This post has been updated in response to the Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. It discusses the subject of death and dying, ‘visitation dreams’, as well as feeling responsible for / causing the death of someone in a dream. I also cover this topic in my book Answers in the Dark. If you suffer with death anxiety (fear of death – thanatophobia) please speak to your doctor or healthcare team for support.
(Original Dream question): “I dreamt that my child dies. Does this mean it’s going to happen?”
When a global event like COVID-19 takes place, the subject of death and dying becomes a sharp focus in our awareness, with heartbreaking daily updates of who has died in our region, country and across the world. Dream recall is up 35% according to the Lyon Neuroscience Centre and people are having more negative dreams.
If you’ve been having dreams about you or someone you love dying this might explain why. You may have also experienced dreams like this before the crisis started, so I’ve offered some additional thoughts below.
Usually, death in dreams is not about physical death or dying, but more likely represents change: recognising that we – and those we care about – transform as individuals as time passes by. It may represent an acknowledgement of our mortality, but may more likely be recognising how rapidly things can evolve in our lives.
Our priorities change, our focus shifts, life adapts: house moves, children leaving home, redundancy or retirement, and, as we get older, we begin to notice physical changes in the body.
This extends to the changes we are seeing around the world in 2020. In the midst of a global crisis, everything around us is transforming – from the reduced number of cars on the roads and aeroplanes in our skies, to the focus for a time being on how much toilet roll was on the shelves. The emphasis has been on lack, loss (including freedom of movement) and literally through the media, on death itself.
It makes sense that we process this awareness of change as an ending, and symbolically (and perhaps subconsciously) plays out as death in a dream.
Death in dreams can also represent noticing change in other people, including our children and parents (for example) as they get older.
When the level of care we provide to a child changes as they grow up, we can process this as our part in their lives is ‘over’ (even though it isn’t), and when they leave home we might translate that on a subconscious level as the child “isn’t there anymore” – even though they’re probably available at the other end of technology.
In the same way, if a parent or loved one is coming to the end of their life, this can be a constant thought at the front of your mind.
All these things can have an impact on why we dream about death itself.
Your dream may be trying to help you process what’s happening and search for ways to cope with the news, especially if you feel you can’t talk about it during the day.
To hopefully reassure you, if you have a death dream (whether about yourself or someone else) it doesn’t mean your dream is predicting it, it’s more likely an echo of a fear or worry.
Death dreams can be distressing but they are common dream, especially at a time when death is in the daily conversation. It’s natural to dream about losing people we love; the most likely reason is because we care. I talk in some detail about these types of dreams and more in my book Answers in the Dark: Grief, Sleep and How Dreams Can Help You Heal. The book aims to join the dots between our sleep, dreams and our mental health, specifically how grief shows up, even if no one has died. I explore some of the big myths of sleep, offer a Sleep Cycle Repair Kit including mindfulness activities as well as some top tips to help you decode your dreams.
You can find out more in the video below or order on Amazon.
Copyright Delphi Ellis updated 2020.