One type of dream that is important to people who know they are in the final stage of life is the predictive dream. Everyone is interested in dreams that foretell what will happen in the future, but it’s especially poignant when a dying person dreams of his or her own death.
I’ve found that most terminally ill people I’ve worked with who pay attention to their dreams eventually have a predictive death dream. It may address their fear, or give them hope for life after death, or even present the circumstances and details of their passing. It’s a blessing, because it gives the dreamer time to prepare for the transition. This predictive dream may come as early as six months before the person passes away.
Sometimes it comes as a metaphor — they dream they are packing for a trip or crossing an ocean, or talking with relatives who have passed away. Or it comes more directly, as with my friend, Brugh, who dreamed that the Dalai Lama told him he would die soon. A few months later, the dream announcement came true.
What makes it confusing, is that we also can have death dreams that are metaphors for personal transformation—the old ways dying off so the new energies can enter. We never know whether the death dream is literal or not, but the more we work with it, the more likely we are to know. And we can ask ourselves to dream a clarifying dream.
Another area of interest is children’s dreams. Children love to share their dreams, and what better confidence builder than giving a child your full attention as she or he talks about what happened during a night adventure? Even though they may be mostly populated with cartoon characters, animals, or favorite story themes, their dreams show developmental processes that are important. And when the dreams are frightening, if parents just listen to the dreams, the child is comforted and validated.
Children who are at the end of their lives tend to have very direct dreams about their death. An angel will come in a dream to announce that they will be going to heaven the next day, or a relative who has died will say he’s coming to take the child on a big trip. The children I’ve worked with generally are comforted and matter of fact about these dreams, and aren’t upset until they see their parents’ reactions to the dream.
One girl, Mattie, had been in a children’s cancer ward for eight months. Her dreams were amazing in their detail, and she enjoyed drawing and painting them, and acting out the voices of the dream characters—mostly animals. As she weakened and it was apparent her body couldn’t survive, she reported that the animal family in her dreams was very tired, and they were sleeping all the time. The last time I visited her, she had dreamt that her animals needed her and she wanted to go to them and lie down with them. She passed away the next day. Her mother sent me a photo of her last crayon drawing, in which she lay sleeping with her arms embracing a dog and a pig, surrounded by other sleeping animals.
Excerpt from: Through the Dark Forest: Transforming Your Life In The Face Of Death ©Carolyn Conger 2014