When is a dream more than just a dream? Many dreams involving loved ones who have died feel like any other dream, but some people report having dreams of their dead loved ones, whether human or animal, where it feels like more than that is going on – where it feels like their dead loved one is actually trying to contact them.
These dreams, known as visitation dreams, are distinguished from other dreams by the intensity of the experience. They seem more real than other dreams.
“If you have to ask whether the visitation dream was really a visitation dream, then it probably was NOT a visitation dream. They are so real and vivid that you won’t have to ask this question,” Anne Reith of the Impart Wisdom & Wellness Center said on her website.
Researcher Joshua Black, who studies grief dreams, noted on his website that no one can tell you whether or not a dream of a deceased loved one is a visitation. He cautioned against interpreting a negative dream of a deceased person as a visitation, as such a dream is more likely a product of unresolved emotions.
“If your dream is positive, then believe whatever your heart wants to. Only you know how that particular dream feels to you,” Black said.
Reith noted in her list of characteristics of visitation dreams that the contact in visitation dreams is generally loving and supportive, elaborating, “After a visitation dream, when you wake up, you will often be filled with a sense of peace and love.”
For psychic medium Amanda Linette Meder, this result of feeling good and comforted is one of the top three characteristics that distinguish a visitation dream from other dreams. Another is seeing a light or glow around the person, or seeing the person’s image with unusual crispness.
Finally, in a visitation dream, your deceased loved one is addressing you directly.
As visitation dreams tend to communicate a more clear and specific message than other dreams, you probably aren’t here to analyze the mysterious and confusing content of your visitation dream. Instead, you’re here looking for validation that you are not the only person in the world who has had such an experience.
Many accounts of visitation dreams and related paranormal experiences have been submitted to the International Association for Near-Death Studies, Inc. (IANDS). In their terminology, visitation dreams fall under the broader category of near-death-like experiences.
Over the course of this article, I will summarize some of the relevant submissions IANDS has received and made available on its website as examples of visitation dreams.
Visitation Dreams of Humans You Already Know to Be Dead
Some visitation dreams take place within a few days after the person has died, as in the IANDS submission “Dream visit after mother’s death.” That incident referenced some aspects of the mother’s final illness but with a twist – the mother, who had long been afraid to die, communicated to the dreamer, “What was I so scared of?”
The mother also looked like “a gorgeous version of herself at her prime.”
According to Reith, dead people reappearing in visitation dreams almost always appear completely healthy and behave in a loving manner because “they are now reconnected with God/Source energy.”
Patrick McNamara, a neurology professor writing for Psychology Today, said he had a visitation dream of each of his parents about six months after their respective deaths, elaborating, “In both cases, the dream did not feel like the typical run-of-the-mill dream. Instead, the dream had a kind of hyper-real intensity to it. I felt that I had been touched or visited or communicated with. I could not easily shake the conviction that my father and my mother had communicated with me from beyond the grave.”
Why would some dead people visit right away while others wait six months or even longer?
Meder, who is a psychic medium, relayed on her website a process revealed to her in some of her readings. When a person dies, sometimes even before they die, they are first met by “friends, family, Spirit Guides, and Angels on the other side.”
Then the Spirit transitions out of the physical body, and Meder noted that some visitation experiences happen at this point in the process, when the dying person sees you “suffering at the thought of their suffering” and wants to reassure you.
After that, the Spirit rests and recuperates from their life on Earth and their dying process. Then, the Spirit undergoes a review of their life on Earth, of the good and the bad that they did.
The review process can take weeks to years, averaging around six months to one year. After that life review process is complete, the Spirit then has the freedom to “explore, visit, and take on jobs if they want to,” Meder said.
More research is absolutely needed on the details of what happens after a person dies, as this has long been one of the great mysteries of human life. Meder’s perspective is interesting to keep in mind for the time being, though.
In the IANDS submissions, visitation dreams with more complex messages beyond “I’m OK” do seem to come after some time has passed since the death. “Forgiveness requested from the ‘other side’” told the story of a husband coming back in a vision 11 years after his death to seek forgiveness for his behavior in an unhappy marriage.
