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Do Deceased Loved Ones Visit Us in Dreams?
I was devastated when my grandmother lost her battle with Stage IV breast cancer and was taken from us in February 2010, after putting up an all too brief but very valiant fight for nearly two years. Nanni was the matriarch of our family, the glue that held us all together, and she was adored by her four children and eleven grandchildren. My mother was young when she gave birth to me, and my biological father was nowhere to be found, so it was my grandmother who was there in the delivery room the day I was born. She cut my umbilical cord and released me into this world, raised me as her own for five loving years, and remained my one true guiding light no matter how far she was out of sight. We had a bond that wasn't typical, it came from such a higher, stronger place that it made all earthly connections pale in comparison. She saved my baby teeth, my locks of hair, my baby jewelry, my Baptismal candle; she documented my every milestone in such a detailed way you'd have thought I was her firstborn daughter, though obviously I wasn't--I wasn't even her first grandchild, yet somehow I was always hers.
When she passed, the only thought that could give me comfort was that she would visit me in my dreams. I had had experiences like this in the past. My friend Heather, the first loss that really resonated with me, died suddenly at the tragic age of 16, and I began dreaming about her immediately following the funeral. She was always happy and healthy and surrounded by children (she had aspired to one day become a social worker, she loved kids). I'd come across her in the children's section of the library and say to her, "Come back with me, come back. Come to the adult section." And she'd just smile and reply cryptically, "I can't come with you, Jaclyn. I liked it there, don't get me wrong...but I like it here better."
Another soul-shattering loss was that of my best friend when we were both 26-years old. A lifelong sufferer of primary pulmonary hypertension, Danielle was not expected to make it past her third birthday. She beat those odds over and over again before the disease finally became too much for her to bear. Not long after her passing, I dreamed I saw her in the distance across a green, sunlit field; we went running towards each other at break-neck speeds, she wrapped me up in the biggest hug possible, and for a moment it was like she wasn't gone at all. In other dreams I'd be worrying and fussing over her, and she'd take my hand between both of hers, look me deep in the eyes and say, "Jaclyn, I'm fine."
I always knew that these dreams were more than just dreams. There was a vivid, meaningful quality to them that transcended anything my subconscious mind could create. I'll never forget the first time my grandmother visited me in a dream. It was one month after she had passed, and in the dream she was standing in front of a mirror fixing her hair. Nanni had always taken great pride in her appearance, but of course many months of chemotherapy had ravaged her blonde hair. In the dream, however, her hair was back. It was beautiful and even healthier than it had been before she got sick. I stood next to her in front of the mirror and she started hugging me and telling me about all the great things we were going to do that day: go for a bike ride, watch the sunset, play some golf, spend time with the entire family, etc. As happy as I was, I was also concerned. I said to her, "Nanni, that's so wonderful and I would love to do all those things with you. But you're gone now. I know you love us and want to stay with us, but you have to go to heaven. As much as I wish you could, you can't stay here any longer. Think of all the people who love you who are waiting for you in heaven -- Mom-Mom, Uncle Eddie, Aunt Carol..."
"I know that," my grandmother reassured me. "But don't worry about me. I'll get there, but it's my choice when I want to go, and for now I want to be here to watch over all of you for a little bit longer." She hugged me one more time, gave me the biggest, brightest smile, and then I woke up.
How to Tell if a Dream is a Visit from a Loved One
Our minds are trained to think logically. Our mantra is, I'll believe it when I see it (although a more accurate motto should be I'll see it when I believe it.) But when something truly spiritual happens, you can't deny the tug at your heart that tells you, "This is real."
- A visitation from a deceased loved one is always positive and loving. There is no negativity. If you dream of your loved one and the feelings that accompany it are fear, pain, anger, hatred, then this is definitely NOT a visitation. Those are human-based, fear-based emotions. None of those feelings exist on the other side. If a loved one who has departed is able to summon the strength required to reach you, and you are able to open yourself up enough to receive their message, rest assured it will only be a message of love. Negative dreams are simply subconscious constructions.
- The dream is vivid. You will awake remembering every detail, and will be able to hold on to those details for months or even years to come. Your surroundings will be beautiful and peaceful, and there will be an intense clarity not normally felt in standard dreams.
- Your loved one is happy and healthy. Since there is no sickness or pain on the other side, your loved one will usually appear looking her best. If she died of cancer, her hair will be fully grown back and perhaps more beautiful than you ever remember it looking. Most spirits will visit looking close to the age that you were most familiar with, but there are some who choose to come back with a look, or at an age, that they were happiest.
- They give constructive, worthwhile advice. My grandmother gave me three separate pieces of advice, in three separate dreams, one of which was very brief and she simply said, "Don't go back to school. Write that book instead." I knew this was a visitation from her spirit. My mother, on the other hand, dreamed of my grandmother one time and the dream was frightening. Nanni looked haggard and hunched over, and she whispered, "Your sister's going to lose her girls, and you're going to lose Jaclyn." That was absolutely NOT a visitation, as it did not come from a loving place.
- They give warnings. Although my mother's cryptic dream was not a visitation due to it's negative vibe, it is not uncommon for deceased loved ones to find a way to reach you if they have a real warning to share. (i.e. your grandfather, who lives alone, fell down the stairs, please go check on him.)
In my experience, the visitations occur less and less frequently as time passes and you begin to heal from your grief. This saddens me greatly. I wish every day that my grandmother could visit me every night and I could feel her arms around me just one more time. I understand that this is not possible, however, nor is it necessary. She came to me when I needed her most, in the months just after her passing, and I know she will come again if it is in my best interest. I comfort myself with the thought that she is ALWAYS with me, and I look forward to the day when she and I can meet again.