Close Encounters of the Spiritual Kind

Posted on July 17, 2018 at 5:15 PM

Our deceased loved ones are supposed to be dead. Laid to rest. Buried. Burned to ashes. Cremated. In some cases, their body is never found but declared dead. Physically inaccessible, unreachable, untouchable...gone.

And yet, you've still SEEN your loved ones in a dream after their death, healed of disease, trauma and disability. Whole and holy, illuminated with grace, wisdom, insights and love.

Logic tells you that a dead body can no longer function or communicate. Your religion tells you that no one can come back from the dead in any form. Your belief system demands tangible evidence. Friends and family listen, shaking their heads with worry that you've gone over the edge of grief. You think you're losing your mind but your gut says it's real and your heart soars with joy. Was it just a dream?

Ancient cultures have long acknowledged the ability of the dead to communicate with us from the after-life in our dreams. Present day western culture and science cast doubt on the reliability of such occurrences. Even so, communication from the dead in dreams is reported from groups of people around the world regardless of culture, religion, location, age or gender.

Bill Guggenheim and Judy Guggenheim, co-authors of Hello From Heaven, use the term "ADC", meaning "after-death communication" to describe " a spiritual experience that occurs when a person is contacted directly and spontaneously by a family member or friend who has died without the use of psychics, mediums, rituals or devices of any kind". (1) In their seven-year research of the 12 most common types of after-death communication they described a "sleep-state ADC" (2) as occuring in a dream.

I prefer to use the term "dream visit" to describe this phenomenon that I believe occurs as a soul to soul connection in the dream state where we are free of the perceptions of the physical world.

I am often asked why some people see their loved ones in a dream and others don't. Or why a prayer or sincere request to a deceased loved one to appear in a dream goes unanswered. How do we prove the validity of a "dream visit"? Why are dreams of the dead so random and unpredictable? Honestly, I do not know the answers to these questions and I am wary of anyone who says they do know.

You won't hear me citing statistics, data or scientific proof about dream visits from deceased loved ones because I don't believe any of it can prove or disprove what I consider to be a spiritual experience. It is what it is...for you. I can no more judge your experience than you can judge mine. I cannot interpret your dream anymore than you can interpret mine. Only you know what it means to you but with feedback from someone who is not emotionally invested in your dream you have an opportunity to see it differently. However, I can share with you what I've learned to be true for me and how I discern the difference between a grief dream and a dream visit of a deceased loved one.

The question is: how can we distinguish between the two when our deceased loved one appears in both types of dreams? Could it just be a case of wishful thinking in the throes of loss? As I've discussed in past columns, dreams of the bereaved mirror the pain and suffering of the griever offering solutions, self-reflections and healing. By accessing your personal dream dictionary and recognizing the associations you have to your personal symbols and universal symbols you can more easily identify patterns and universal themes that occur in your waking life that need resolution - hence identifying "wishful thinking". Remember, the dream ego has logged a lifetime of your experiences to get your attention. Given that, it is no surprise then, that the dream ego often uses our deceased loved one as a "symbol" to speak to us.

For example, four months after my father died of pulmonary disease complicated by pneumonia and MRSA, I had this "grief dream":

"The scene was an instant replay of familiar occasions when I would find Dad crunched in his recliner struggling to catch his breath. I told Dad that I remembered what we were supposed to do, so I cradled his skeletal frame and carried him to the couch that had become his bed in his last days at home. I stretched out his body so he could breathe more freely. I left him for a moment to gather myself, turning away to grieve the deterioration of his body. When I returned, the scene changed to his hospital room replaying the scene of his death. I cradled him in my arms and cried. The dream ended and I woke up."

In reviewing a dream like this without some knowledge of dream work, it's likely that a bereaved dreamer might assume that their loved one is still suffering after death. Why else would they appear this way?

If we follow the guidelines mentioned earlier, using your personal dream dictionary and recognizing the associations you have to your personal symbols and universal symbols, it is more plausible to suggest that on its basic level, my dream addresses my doubts about my caregiving abilities and the despair of the inevitable result. On a deeper level, my father's illness is also symbolic of the deep anguish and suffering of anticipatory grief, as well as the grief I was experiencing at the time of the dream. And, on a biological level, the dream also depicts the current illness in my body. I was actually suffering from bronchitis, laid out on my own couch with the same medications used to treat my father. My grief over the loss of my father was so overwhelming, it literally hurt to breathe.

When I went back to sleep that same night, I had another more profound dream:

"I was walking along a shoreline of what I thought was an ocean but what turned out to be a large swimming pool. The waves were gently lapping against the poolside and the water was a Caribbean blue. I wanted so much to get in the water and swim far away. Next, I saw a flash image of my Dad. He was in his late 30's, looking handsome and fit. Then, I heard him talking beside me and I became lucid. I turned and there was Dad now in his late 60's, healthy and vibrant! He said to me, "I loved being a father to you kids. I would do it all again for you, and for your children." I was overwhelmed with love and gratitude. it was wonderful to feel that deep connection with him again."


The dream faded but that sense of peace and gratitude remanisn with me whenever I recall this encounter. And, my emotions swell almost bringing me to tears. Therein, is what I believe to be the striking difference between a grief dream and a dream visit. It is a spontaneous occurence in the present moment, a "close encounter of the spiritual kind", and completely out of my control.

My father has shown me that he has transcended illness, pain and suffering to become whole again. He assures me that he is beside me, here in the present, not ahead of me in the future nor behind me in the past. We are speaking soul to soul and our connection is stronger and more conscious than ever before. This sacred exchange of love between us brings a sense of peace that heals a segment of my heart each time I recall the experience. This dream needs no further explanation or analysis. It is what it is for me...and I accept Dad's precious gift to me with gratitude.

Accept the gift of your dream with gratitude and rejoice.

Dreams are a Blessing in Disguise,


c 2008 Carla Blowey c 2018 Dreaming Kevin Publishing

This article was originally published in my column, THE DREAM CONNECTION, in Living With Loss Magazine, Spring 2009, Vol. 23, No. 1

[1] Hello From Heaven, Bill Guggenheim and Judy Guggenheim, Bantam Books, 1995

[2] Hello From Heaven, Bill Guggenheim and Judy Guggenheim, Bantam Books, 1995

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