In another IANDS submission, “Dream visitation uncovers family secret and is suggestive of reincarnation,” the dreamer had multiple visitation dreams involving their deceased grandfather where the grandfather repeatedly showed the dreamer mysterious images of a furnace.
The messages of visitation dreams are supposed to be less mysterious than those of other dreams, right? Well, when the dreamer reported this to other family members, it then came out that the family had had a stillborn child long ago who was cremated in the home furnace – and that the stillborn child shared the dreamer’s name, causing the dreamer and the dreamer’s aunt to wonder if the dreamer was the reincarnation of the stillborn child!
Most visitation dreams involve messages meant for you from people who were close with you in life. In IANDS submission “Visitation dream conveys pride from deceased father,” however, a critical father who never expressed pride in his son during his lifetime could only bring himself after death to appear to his son’s friend to convey the message that yes, he was proud of his son.
Meder elaborated that visitation dreams can go beyond your own human and animal loved ones to include the family and friends of people you know, as well as Spirit Guides and Angels.
But why does all the drama of these visitations have to take place while you are trying to sleep? Meder said sleep is an ideal time for Spirit to reach out to humans because the distractions of waking life – “daily activities, radio, television, family members, work to do, or things to think about” – are not competing for attention then.
We also are free from some internal distractions during sleep. “We also release our boundaries from fear, doubt, and question – at least until we wake up,” Meder said on her website.
For those attuned to the subtle things in waking life, though, Meder said other signs that Spirit is trying to connect with you can include flickering lights, misbehaving electronics, and items being moved around.
Visitation Dreams of Humans Where you Find Out They’re Dead
Some people experience a visitation dream of a loved one they did not know to be dead only to later learn that, at the very moment they were having that dream, the loved one died.
A prime example of this genre is IANDS submission “I shared my father’s death, helping him push over,” where the person was jolted awake from sleep at just the time their father was dying in a nursing home 80 miles away. The person had the awareness then that their father was dying.
Other visitation experiences of this sort happen during waking hours. They, therefore, are not always dreams that happen during sleep, but they have enough similarities to visitation dreams that happen during sleep that they are worth noting here.
One submission to IANDS, “Teen’s cognitive dream of his mother’s death,” described a teenage boy repeatedly dreaming of a car accident. The last night he had that dream was the night his mother died in a car accident just like the one in the dream.
He did not learn of his mother’s death until the next day. When his friend’s mother called him in from play, however, he knew before she could say so that she was going to tell him that his mother had died.
Another submission to IANDS, “Spiritual awakening at the hour of her brother’s death,” described experiences a person had while awake at the time her brother died, though the content of the experience this person had did not specifically reference her brother. It was more that she heard odd sounds and felt physical sensations, and then she learned the next day that her brother had died around the same time she began experiencing these phenomena.
Visitation Dreams of Animals
Some people report visitation dreams involving their pets who have died. Preston Ni is the author of a book on the subject, How to Interpret and Re-Experience Visitation Dreams of Deceased Pets.
Ni reported in Psychology Today that stories of pet visitation dreams usually include one or more of the following characteristics: the dream has a vivid and realistic quality; the deceased pet appeared young and healthy; the deceased pet telepathically relayed a loving and comforting message; there was an element of premonition or other supernatural qualities, and the dreamer was led to question their own views on life and consciousness.
In one story Ni relayed, “A reader reported being lovingly kissed by her deceased dog in a dream and woke up with her face moist and the room smelling like the puppy.”
Meder, on her website, noted a physical component in many visitations by deceased pets, whether they happen during your sleeping or waking hours. For instance, you can smell your pet, or you hear their dog collar or their panting.
Ni noted in another article for Psychology Today that visitation dreams of deceased pets can provide closure and can be life-changing for the dreamer.
In general, visitation dreams of animals, like visitation dreams of people, do a good enough job communicating their own message that heavy analysis of the symbolism may not be necessary. This website’s resources on the symbolism of dogs, cats, and other animals may provide additional background information on the animal in question, though.
