Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Dreams of The Bereaved

When a loved one passes away, a common experience is that the bereaved will have dreams of the person in specific patterns. For example, a person may dream that the loved one is not actually dead, or, has come back to life. Another common dream is that the lost loved one has a important message that is being conveyed in the dream. Though these dreams are often reported by the bereaved, little empirical research has yet examined the exact nature of them and how they affect the dreamer in waking life. Given that grief and bereavement is such an important and profound human process, this area of research and clinical study is especially warranted. A graduate student at Trent University, Josh Black, is now examining the dreams of the bereaved in relation to their grief process. What important elements should be included in his study and how can dream therapy help the bereaved with their loss?

48 comments:

  1. In this case, I have much experience. My mother is convinced that she is visited by people who have passed on in her dreams to help her with certain cross roads in life. The other day, she was telling one of her stories and I finally figured it out. The traits and the words that her friends and family are using in the dreams are manifestations of the relationship she once had with them. She is not seeing spirits in her dreams but rather she is dreaming of waking life relationships that have occurred in the past.

    This brings me to the first element that I would include in research of this nature: sensitivity. In this moment, realizing that my mother honestly believes she has been talking with her loved ones for years, I did not feel it was my place to unravel her spiritual belief system. During the grief process, some people may hold onto the connection they share with his or her loved one by believing that they can still communicate with each other. It is not the place of a researcher to take that comfort away from the bereaved.

    Other elements in this arena of research may include the types of events related to waking day. This would attempt to further the tie between waking day events and dream imagery.

    How can dream interpretation help with bereavement? In the case where nightmares or unpleasant dreams are haunting the bereaved, dream therapy may help him/her work through unfinished business with the person who has past. Holding onto those moments that were not quite right can cause undo stress on a person who is already high in anxiety.

    Overall, I think working through dream imagery could help an individual come to terms with death and perhaps move on without dwelling on moments that cannot be changed.

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  2. Megan MacDougallJune 6, 2012 at 7:43 AM

    Elements that should be included in Josh’s study would be perhaps events that have occurred during the day in addition to the bereaved dreams. Furthermore, events that have occurred in one’s life during the day of the bereaved individual’s dream about a person that has passed away could be related. For instance, perhaps during that day something occurred that the dreamer wishes they could have shared with the individual that has passed on or the event just reminded them of their loved one.
    Dream therapy can help the bereaved with their loss by possibly still feeling as though they are connected with that individual in some way. Moreover, I know someone that has lost their mother yet will often dream about her and they will have conversations just like they use to. Through the dreams, my friend does not feel as though her mother is completely gone and that during her hardest times she is still able to talk to her mother and have her guidance. Additionally, dream therapy may help others who have suffered the loss of a loved one by resolving the issues that are causing the dreams. For instance an individual may find the meaning to one of their recurring dreams is stemmed from a conflict they had with the departed loved one. By working through this problem with a dream expert or therapist and feeling as though the conflict is resolved the person may feel more at peace.

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  3. One of the most important aspect in his research should include how the person having these dreams is coping with the situation in real life as the dreams may reflect their actual feelings in real life. Some may find themselves more relaxed when dealing with it in waking day life meaning their dreams may help bring back good memories of the person, and giving them realization that the person is in a better place giving them a satisfied feeling upon awakening.
    If the person is having a hard time dealing with thee death then their dreams will most likely reflect the stress and anxiety the person is feeling in waking day life.
    Another thing that should be included in the research is the relationship the person and the deceased had. the stronger the relationship the more affect the death will have on the person and their dreams.
    i believe that the imagery of the deceased will help the person deal in real life with the situation and give them a better realization that the person that died is in a better place and will be enjoying themselves.

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  4. As some of my classmates have pointed out, there are a number of important elements to include in this study. Firstly, I think it is important for participants to keep a dream journal and write down as many dreams as they can remember. I think they should also keep another journal outlining how they are coping with bereavement, to see if their dreams change as they cope.

    I also think it would be important to interview them to see their beliefs about death, spirituality and dreams. For example, I’m not sure if I believe in the afterlife or not, and all of my dreams about my late Grampa are more like movies of us playing together from when he was still alive. By contrast, I have a friend who strongly believes in Heaven/Hell, and she tells me about dreams of her Uncle coming down from Heaven like an angel to hug her. Perhaps there is a relationship between beliefs about death/spirituality and dream content.

