Many years ago, shortly after my friend Janet passed away, I had a vivid and intense dream about her. During her life, Janet was disabled and wheelchair-bound. In my dream, however, I saw her moving freely and joyfully. She looked young and healthy. Her entire body basked in radiant light, and she smiled warmly at me. Happy to see her, I exclaimed: “Janet, you look beautiful!” and reached out to touch her face. The instant I made contact, I woke up, trembling in amazement. I knew that a profound experience had just taken place.
Clinical psychologist Jennifer Shorter defines visitation dreams as “striking emotionally intense dreams in which a recently deceased loved one returns to provide guidance, reassurance, and/or warning.” These experiences are unique, powerful, and sometimes life-changing. Based on multiple studies, here are eight common characteristics of visitation dreams, excerpted from my reference guide, Visitation Dreams of Deceased Loved Ones — Understanding Their Meaning and Transformative Power.
1. “It feels so real.”
One of the most common descriptions of visitation dreams is that they are much more intense, vivid, and kinesthetic than ordinary dreams. “It feels so real” is a common refrain, characterizing experiences both during and after the dream. The intensity of the dream may stay with the dreamer for months or even years, as if the dream had happened only recently.
2. The deceased appear healthy and vibrant.
Typically, the deceased appear in visitation dreams not in their ill, frail, or anguished states. Instead, they show themselves as healthy, vibrant, and younger in appearance.
3. The deceased convey reassurance.
The deceased also frequently appear in visitation dreams conveying reassurance, love, and joy. The reassurance can be both that the deceased is okay, and that the one who’s dreaming will also be okay.
4. The deceased convey important messages.
The deceased in visitation dreams often come with important messages for the dreamer. They may impart wisdom, life lessons, reminders (warnings), or other helpful guidance.
5. The deceased communicate telepathically.
In many cases, the deceased will appear in visitation dreams communicating telepathically and/or symbolically rather than verbally. Without words, the dreamer is able to clearly understand the message of the deceased loved one.
6. The dreamer awakens with intense emotions.
Those who experience visitation dreams often awaken feeling strong, usually positive emotions. In addition to a vivid sense that the dream was “real,” one may also feel love, joy, relief, sadness, or pensive.
7. The dreamer experiences closure.
Some people who have had visitation dreams report that the experience helped them with the process of grieving. Following the dream, they were able to cope better with loss, achieve closure, and move on in their lives.
8. The dreamer is changed by the experience.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of visitation dreams is that they can transform the life perspective of the dreamer. Many people who have had visitation dreams report a stronger interest in the larger, existential questions of life, as well as a greater desire to explore spiritual purpose and meaning. These include cases where the dreamer had little or no interest in such matters prior to the visitation dream.
“Six weeks after his death my father appeared to me in a dream. Suddenly he stood before me and said that he was coming back from his holiday. He had made a good recovery and was now coming home. I thought he would be annoyed with me for having moved into his room. But not a bit of it!...It was an unforgettable experience, and it forced me for the first time to think about life after death.” — Carl Jung
Preston Ni is the author of (click on title): Visitation Dreams of Deceased Loved Ones — Understanding Their Meaning and Transformative Power.
© 2016 by Preston C. Ni. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright violation may subject the violator to legal prosecution.
(1) Shorter, Jennifer E. Visitation Dreams in Grieving Individuals: A Phenomenological Inquiry Into the Relationship Between Dreams and the Grieving Process. Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. (2010)
(2) Barrett, Deirdre. Through a Glass Darkly: The Dead Appear in Dreams. OMEGA: The Journal of Death and Dying. (1991)
(3) Garfield, Patricia. Dreams in Bereavement. From the Anthology Trauma and Dreams. Harvard University Press (2001)
(4) Krippner, Stanley & Faith, Laura. Exotic Dreams: A Cross-Cultural Study Dreaming: Journal of the Association for the Study of Dreams. (2001)
(5) Jung, Carl G. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Pantheon Books/ Random House. (1963)