Messages from Beyond
Just what are the dead trying to say? According to Garfield, who has analyzed hundred of dreams collected from bereaved dreamers, the messages of the departed can be divided into 20 descriptively titled categories, such as "I'll Always Love You," (in which the deceased offer the dreamer their undying love,) and "I'm OK," (in which the dead appear radiant and vigorous — like my Uncle Jim did — to assure the dreamer all is well.)
Unfortunately, not all bereavement dreams are so comforting. Garfield has also identified categories of dreams in which the deceased curse, threaten or express sharp disapproval of the dreamer. These messages can be devastating to the bereaved, but according to Garfield, they also help us along the difficult path of grieving by forcing us to face up to unresolved personal issues with the deceased and find our way toward forgiveness and reconciliation.
In her book, for example, Garfield recounts the experience of a woman named Carla, who was guilt-ridden because she had placed her mother in a hospital against her will, where she had died alone.
On the night of her mother's death, Carla had a dream in which her mother lividly denounced her for "letting go" so easily. Carla was deeply upset by the dream. She saw her mother as an "unsettled spirit" and felt her anger as a reflection of the unresolved hurt and resentment between them.
Carla bore a terrible grief for months. Then, in this unforgettable dream of her mother, she found forgiveness:
"I hold her in my arms. We talk of unresolved anger, incidents of conflict from past years. There is a pervasive mutual sense of forgiveness and unconditional love. As I hold her, her body undergoes several magical, dreamlike metamorphoses. She becomes a tiny, vibrant, pink-skinned infant, an unrecognizable animal form, a grotesquely disfigured elderly woman, then back to herself. I am not alarmed or repulsed by these changes; my posture is one of nonjudgmental acceptance and love
"I am crying in the dream as the transformation unfolds, as I know it is a prelude to her final departure. The tears are not of anguish, but of release, for both of us. Peacefully, and with an exceptional aura of surrender in each of our hearts, she dies in my arms."
For Garfield, this sense of forgiveness and connection that Carla found is perhaps the most important reason to pay attention to our dreams about the dead.
"Our relationship with the dead is eternal," says Garfield. "We need to listen for their voices in our dreams. We need to ask ourselves, what part of them do we want to live on in us? It's a way of maintaining a connection. As long as we remember them, as long as we see their faces in our dreams, the best parts of them will live forever."