    In terms of dream therapy helping the bereaved with their loss, I think certain dream interpretations such as the 2A Method would help uncover underlying emotions, and could assist in the coping process. Sometimes people believe that messages are being delivered in dreams, which can be confusing. As stated in DeCicco’s The Giant Compass, Meditative Dream Re-Entry can be used to re-enter a dream and fully uncover its meaning.
    -Jodi Souch

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    1. I agree with you Jodi. Having an understanding of the individuals views and beliefs about death would be key in trying to understand the dreams of the bereaved. As you mentioned, one's beliefs may have a huge impact on the type of dreams that are being had about those who have passed away. I think it would be interesting to see if any distinct patterns of dream imagery manifest in the dreams of those who believe in an afterlife in comparison to those who do not.

      Dream therapy may be helpful to the bereaved because it can help with understanding one's emotions in regard to their loss. Additionally, dream therapy may be able to guide the individual through the grieving process in a way that it most suitable to them.

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  5. There are many important things to consider when taking on a study like this. It is important to consider each individual uniquely as everyone experiences grief in a different way. It certainly depends on how much time has passed, what kind of support social system the individual has and the personal characteristics of the individual themselves. For instance, has the individual taken part in therapy before? Have they lost anyone close to them before? How they are feeling in regards to the death of their loved one at this point of the grieving process?

    I think dream analysis is an interesting way to look at the grieving process of an individual and I think it will really help them. That is, it is a new way of looking at their life and dreams can reveal issues that they were not entirely aware of.Furthermore, individuals may experience potentially disturbing dreams after they have lost a loved one such as seeing their loved one in their dream for the first time after they have passed. I feel a study like Black’s is would be very interesting to explore. Like other illnesses and events we have discussed such as depression and cancer patients, I wonder if there is common dream imagery that shows up in the dreams of people who are grieving. Also, through dream interpretation are people able to benefit in the long run of their grieving process from what they learn if discovery is met?

    Furthermore, the previous post brings about a good point as well in regards to this study. It would be important to consider the grieving individual’s beliefs about dreams and spirituality in terms of their therapy. The example Jodi shared is compelling and would be interesting to explore and compare more closely to other grieving individuals.

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  6. When I discovered we would be doing dream interpretation of our own dreams in this course I knew I would be using some dreams I have had about someone I have lost.

    My brother passed away unexpectedly and in a tragic accident. He was a pilot and during a flight his Cessna crashed.
    My grandmother then had lung cancer diagnosed 3 months later and died 6 months after her diagnosis.

    This leads me to the first comment I have on the topic: Josh needs to be extremely sensitive to the individuals he is working with. Each loss is so radically different from another. No one saw Andy's death coming, on the other hand, we watched my grandmother slowly die in palliative care. Sensitivity to those you are working with is a must as everyone copes so very differently with death. The dreamer needs to come to their own conclusions at all times throughout the process of dream interpretation.

    I think it will greatly depend on the individuals Josh is working with. Depending on where you are in your grief process you may come to different conclusions. They may go back after awhile and reevaluate their situation. They may not.

    Spirituality will also need to be taken into consideration. Beliefs are very powerful for people and can provide great comfort or confusion depending on where their beliefs lie. As an example, I am not sure I believe in a God or an afterlife. I consider myself Agnostic. If someone could provide concrete proof of these things I would believe it. I can't just blindly accept it (this is how I feel, in no way do I say these words to offend anyone) So I have a very difficult time both in waking day and with my dreams because I wrestle with the feeling these people are completely gone forever, in every way. On the other hand, my husband is Anglican and although his grief was just as consuming and painful he has come to a stage of complete acceptance and I can't say I am or ever will be there. I find this reflected in my dreams. Respecting everyone is an individual and feels about spirituality very differently is important.

    I chose to share a dream about my brother who passed for our Projective Method lab and when people took on the dream as their own some of their comments gave me things to think about and I actually found comfort in some of them. So in terms of helping someone with their loss I think being able to see situations through someone else's eyes can remove you a bit from your own situation to help you sit back and reevaluate where you are in terms of your grief process.

    Recognizing where they are in the grief process through dream work may help them to work on themselves in their waking day experiences to come to a place of peace and learn to accept the process of loss as a part of life.
    -Samantha Lewer

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  7. Morgan Gail Stykel (0388819)June 6, 2012 at 12:01 PM

    I believe that Mr. Black should include a number of elements in his study. First, he may want to include the relationship of the loved one. For example, if the loved one was a significant other, a mother, a sister, or a friend. Second, he may want to include the age of the dreamer and the lost one, since people of different ages might have different meanings or different trends in their dreams about loved lost ones. Third, he may want to include how the loved one past away; suddenly, expectedly, etcetera. Fourth he may want to include spirituality, traditions, and culture of the dreamer since these might help explain dream elements specifically of the dreamer. Finally, one more element I believe Mr. Black should include in his study is the health of the dreamer. Since people with depression or mental disorder may have different dreams, it might help Mr. Black understand the dreamer more if more is known about the dreamer. It might also be good to know if the dreamer has had any therapy prior to this dream analysis in order to deal with their loss.

