The “experts” have been arguing about the purpose of dreams for centuries. There are those scientists who believe dreams are random, senseless physiological experi¬ences, which are nothing more than a by-product of the brain stem. Mental healthcare professionals, such as the father of psychiatry, Sigmund Freud, often see all dreams as having some deep psychological meaning. Some mental health caregivers will spend several therapy sessions with a client dissecting one particular dream.
Then there are the self-proclaimed dream interpreters. Modern-day dream mystics often assume the symbolism found in our sleepy time visions has just one or two interpretations. Each one of these so-called dream experts will put their own spin on what a particular symbol might mean. In the majority of cases, these individuals aren’t medical or mental healthcare professionals, but instead advertise themselves as professional dream coun¬selors, psychics, spiritual advisors, dream coaches, sleep technicians, and even regression therapists. The business of dream interpretation is big money, and a 45-minute session can cost as much as $150 to $500.
What might I get for my hard-earned cash? If I’ve had a dream about my teeth falling out, one interpreter might tell me I’m anxious about something. Another dream counselor could say my anxiety is about how I look. A third would tell me my dream is a warning about making costly mistakes. If I happen to be going through menopause, dreaming about my teeth falling out might mean I’m fearful of getting older. To be honest, the only time I’ve ever had a dream about my teeth was after a root canal!
I do believe our dreams keep us healthy. Dreamtime helps us process the stresses of the day. For most of my professional life, I’ve worked with trauma survivors, and I’ve noted that feelings related to unaddressed tragedy or loss will often appear in dreams. This is not unusual.
When I first started assisting clients suffering from trauma, I read a lot of books on dreams. In frustration, I ended up throwing most of them out. Too many of the authors thought they were better at interpreting my dreams than I was. Secondly, their explanations rarely fit for any of my clients. I finally realized these amateur interpretations were often based on the personal experi¬ences, philosophies, and even religion of the dream coun¬selors who wrote the books. With this new awareness, I came up with my own guidelines for understanding dreams.
It’s essential to know we are the best source for interpreting our own dreams. Symbolism found in my dreams will be different from yours. For example, I live on the Gulf Coast, so if I’m dreaming about hurricanes, it could be related to the large storm that dumped 10 feet of water into my house a few years ago. Now, if you dream about hurricanes (and don’t live in storm country), this might mean you have some emotional turmoil going on. In such cases it’s useful to write nighttime visions out on paper. Then, for each line of the written-out dream, go back and assign meaning as it relates to you.
Secondly, dreams help us work out our daily stress. Every once in a while I dream about flunking out of college. I’ve got years of post-college graduate work behind me and several degrees under my belt—obviously my dream isn’t a literal premonition of things to come. For me personally, this sort of dream is a warning from my own subconscious that I’ve got too much stress in my life and I need to slow down. If my youngest son has dreams about flunking out of college, his experience is based in reality because he is in college! Dream symbolism will be different for each of us.
Also, as mentioned earlier, there are those dreams related to serious distress and upset. As a child I experi¬enced a great deal of trauma and loss. For about a decade I had reoccurring nightmares related to my own tragic childhood history. I would wake up from these nightmares scared and sweating profusely. Once awake it would take me a moment to realize I was no longer living in my past trauma. It was important for me to do the healing work necessary to relieve myself of these recurring nightmares.
Trauma can include emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, war, witnessing violence, or experiencing tragic loss or any other post-traumatic stress–inducing experi¬ences. When we do the work to heal our traumatic encounters, our nightmares begin to dissipate. (For more information on this, read my book Learning to Say No: Establishing Healthy Boundaries.)
Children often experience recurring nightmares. These can be connected to trauma, but more often than not it’s just stress. Such dreams are more likely about the trials of growing up and having new, challenging life experiences.
Finally, we have dreamtime encounters that are related to spiritual contact from the other side. Skeptics tell us any dreams we have about the afterlife are related to grief, loss, and wishful thinking about a life after death. Some of our dreams about death are related to loss, and we can’t ignore this. They are similar to stress or even trauma dreams. Then there are those dreamtime experiences that involve after¬life contact. Let’s look at a dream visitation experience I had with my grandmother.
My grandmother Bertha was a tall, statuesque woman with shocking white hair piled high on her head. The daughter of immigrants from Russia, she had heard tales from her older sister and parents about relatives who had starved to death or were murdered by the Bolsheviks in the old country. In response to this, she worked hard at being an Amer¬ican and would decorate the house for every holiday celebrated in the United States. It wasn’t uncommon for me to walk into her kitchen on Valentine’s Day and find her baking fragrant Russian delicacies along with homemade heart-shaped sugar cookies!