Visitation Dreams of Angels
Can angels visit you in your dreams like your dead relatives or pets can? Some have reported experiences of this sort.
Beliefnet reported that it is necessary to use discernment and common sense when dealing with a potential dream of angel visitation. The real ones “usually leave a person with feelings of awe and wonder and that God is loving.”
One angel visitation dream that turned out to be legitimate provided a warning of medical danger. The dreamer, who was not having any symptoms, then sought medical attention, and a cancerous tumor was discovered in time to be successfully removed.
On a lighter note, IANDS submission “Delightful Candyland” told the story of a six-year-old being visited by two guardian angels in a dream. Apparently even angels get roped into playing Candy Land when they hang out with a six-year-old, but the dreamer had a sense of spiritual connectedness for some time after this incident.
Can you make yourself have a visitation dream?
Visitation dreams sound pretty exciting, especially if you’ve never had one. Is it possible to make yourself have a visitation dream?
Reith said on her website that it doesn’t hurt to try. She recommended thinking about your deceased loved one as you go to sleep and asking them to visit you in your dreams, and she said you could also ask guides or other spiritual helpers to assist the process in going smoothly.
Expressing gratitude for whatever contact you do receive also helps, though you are not guaranteed to receive an encounter. “For example, the soul may be relatively new at entering dreams and may not know how to do it. Or your guides know that you want to know something that your deceased loved one can’t tell you because you need to find the answer for yourself,” Reith said.
Meder concurred on her website that you can ask for a visitation dream. She noted that you might receive a second confirmation sign upon waking up from a visitation dream, such as hearing a song or seeing a symbol that represents your deceased loved one.
Famous Visitation Dreams
Singer Cher said in an interview with Oprah that she had a dream of her former husband Sonny Bono shortly after his death. He did not speak in the dream, but he was sitting near her, a vivid presence. When he turned and smiled at her, Cher had the sense that he was okay.
“I felt completely different after that dream,” Cher said.
This dream had many of the characteristics associated with visitation dreams, including the vivid nature, the comforting presence, and the dreamer’s changed perspective on the death.
Musician Paul McCartney said on Carpool Karaoke, about five minutes into the video, that his song “Let It Be” came from a dream. His mother, who had by then been dead for several years, told him “Let it be” in his dream, and he felt reassured.
This feeling of being comforted and reassured is characteristic of visitation dreams.
Visitation dreams ask much bigger questions than most other dreams do. In most dreams, what a particular symbol means to the interpretation of your dream has a lot to do with what you personally associate with it, so, to know what your dream means, you only have to get to know your own thoughts better.
In a visitation dream, though, you are connecting with someone other than yourself. Firstly, this brings the challenges you have in any waking life relationship, where whatever the other person is trying to tell you has to get through the filter of whatever you are hearing them say.
Waking life relationships, however, at least typically proceed from the neutral ground that, whatever differences we may have, we are all live humans here.
In a visitation dream, you’re not dealing with a fellow live human.
This component of visitation dreams can be challenging. It is hard to know what exactly happens after death, and this has been a major cause of conflict between humans for a very long time, in terms of wars based on different religious and philosophical views.
There is enough strange stuff going on in visitation dreams to challenge the views of not only atheists but also many conventionally religious people.
For example, some varieties of Christianity believe that each person is judged and sent to Heaven or Hell at their own individual death, but other varieties of Christianity believe that everyone is judged all at once in one Day of Judgment, as noted by the BBC. In the latter view, you basically sleep from whenever you die until the Day of Judgment, so a visitation dream might be difficult for someone with this background.
IANDS seems to spend a lot of its time helping people who have had unusual experiences learn how to cope with them, because these people are apparently not getting the support they need from the standard authority figures in the medical and religious establishments. Yes, visitation dreams are usually comforting in the moment that they happen, but if you are having a lot of trouble integrating the insights of your visitation dream into your waking life afterwards, you may want to reach out to IANDS.
Even in a best-case scenario, a visitation dream may open mysteries that are not easy to resolve about what really happens after we die. As Paul McCartney’s visitation dream of his mother concluded, we might just have to let it be.