    I believe this could be a very helpful study. Those who are grieving might be able to receive therapy and understanding why they are experience a lost one in a dream may be therapeutic. It may help the dreamer accept reality, and be a source of closure.

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    1. Using the relationship and age of the loved one that passed is a great idea that I never thought of. These factors would really affect how a person is coping in their waking life which would than factor into their dreams.

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  8. Christine McAteerJune 6, 2012 at 1:05 PM

    There are many important aspects that need to be focused on during this study. As stated already the understanding of each individuals situation and relationship with the loved one that passed away.

    The idea of a dream journal is a great way to see all the dreams the individual is having and try to make connections to the way they are acting on their waking life. This will also allow them to see if their are any reoccuring dreams that could be more significant then the others if they are effecting the individuals dream world more then others.

    An individual who has lost a loved one will experience grief differently from their friend or even their sibling. Each individual is effected differently and will be impacted through their dreams differently.

    The use of dream interpretation methods is a great indeed which will help josh and the dreamer see if their is more underlying reasons for the dreams and it not necessarily the loved one that passed trying to tell the person something.

    The study being conducted by Josh Black is an interesting one that will allow us to understand better the relationship between our dreams regarding a loved one that has passed away and our waking life. But it is important to look at each participant individual situation.

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  9. When Dr. DeCicco informed me that the blog this week was on dreams in bereavement I was very excited to read all the posts! Grief is a very traumatic process that most of us will be forced to experience in our lifetime. I personally experienced grief when my father died unexpectedly four years ago. One of my first dream themes that I had occur was the theme of Saying-Goodbye, which occurs when the dreamer knows the deceased is dead and they say their goodbyes. I believe that this dream gave me closure and this had a huge positive impact on my grief process.

    There are many other dream themes that have been reported to have a positive impact on one’s grieving process. For example when the deceased apologizes to the dreamer for some wrong doing that they did when they were alive, or when the deceased approves of the decisions that the dreamer is making in waking life (e.g. if the dreamer is remarrying). The most horrific dream theme I have come across is the Dying Again dream which occurs when the deceased is seen suffering from the symptoms that caused the death either as it happened or in a distorted way. So why do certain bereaved individuals dream of these horrific dream themes and while others report having pleasant ones?

    Hopefully with your suggestions regarding different elements that might be beneficial to include in this study, this research can enhance the field of bereavement literature and can eventually find its’ way into the hands of those who really need it... the bereaved.

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  10. In looking at dreams of the bereaved I agree with Stacy that, "It is important to consider each individual uniquely as everyone experiences grief in a different way." I believe it is important for Josh Black to take this element into consideration. Every individual has a unique personality and unique emotions and also unique ways of dealing with things in their life. Josh needs to make sure he is considering that everyone will be experiencing their bereaved in relation to their grief process in a different way. There are many other elements which are significantly important that he should include in his study such as: the age of the dreamer (children, adolescence and adults will have different meanings in their dreams), if they are male or female (sex changes imagery in dreams), how the individual passed away (significantly could effect imagery if dreamer feels its their fault), if they have a mental health disorder (disorders significantly effect dream imagery as we have previously read with Professor DecCico) also their culture and spirituality. I believe there are many elements that need to be included in order to not flaw the study, the elements previously stated were a few I personally found to be most significant.

    My mother lost many things in her life and I don't find it appropriate to go into detail throughout this blog. However through discussions with my mother and knowing what she went through makes me realize why her dreams are so vivid and nightmare related. I believe that dreams have ben haunting my mom for years due to her grief process and the nightmares don't seem to stop. When I started this course I began to call my mom and discuss with her how looking into your dreams can significantly improve your waking day life and also can get rid of your nightmares if you fix the issue that is causing the nightmares (this could be anything from unfinished business, to talking to someone in relation to the bereavement to something as simple as forgiveness). My mom has begun to look into her dreams now and has felt closure in areas of her grieving process through just knowing that her dreams mean something, so what can dream therapy and dream interpretation bring, it can bring a lot more.

