
In the days that followed, frightening images from the nightmare attacked my sanity and held me captive whether I was asleep or awake. Consumed by guilt, I believed I had lost my chance to heed its warning and save Kevin. Everything I believed to be true was tested, and my belief system crumbled around me. I had entered the dark night of the soul, a place where every bereaved parent has lived in the wake of his or her child’s death.
Strangely, though, within days of Kevin’s death, I was not just dreaming about Kevin, I was dreaming Kevin! He was whole and holy! That wonderful feeling of being with Kevin in my dreams felt the same as if he was alive.
Initially, I recorded my dreams to preserve my “new” memories of Kevin. The disappointment of waking up and not having dreamed him at all was sheer agony. Meanwhile, a pattern emerged of other dreams that mirrored the pain of our separation and reflected my chaotic life. Each night my fears, desires, and memories appeared on my dream screen fueling the persistent themes of guilt, suffering and separation. I soon learned that my dreams contained guidance and wisdom for healing my tortured soul.
Ultimately, my soul’s desire was to heal itself and God’s response was to send some amazing companions to love and support me. The key was recognizing that I had a choice in the way I perceived my dreams and my grief. I could choose to allow the nightmare and my grief dreams to possess me and fuel more fear and guilt or I could choose to expose them to the light and see them differently.
When I viewed the dream using my intuitive eyes, suspending all the criticisms and judgments of the mind to allow the images, feelings, memories and emotions to surface and tell their truth. I discovered that Kevin had simply transitioned from matter to spirit, and that his love for our family and me was stronger than ever.
The message of the dream was not a warning to save Kevin. I could not save him from his destiny. Rather, the dream was intended to prepare me for the dramatic spiritual transition that would enable me to see differently and to love more consciously. The nightmare was actually a blessing in disguise designed to heal my soul and empower my life.
© 2010 Carla Blowey