2012-05-31 / Worship

Can ‘grief dreams’ be helpful when dealing with the loss of a loved one?


Before I begin I want to thank everyone in the Washington community for the encouragement to bring back this column. I thought I had run out of ideas however conversations with many of you have sparked several new topics for me that I hope to address in the coming weeks.

One topic that I hear often is that people dream about their loved one who has died. Sometimes it is just a smiling face, and other times a whole conversation is had, and these dreams are so vivid that they seem to be real life.

Not everyone dreams of their late loved ones or about other losses they have experienced. Just because you do not dream about a loss does not mean there is something wrong with you or the way you are grieving. Surveys in the United States report that about 60 percent of women and 40 percent of men say they have dreamed about deceased loved ones.

Throughout recorded history people have attached importance to dreams, seeing them as messages from the divine or predictions of the future. For its part, modern science has been studying sleep and dreams for decades, and many scientists believe dreams are important, not so much as message from the beyond but as an expression of what is going on in our minds.

A substantial number of therapists and psychologists hold that dreams express thoughts and feelings we are not fully conscious of. One researcher said dreams are a back door into a person’s mind and that they reveal stuff that you did not know was there.

Vivid dreams can also help people deal with strong emotions or solve problems. A researcher commented that it is as if the brain tries to figure out what it should be doing and whether our actions conflict with who we are when we dream.

It is not unreasonable to look at your dreams of deceased loved ones and see your mind trying to express your feelings about your loved one. These dreams help you to come to terms with those feelings, and help you to cope with the loss of that person from your life. In other words, these dreams may be helping you to grieve and move toward healing.

I will be continuing on this topic for a couple more weeks. If you have a question, or a topic you would like me to address, please feel free to contact me.

(Rev. Glen Kohlhagen is the pastor of the Washington Presbyterian Church and has also served as a hospice chaplain in Milledgeville for more than seven years. He can be reached at the church by calling 706-678-7511. Rev. Kohlhagen is available for individual or group discussions.)

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