When my mother died, I went to live with my grandparents. She taught me how to sew and put on lipstick, and every week we visited the local drug store for banana splits. She stepped right into my mother’s shoes. My grandmother passed when I was in my early 40s, so she had been part of my life for many years. Grief struck, and I made one Russian pie after another. During this time my poor family prayed for tacos, or a nice lasagna!
One night I had an incredible dream about my grandmother. In the dream I found myself in her very American kitchen. All of the colors were brilliant. Even the flowers growing just outside the window were incredible. The colors were so intense. Sitting at the kitchen table I was mourning the loss of my grandmother, when suddenly, in she walks.
In the dream, she was wearing a straight, shim¬mering purple number with long, graceful fitted sleeves. I can still hear the click of her purple high-heeled shoes as she walked up to me, pulled me out of my seat, shook me by my shoulders, and said, “Enough of this already.”
My grandmother sternly reminded me that I had two young sons to take care of and that I didn’t need to still be grieving for her. She told me she was just fine. After that she turned around and left me standing in the middle of her kitchen with my mouth wide open! When I woke up I felt energized and knew my grieving time was over. I got back into my life and emotionally returned to my husband and boys. In my soul I knew my grandmother had come to me to set me straight!
Dreams involving afterlife contact leave us with feel¬ings that are difficult to ignore. The following is a wonder¬ful departing vision in the form of a dream.
I have a story to share that occurred with the passing of my grandmother. According to the doc¬tors, she died around 3 a.m. That night I dreamed of her passing. I dreamt that I was driving home and passing by her house late at night when I had to stop to allow a funeral procession to pass in front of me. Interestingly my cousin said that she too woke up at 3 a.m. that night and stared at the clock.
In this account we see how two family members in different locations woke up at the moment of the grand¬mother’s passing! When we’ve had an afterlife contact experience in a dream we know we’ve been touched by something special; it doesn’t feel like a regular dream. Instead, we are left with a sense that life after death is real and our departed loved ones are still there for us.
Departing visions in dream form can also prepare us for a physical passing. Though this is the most common form of the departing vision, it is also the easiest for the skeptics to dismiss. The following example from a Jewish family really drives this notion home!
In late December of 1978, my mother told me about a strange dream she recently had. It seems that in her dream, someone was knocking on our front door and trying to get in. According to my mother, she and I were trying to hold the door so the person would not get in. She was, quite frankly, terrified because the person at the door had come for my father.
Well, as fate would have it, he suddenly passed away (at age 60) only a few days later. So, I guess that was sort of a “portent of fate.”
I feel for the poor woman who had this dream. She was totally unprepared for the experience. Every once in a while a departing vision in dream form can be a frightening experience. None of us wants to suddenly lose someone we love. The husband passed away without warning, which suggests the family wasn’t expecting his death to come anytime soon. After grieving the loss of a loved one it is easier to see the departing vision as a gift, proving physical death is not the end. With such awareness grief is softened. Hopefully this has happened for to family above.
As we have seen, not all of our dreams are related to physiology or our emotional state. Our dreamtime departing visions can be about our own upcoming passing or the transition of someone we love and care about. They can also be about visitations from those who have already crossed over to the other side. Finally we can have dream time departing visions before or during a large scale war or a massive disaster. We can also have visitations from those killed in these situations after the event has occurred.
Dreams of this nature affect us spiritually for the rest of our lives. When we experience such dreamtime visitations we often awake from a deep sleep feeling confident that there is more to our existence than just this life.
Staying true to ourselves after a departing vision or after death communication can be difficult. As society’s values impede upon our reality we may find ourselves questioning our afterlife contact. If you have a departing vision dream, write it down and date it. By reliving every detail of the experience, you will again be reminded that what you encountered was truly spiritual in nature.
A Texas State Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Carla Wills-Brandon has published 12 books, one of which was a “Publishers Weekly Best Seller.” She has also lectured across the U.S. and U.K., and has appeared on numerous national radio and television programs, such as Geraldo Rivera, Sally Jesse Raphael, Montel Williams, Art Bell’s Coast To Coast Radio Show, Uri Geller’s Coast To Coast Radio Show and Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher.
Carla has also been investigating spirituality and other related phenomenon for over a decade and three of her books, Heavenly Hugs: Comfort, Support, and Hope From the Afterlife “One Last Hug Before I Go” and “A Glimpse of Heaven” discuss this in depth. She is considered to be one of the leading researchers into deathbed visions. In her private practice, grief work, lectures and workshops she teaches people how to integrate these unusual encounters into everyday living. For more information visit http://www.carlawillsbrandon.com
i>A Glimpse Heaven is published by White Crow Books and is available from Amazon and other online bookstores.