    As we all know through taking this course all of our dreams mean something and all of our dreams are leading us in a path way to help our waking day life. So yes to the answer above dream therapy can significantly help the bereavement with their loss. Dream therapy can help them to realize they need to give forgiveness in their life or they need to reconnect with someone who they shut out of their life. Dream therapy will show the individual why they are having these vivid dream imageries and how they can fix the reasons for having the dreams of the person. Dream therapy can also give an individual closure and I think that is one of the most important things after someone passes away. Closure, closure to their death, closure to the fact that it was not your fault (in most cases), closure that forgiveness is possible, closure with others involved and closure for yourself to move forward in your waking day life happy and not holding yourself back. Dream therapy can be significantly beneficial overall to help the bereaved to better their future through fixing the past loss they had by filling in some of the unanswered thoughts or questions.
    ~Abby Ross

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  11. Also....I wanted to say thank you Josh Black for your comment on the blog. It shows your passion and dedication towards your examination into the dreams of the bereaved in relation to their grief process.

    ~Abby Ross.

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  12. In studying the dreams of bereaved persons, it could be interesting to examine the emotional state of the dreamer during the dream (specifically when they are interacting with the deceased in their dream). Does the interaction accurately reflect the quality of the relationship that was once had in waking life, or does the interaction differ? For example, if someone had a rocky relationship with the deceased person in waking life and their dreams are now of positive interactions, that could be meaningful. It could indicate that the bereaved person may benefit from working through feelings of regret, disappointment, sadness, etc.

    Working through feelings related to grief could be facilitated through clinical therapy, support groups, meditation, journaling, art-making, or writing a letter or poem to the deceased.

    Additionally, if the relationship in dreaming life differs significantly from what the relationship was like in waking life, how much does it differ and in what ways?

    Another interesting question might be how does the dreamer feel emotionally upon waking? Is there a common feeling of peace upon waking, or do dreams of deceased loved ones precede feelings of sadness, regret, and deepened grief?

    A few people have noted that dreaming about deceased loved ones has provided them with comfort and closure. On the other hand, if bereaved peoples are not dreaming about their deceased loved ones and yet would like to, it could prove useful to teach people how to influence their own dreams. There could be some sort of emotional blockage that is preventing them from dreaming about the deceased.

    I also think that a longitudinal study would be useful. It could examine how dreaming of deceased people changes over time. Does it coincide with the bereaved person’s own healing journey?

    Finally, if a person learns how to bring about lucid dreams, they could potentially facilitate their own closure and healing by purposefully interacting with the deceased via their dreams. Whether or not they believe it is a spiritual experience may not be relevant.

    Lindsay Dixon

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  13. I would first like to acknowledge that I myself have not yet lost anyone close to me, therefore anything I comment on regarding the grieving process is only speculation, so I hope not to offend anyone if I say something that isn't quite how it is.

    I agree with the posts above suggesting that sensitivity is a very important element to include in these sorts of studies. Everyone grieves differently and has different views surrounding death and the presence or absence of an afterlife, and these are often matters which are very private and personal to the individual.

    I believe an important element to consider in a study on bereavement and dreams would be a detailed description of the dreamer's relationship with the deceased. First of all, how are they related? Second, how was the relationship; was it a close loving relationship or a relationship filled with aggression and tension? Third of all, any "unfinished business" must be noted. Closure is a very important part of the grieving process. If the dreamer has not received closure with the deceased yet, the deceased may "appear" in their dreams, since we know waking day issues spill over into our dreaming lives. Dream interpretation may give insight to the dreamer about the "unfinished business" that needs to be dealt with in order for the dreams to cease. Therefore, in finding discovery, one can use their insight to look into this unfinished business and rectify the situation, and ultimately obtain closure. I also believe that if the dreamer has not forgiven the deceased for something, this could spill over into their dreams. Using dream interpretation to get insight into the dream meaning could allow the dreamer to realize that forgiveness is a key component of human interaction, and that they must forgive the deceased for whatever requires forgiveness. The dreamer can then receive closure and "move on" from the unfinished business.

    Other important elements to include would be any support systems the dreamer has and any coping skills. These are important because everyone deals with loss in different ways, and knowing what support they have and what coping methods they use would help to understand the circumstances of their dreams. Also, as mentioned previously, it would be imperative to note the dreamer's beliefs surrounding death.

    In addition, I wonder if it would be possible for a grieving individual to somehow initiate lucidity in their dreams. So for example, if a grieving daughter has dreams of her deceased mother and feels there is some sort of unfinished business, maybe the daughter can train herself to lucid dream so she can confront her mother in her dreams to gain more insight into the unfinished business. Just an idea!

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  14. Steffanie PorterJune 6, 2012 at 6:30 PM

    I think it would be interesting and scholarly to follow the dreams of the bereaved throughout the whole grief cycle. I wonder if the dreams provoke the transition from one stage of the grief cycle to the next or if there are waking day transitions that influence dream events.

    I think the 2A method would be most appropriate because you want to get in touch with the emotions as much as possible, even though it will be difficult for the bereaved to deal with.

