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.
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. (Dreams of being lost can also happen at this time).
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.
Unless you know someone is at the end of their life due to a diagnosis for example, you or they are just as likely to go on to live a long, healthy and happy life after the dream, if doing all the right things physically, mentally and holistically.
Even when a diagnosis has been made, your dream doesn’t necessarily predict when or if it will happen, just that your awareness of it is sharper in your mind, and the feelings associated with that.
You dream then 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.
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.
It’s natural to worry someone you love will leave – physically or emotionally – and this anxiety can manifest in our dreams. You might worry this is a predictive dream but the most likely explanation is it reflects your fear or worries rather than a premonition of it. (This also applies to dreams of a partner cheating). This is why it’s important to talk about your feelings with people who can help, whether it’s a close friend, your doctor or a specialist agency.
Many people have this type of dream and it doesn’t come true. That’s why it can be helpful to look for a more symbolic meaning.
Let’s say, for example, you’ve noticed something different about the person you’ve dreamt about in their behaviour, their looks or their outlook on life. This can be symbolised by the death dream, where a particular relationship is currently under the spotlight. It is also a common dream for parents to have, as children get older.
To dream of losing children is common at particular stages of their lives, especially when they’re toddlers and again as they grow into their teenage years. This may well be because, at these ages, you start to notice a change in them, in that they’re less likely to “need” you on a practical level.
The death in the dream therefore can represent their transition in to different life stages and our emotional response to that; losing what they once were to how they now are – associated with feelings of redundancy or rejection, but symbolised as loss or death.
A Visitation Dream (video coming soon) is where you dream about someone you love who has passed away; they appear to you, perhaps with a message, inside a dream. This type of dream after bereavement is common although for some people this doesn’t happen until several years after the death, if at all.
If the person who has passed away has a message which is happy and healthy in the dream, this can leave you feeling very positive. Many people say it gives them a feeling of peace and acceptance. However, if the dream of your deceased loved one causes feelings of anxiety or guilt, it’s more likely there are some unresolved conversations which you may need to explore perhaps with the help of a professional, when you’re awake.
You may be dreaming about your own death or people you don’t know and this can symbolise your mood or a period of personal transformation at the time of the dream.
Winter can be a time when everything feels like it’s dying so the time of year you have this dream can also be a factor. Prolonged periods of low mood can bring death into focus and so if you’re having dark thoughts, chat them through with your doctor as soon as possible. The Samaritans are available 24/7 in the U.K. on 116 123.
Dreams of Causing Death
The messages around Coronavirus have put the responsibility of others safety in our hands with the slogan “Save Lives”; if you dream you’ve inadvertently caused the death of someone, this might explain why. Not because it’s anyone’s intention to spread the virus, but an acknowledgement of the fear and concern about how the virus can be spread. Your dream may again be echoing a fear, rather than a reality, in that respect.
If you dream you have killed someone, this can symbolise the pain or hurt you may (or fear you may) have caused them, and worry this has potentially damaged the relationship. We sometimes say “well that’s killed it” meaning that we’ve possibly ended something or brought about the end of something, albeit unintentionally.
The “killing” in the dream is possibly a metaphor for something ending though – if for example you dreamt you were killing a monster, the monster could represent fears that you’re learning to control.
If someone is trying to kill you in the dream, this may symbolise hurt they have caused you or the aggressive actions of others that have caused you pain. If you’re frightened of the person in your dream and they are hurting you in your waking life as well, then it’s important to get help as soon as it’s safe to do so. Talk to your doctor or organisations like Refuge in the U.K. who can help.
In essence, it’s important to explore who and what is dying in your dreams – and how – and relating this to fears and worries you have in your daily life. Talking it through with your doctor or counsellor can help, especially if nightmares are affecting your sleep.
Keeping a dream diary when you have a common dream can be useful. You can download a free guide when you subscribe to my newsletter.
You should always use your own judgement when considering your dream’s meaning or the relevance of this article to your circumstances. Everyone is different, this article aims to be inclusive and cannot cover all scenarios – it is for reference only. Please see the terms and conditions at the foot of this website for more details.
Interested in Mental Health? Take a look at Helping You Sparkle™.
Please read the important information at the bottom of this page before leaving a question or comment, noting that if you choose to use my website as a resource, you accept the terms and conditions of this website, including copyright and disclaimer. The information provided here may only be of entertainment value and is not intended to replace any medical advice or opinion. Always speak to our doctor if you’re worried about your mental health or well-being. Any external links to which this website refers are for reference only, not an endorsement of that site. Thank you.
Copyright Delphi Ellis updated 2020.