Most people fear death. Although we know that death is inevitable, there is often a difference between what we believe intellectually and what we experience emotionally. Why is this so? It would seem that such a universal experience could be met with acceptance. Instead, at least in American culture, we often think of death as a failure. Some people don’t even want to talk about it.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, author of On Death and Dying identified five stages people go through in the process of dying: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The first stage, denial, is prevalent in Western culture. People with terminal illness are often counseled to “fight” the disease. Family members who learn that their loved one has a terminal illness may even be advised not to tell the person that death is imminent.
To complicate matters, with are so many medical treatments now available, there is much ambiguity concerning life and death decisions. For example, do we have to have to go through surgery, or chemotherapy, or take medications just because they are available? Is choosing not to live with a respirator or feeding tube giving up? Does it mean that those who decide to let the body go have somehow failed?
These are questions facing not only the person who is ill, or dying, but also their family and friends. In some cases it is more difficult for those who survive, because they need to live with the choices. Many people have regrets after a loved one dies, either wondering if they made the right choice in turning down a medical procedure or regretting having chosen a medical procedure which resulted in pain, complications or death.
Being attentive to our dreams can be a tremendous help in understanding and even eliminating the fear of death. Dreams can awaken us to the reality that there is experience beyond the physical body. They can give us a taste of life on the “other side,” thus, stimulating curiosity rather than dread.
Dreams can give us comfort, helping those who remain alive to know that they are not really separated from their loved ones who die. They can also help to prepare us for their death. They can be a valuable source of guidance and encouragement.
Precognitive dreams, visitation dreams, and telepathic dreams awaken us to the reality of existence beyond the physical body. It is one thing to believe that there is an afterlife; it is another to taste the experience. People who have had near death experiences report a sense of peace, comfort and bliss, absence of pain, and a feeling of compassionate love on the “other side.” People who experience dream visitations from deceased loved ones report similar feelings.
Through dreamstates, we can aid one another and communicate with one another in ways beyond the reach of our (sometimes limited) conscious mind and brain. People who are aware of these “psi” dreams experience the profound realization that there is much more to us than we can see, touch, taste, feel, and hear with our physical senses.
What are dreams?
This may seem like an obvious question; yet, people have different perspectives of the dream experience. In my education through the School of Metaphysics, I have learned that dreams are an experience of the soul or subconscious mind. When we go to sleep at night, we withdraw our attention and life force from the conscious mind, physical body and physical senses, and turn our attention inward to experience the subconscious mind. This subconscious mind or soul is the “inner self.”* [Insert diagram 1 and footnote]
The experience of going to sleep and withdrawing attention from the body and conscious mind is very similar to the process of death. The difference is that we return from sleep; we gradually (or suddenly, in the case of being startled awake by a noise or alarm clock) return our attention to the conscious mind and physical senses. In death the withdrawal is complete; there is no return of attention to the physical senses and body, no life force that animates the body.
I understand dreams to be a multi-dimensional experience. They can be interpreted symbolically, providing guidance and direction to the conscious mind. Some dreams are purely symbolic. Other dreams can be interpreted symbolically and have the additional significance of being direct experiences in subconscious mind. These are the dreams in which we are visited by those who have withdrawn (died) from physical existence. These dreams are telepathic messages from other people. There are also precognitive dreams that alert us to probable future events, preparing us to respond to crises or “unexpected” events with greater peace and equanimity.
How do we know when a dream is purely symbolic and when it is one of these direct intuitive experiences? The best answer I can give is, “experience.” By paying attention to dreams on a daily basis and keeping a dream journal, we have a record of the precognitions (dreaming of events which later happen.) We become aware of the dream experience itself. Most people report precognitive, telepathic, and visitation dreams as feeling very “real.” The people, places, and events match what occurs in the outer, waking life. Most people awaken from these dreams with the sense that something profound occurred in the dream.
Intuition can be defined as “inner teaching” or the direct grasp of truth. When we view something intellectually we think about it, we view it as being apart from ourselves. Intuition comes from direct experience. All five senses can be involved, collectively receiving and sensing as a “knowing.” Intuitive experiences are clear and calm. Over the past thirty years, I have kept a dream journal and have noted when dreams were precognitive. I have discovered that when in the dream itself there is a feeling of anxiety, fear, or foreboding, it is often symbolic. In my own dreams and those of my students, I have found that the dreams of precognition and direct experience (such as telepathy or visitations from the deceased) tend to be experienced with peace, clarity, and insight. That is, in the dream itself, the dreamer experiences the future event or visitation with a kind of objectivity. When the dreamer awakens and the conscious mind remembers the dream, as the conscious thinking becomes involved the dreamer may then react emotionally with fear or distress. Sometimes dreamers do not distinguish between the reaction to the dream once awake and the emotional state in the dream itself.
My late husband died on September 10, 2000. The following year, September 11, 2001, the World Trade Center was destroyed and many people died. Having grown up in New York, I was concerned about loved ones I knew and could not get ahold of, since most of the phone lines were down. That night, I had a visitation dream in which my late husband John appeared:
I dream that John is in New York, helping the people who died in the World Trade Center. I am so happy to see him. I ask him, “Are they okay?” He smiles this beautiful smile, full of light, and radiates love. “Yes!” he says. “They’re fine! Once they are out, they’re fine!” I know he means that once they are out of the body they are fine, with no pain because they are released from the bodily prison. I can feel the peace and exhilaration.
I woke up feeling relieved, peaceful, and happy. I knew that when John was alive he was always helping other people, so it made sense that he was still helping people on the other side. I also knew that this was a visitation, an actual communication from him. It helped me to be at peace and to be a calming presence for other people I knew who were extremely grief-stricken and outraged at what had occurred. It also helped me to ease my grief at John’s passing, because in the dream he could see, he was vibrant, and he was at his best, helping other people.
Visitation dreams can bring us comfort and healing. I encourage everyone to keep a dream journal and be open to this communication from the "other side."
Dr. Laurel Clark is the President of the School of Metaphysics, a 501(c)(3) organization headquartered in Missouri with 15 branches in nine states. She has been teaching metaphysics since 1979, is an interfaith minister, intuitive counselor, public speaker and author. Recently she has spoken to many hospice organizations in the St. Louis and Chicago area. She is currently writing a book on Intuitive Dreaming. Some of her other books are Karmic Healing, Dharma: Finding Your Soul's Purpose, The Law of Attraction and Other Secrets of Visualization, and Concentration. She can be reached through the School of Metaphysics at www.som.org or www.dreamschool.org.