    I expect Mr. Black would be able to narrow down the patterns of dreaming by splitting his study up into the 5 stages of grief, and having the bereaved record dreams with the 2A method throughout their grieving process.

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  15. There are many steps in the grieving process so I would expect that if the bereaved were to keep a dream journal throughout their grief, the dreams would coincide with the step that the person is in their grieving process. If many people's dreams were studied through out the grieving cycle, common patterns might show up. Once a pattern is recognized, the bereaved person might be able to be warned on what to expect through the grieving process by their therapist. Depending on whether the dreams about a person's deceased loved one were positive or negative, this could give a person's therapist meaningful information on how they are feeling in their waking life.

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  16. The study of the dreams of the bereaved is an absolutely fascinating endeavour. For the longest time a friend of mine always said that after losing his father he was happiest when he was asleep because his father would visit him in his dreams and for him dreaming was the only time he was able to talk to his father that he missed so much. I think this kind of notion really highlights how interesting the study of the dreams of the bereaved can be.

    There are many elements that I think would be interesting to include in a study about the dreams of the bereaved. Many ideas that I think are important to study have already been studied by other students. One thing that I feel is particularly important is the need to follow the dreams of the bereaved along a time line from the period since the tragedy occured until the person is essentially relieved of their grief (monitoring changes in the dreams during this period). Moreover, I think it would also be quite interesting to monitor the dreams of the individuals a long time after the period of acute sadness as I hypothesize that dreams that might initially be associated with pain and loneliness might eventually morph into dreams of happiness as the bereaved may begin to view the dreams as an opportunity to spend time with the deceased (similar to the person I spoke of in my opening paragraph).

    As other students stated I think it would also be very important to attain a detailed assessment of the relationship between the deceased and the bereaved. This detailed assessment should include more information than simple descriptive terms such as mother; but instead an in depth analysis of the intimacy and emotions associated with the relationship.

    Finally, I think dream therapy can help the bereaved in a manner similar to the way in which dream therapy can help any sort of illness or trauma victim. I think dream therapy would help the bereaved isolate specific emotions and thoughts that are necessary to be dealt with during the waking day. In this same vein the imagery and dreams of the bereaved could then be used as markers of emotional progression from the tragedy.

    Evan Mitchell

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  17. In regards to bereavement I see this usually with my parents as they always recall their parents being in their dreams though they don’t really understand why but the dream is very much real to them. An example would be my mother where my grandmother had passed away though my mother and her never felt close. My mother recalls vividly a dream that followed where she and her mother had reconciled their differences and demonstrated a love for each other. The dream affected my mother in many ways and also leads to confusion as she didn’t understand why my grandmother was in her dreams after her passing.

    Dream interpretation will help many people understand their dreams and especially those who are bereavement because a lot of the time these people suffer from the passing of their love ones and cannot understand why they are in their dreams and what is the meaning behind it. Dream interpretation will help those solve their confusion, help them look at the dream in a different way, and possibly allow them to relate their dream to their waking life. The methods such as TSM, 2A Method, and Projective will help give different perspectives about their dream where they can take one of these methods and help them consider how their waking life is affecting their dreams. Therefore, the bereavement will realize that their feelings, emotions, thoughts, etc is affecting their dreams and that their dream of their loved one is just trying to display how the dreamer is actually feeling about the situation of their loved one passing away.

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  18. Interestingly, after the death of my father in 2003, I myself had dreams that he was not actually gone. These dreams seemed very real and always included many friends and relatives who knew that he was alive and were trying to keep this from me. It was as if everyone was trying to keep me away from him. I would spend the entire dream trying to contact him, but never could. My father lived with me during the final four months of his life and we had discussed that when he passed I would like him to try to contact me to let me know he was okay. I often wondered if this was a sign that he was trying to contact me but that I was not receptive enough.
    I eventually stopped having the dreams about him being alive and hiding from me, and found that he never appeared in my dreams at all for quite some time.
    I believe that I was in the denial stage of grief when I was dreaming of him as still alive, and as I progressed through the grief process my dreams became less and less about him, signifying that my emotions of grief were dissipating.
    I agree that dream therapy as it relates to the grieving process is definitely worth examining further, as it could very well help the grieving person work through their emotions about their loss and help them to progress through the bereavement process more peacefully by gaining insight from their dreams. I don't really remember how these dreams affected my waking life at the time as I was not familiar with dream interpretation at that time.
    Important elements that should be included in a study such as this one might include a history of the relationship between the dreamer and the deceased as well as dream therapy techniques such as TSM, the 2A Method and the Projective Method. It would be important to start working with the dreamer soon after the death of the loved one and to follow through working with them until they are able to make sense of their dreams and are working through the grieving process.

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  19. Jodi introduced a great point; by having participants keep both a dream journal and a journal outlining their daily feelings on departed loved ones, we would be better able to find patterns in bereavement dreams. For example, using this technique might allow us to notice changing consistent dream patterns as a participant shifts through the stages of acceptance after a loss.

    People coping with bereavement may be one of the best possible targets for dream therapy. This is because the bereaved may benefit from the internal reflection and meaning of dream therapy as opposed to the consoling of other people. Also, dream therapy may help people with the common feeling of needing to "make sense" of a loved one's death.

    Lastly, by better understanding bereavement dreams with future research, we may be able to better identify how a person is subconsciously coping with a loved one's death.

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  20. An important element that should be included in his study would be for the participants do keep a dream journal that records both how they are feeling in their waking life (emotions – feeling of being alone, sadness etc) and what they dream about in full detail including emotions. This may help in determining an individual grief process when it comes to dreams of the bereaved. By keeping a dream journal and recording waking life emotions, the study would be able to see how the participants are coming to terms with their grieving process. Also, maybe using the TSM method in the study would be an important element. Participants using the TSM method, they might be able to achieve discovery and help with understanding their grieving emotions and how they come to terms with their waking life situation. Using the TSM method, would help in dream therapy. A pattern may be seen and the therapy may be better to assist in coming to terms with their loss. Dream therapy can also help to give insight on what they can do in their waking life to help the grieving process easier.

    -Erin Hillier

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  21. Jennifer Cheznowski 0376917June 7, 2012 at 6:56 PM

    What important elements should be included in his study and how can dream therapy help the bereaved with their loss

    One important element of the study would be to include how close the individul was to the dreamer. Those who have someone pass in their life that was close to them might react differently compared to someone who had someone pass who was not as close to them.

    Underlying emotions can be revealed through dream therapy. Understanding the results of a dream therapy analysis can help the dreamer to interpret their dreams and determine their true emotions. Once an individual understand their real emotions behind a situation such as a death of a loved one, it might make overcoming the event someone easier and even more successful.

    Someone may believe that they have overcome a persons passing, hoever their dreams may show otherwise. In proper dream analysis, a dream interpretation may reveal that an individual is still in fact morning over a loss of a loved one. This individual may be unconscious of their emotions towards the situation and dream interpretation may help the person to face their true feelings, helping them to overcome their un dealt with emotions.

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  22. Important elements to include in a study on dreams based on the bereaved in relation to their grief process should first include a dream journal as Jodi discussed above. It is important to keep track of your dreams and to keep track of the content and pattern that they may or may not occur in. However, religion and beliefs also need to be taken into serious consideration. Some believe that those who have passed come back to earth in some other form, whether it to be to give strength and help coping to their families or to leave behind a message. Others believe that the dreams that they have give specific meaning to the loss of their loved ones.
    Dream journals are the first thing to include. Secondly, knowledge about the religious beliefs of the study participant are also important. A third aspect could be to include the use of different dream therapies in order to find the method that works best for each participant. This could be a long and expensive process, but it could be very worthwhile in order to properly determine the grief process by those who have lost a loved one.
    Counselling may need to be provided when necessary and of course proper disclosure of the study. These aspects may change the outcome of the study because the participants may or may not leave out parts of their dreams that they may feel aren't important or are embarrassed to reveal.
    Although there may be downfalls with dream therapy many individuals who are bereaving the lost of a loved one may get comfort in knowing the meaning that is laying within their dreams. Finding this meaning may give them the comfort that they need in order to move on and past the death.

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  23. An important area to explore would be the emotional aspect of dreaming and grief. Grief is a very profound emotion and could be elicited or dispelled by dreaming depending on the content. For this reason, I think finding relationships between waking day emotions through the grieving process, as well as emotions triggered by dreaming may help to get through the grieving process faster.

    As well, TSM should be explored for those who are experiencing a more difficult time dealing with loss. Individuals who dream of their loved ones as not being dead or trying to convey messages to them may be having a particularly hard time with the grieving process (support for this would be found by finding relationship between dream content and waking day emotions). Through using TSM, grieving individuals may be able to find some discovery about their dreams that help them cope with their loss. So exploring this as a coping mechanism for clinical application would be especially important.

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    1. I agree with you, Michelle. It is essential that the emotionl aspect of the dreams be explored. As others have indicated, the grief process is unique to the individual. Many factors can impact a person's ability to cope and adjust to new life circumstances. The relationship to the loved one and the cause of death can affect the emotional response of the bereaved.
      A good friend of mine lost her father a couple of years ago. Prior to his death, she was anxious about his health. She recognized that he had been making many poor lifestyle choices and she was nervous about the consequences they would have. After his death, she had the same dream for several months. In her dream she answered the phone and on the other end a voice told her that her father was going to die. As her father had already passed away, this dream provoked a lot of confusion and stress.
      Through therapy, my friend was able to understand that her dream reflected the feelings of guilt she had about not warning her father about the severity of his poor health and irresponsible decisions. The dream helped her to understand the fixed emotions that she was having difficulty overcoming.
      With emotional knowledge such as this, therapists can help their patients to develop effective coping strategies that target specific aspects of the loss that prevent the bereaved individual from gaining control of their emotions.

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  24. I can't say I have much or any experience in a scenario such as this. I do however feel that dreaming of a deceased loved one, especially right after their death is a sign of a sort of traumatic experience that the dreamer might be going through thus causing either unpleasant or even pleasant dreams of want.

    I think one of the major elements to include in the study is figuring out the process of whether the death of the deceased was expected, or prepared for. In many circumstances, dreamers may dream of a loved one due to unresolved issues, or conflicts, things that could have been said and done but weren't due to time restraints. Keeping into account sudden deaths and expected deaths would help to identify the kind, severity and frequency of these specific dreams experienced. A major aspect of these dreams is the content of the dream. In certain cases the content will indicate unresolved issues, in other pleasant memories that could help the dreamer in waking life as a form of a coping mechanism. Dream therapy can be highly useful to help a person deal with the pain that comes with losing a loved one. Dream content can indicate what the dreamer feels is causing the greatest pain which can then be worked on with relatives and other loved ones.

    I cannot personally say with experience whether dreaming of the deceased is helpful or not. I think in certain cases dream therapy can be helpful to figure out what areas should be discussed to help cope with death. In other cases dream therapy could bring to light issues that one cannot do anything about, thus leaving the dreamer to not only become aware of these issues but also have to deal with the fact that nothing can be done about it.

    -Nabiha Hassan

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  25. The most important thing about the dreams of people dealing with a loss, is the fact that they are a window into the subconscious and can help determine how this person is dealing with their loss as an individual. Everyone is different and deals with things differently. Also, it allows the grieving person to understand how they truly thought of the person they have lost, and if there are any unsolved issues; if a person is constantly dreaming negatively/ "Haunting" dreams about someone after they have passed, maybe there is some sort of conflict there that needs to be forgiven in order to move on properly. So researchers should see if there is any sort of relationship between haunting dreams and unsolved conflict because this would help with therapy and the overall well being of individuals who have dealt with a loss.

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  26. I can think of two important aspects to add to such a study. First I think you would want to examine the relationship between the dreamer and the deceased. The nature of the dream, the content, could all be very specific to the relationship and emotions that person may have for the deceased. As well, looking at the causality of the persons death could predict certain dream scenarios. For instance, if a loved one has passed on unexpectedly, dreamers may experience that the person is not dead and still alive, perhaps a symptom of denial. They may even experience nightmares having not been able to say goodbye. I think these are two major aspects to consider when examining the dreams of the bereaved in relation to their grief process.

    I think all three dream interpretation methods we've used so far would be helpful for the bereaved. They will help the individual by tapping into the people, events, and emotions that are driving these types of dreams. For example, if the dreamers close friend died from a car collision because of a drunk driver, they may have a lot of emotional dreams associated with anger. After interpreting and using these methods the person may gain insight that these emotions need to be addressed in their waking life for them to find peace.

    -Nicole Hinan

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  27. I believe that the most important elements that should be included in Josh Black’s study are empathy, confidentiality, and safety is incredibly important – grief and bereavement are likely the most challenging human experiences. Individuals may reveal thoughts and feelings that they are ashamed of, fearful of, embarrassed by, etc., and they must feel confident that what they are is respected and kept private.

    In addition, the feelings associated with the grieving process, as well as the dreams, may provide great insight. Do they feel more grief upon awakening from such dreams? Do they feel relief? I think it may also be important to learn how the bereaved views the dreams (e.g., spiritual beliefs).

    I believe dream therapy would be greatly beneficial for helping the bereaved with their loss. Dream therapy could serve as an effective coping technique itself, or may provide ideas for coping. Additionally, dream therapy may promote emotional awareness throughout the grieving process, as well as provide the individual with insight to questions or unresolved issues relating to the loss. Dream therapy may also initiate the exploration of spiritual and existential beliefs, which may contribute to helping the bereaved find comfort and peace.

    - Lindsey Martin

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    1. Hi Lindsey, I think your inclusion of empathy, confidentiality and safety is so crucial! Grieving is an extremely personal and intimate process; there is no “right way” to grieve the loss of a loved one. It is therefore very important to allow people to grieve in the way that seems best to them. I agree that dream therapy may be extremely beneficial to the dreamer. I feel as though it has the potential to offer comfort and closure to the person who is grieving.

      Ann-Marie Harris

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  28. My father passed away about 16 months ago. Up until present day I experience the same dream with him in it; I always dream we are speaking on the telephone about everyday life and things we have done recently. When I wake up I realize they are bits and pieces of different conversations we have had.
    If I were to analyze this dream for empirical purposes, there are several things I feel as though it would be important to include. The first would be to understand the nature of the deceased’s death, i.e. whether it was sudden or expected. It would also be important to understand the relationship between the dreamer and the deceased. An important part of this would include the emotions the dreamer associates with the deceased, and what their relationship was like at the time of death. One method of gathering information could be asking the participants to keep a dream journal that is as detailed as possible. I think either the Storytelling Method or the 2A method of dream interpretation would be appropriate in this case, since they both explore emotion and association.

    Ann-Marie Harris

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  29. Jazmine EtchellsJune 10, 2012 at 5:31 PM

    So many key elements have been touched upon thus far in regards to variables that Mr. Black should include while conducting this first study. I think that it is extremely important to know the relationship between the dreamer and the deceased. This may provide insight on whether relationship status plays a role in the occurrence of these types of dreams. Secondly, each participant should keep a detailed dream journal, making sure to include as much detail about each dream and the emotions that surround it. By doing this researchers may grasp a better understanding of frequency of these dreams and certain stages of coping. After losing someone there are stages that one must go through in order to find peace. I think that these stages will have a profound effect on what the dreamer experiences during dreaming state. If someone is using the denial coping strategy, for example, in their struggle to deal with the situation in their waking lives they may be more likely to dream about that person as if they were still alive. Empirical evidence is needed to support this hypothesis. . With this knowledge therapist will be able to guide their patients accordingly to how they are coping with the death and help them through the difficult time.

    The dreamer’s belief system should also be taken into consideration while conducting this study. Whether or not the dreamer believes in such spirituality as life after death could have an impact on the prevalence of these dreams. If the dreamer doesn’t believe that the soul continues after death than they may be less likely to experience dreams in which the deceased appears. Having said this, the use of interpretation methods and a professional dream interpreter should be consulted before concluding the meaning of such dreams.

    Dream imagery can stem from multiple situations and scenarios, which is why this study is not only intriguing and fascinating but also important. Dealing with the death of someone you know or love is difficult. Therefore, understanding the dreams in which these individual appear can be very helpful in coping and dealing with the situation for the dreamer. This study may yield great insight into what this dream imagery is conveying and what it is connected to waking life.

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  30. In addition to the previous blog, I agree that the nature of the death is very crucial. If the death was sudden or expected this could affect one's grieving process immensely, as with an expected death one has time to process and 'say goodbye' so to speak. Also, an important aspect to include in the study is the greiver's experiences with the death process and how, (if they have ever experienced death of a loved one), they have coped previously. Dream therapy could help the bereaved with their loss by allowing them to communicate with a professional dreams directly connected to their deceased loved one. Using open communication and connecting with a professional other about their dreams can enhance their coping through the sharing process as well as through personal discovery. A specific dream tool that could be incorporated is the story telling method, as this seems most personal to the bereaved individual, and it has an 80% discovery rate. Gaining insight on their dreams associated with their deceased loved one can allow them 'closure' and enhancement of their coping mechanisms in the future with potentially similar experiences of death.

    -Emily Nyboer

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  31. Stephanie WottonJune 10, 2012 at 7:06 PM

    Research has already shown that the dreaming mind is an extension of our waking day life. This would be an extremely important factor to examine in bereavement research. This research should include an examination of the dreamers relationship with the deceased, the nature of the death (expected, unexpected, young age, old age) and the individuals ability to cope effectively with the death of a loved one. The personal beliefs of the dreamer may also provide insight into the type of dreams the dreamer is experiencing. Research has shown that dream patterns exist among cultural and religious groups and this would almost certainly affect the dreams experienced by bereaved individuals. Dreams may help bereaved individuals throughout the grief process in the way that dream interpretation may bring to light emotions or rejects that the individual wasn't aware of. Once the individual is aware they can take the steps to address the emotions or regrets.

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  32. Janine LownsbroughJune 10, 2012 at 7:22 PM

    As many of the previous posts have already touched on, important aspects to focus on are sensitivity, relationship to the deceased, and the way they passed away.
    After reading the first comment on Jessica saying her mother believes the deceased came to her in her dream, one thing came to mind. When my grandmothers mother passed away, on the day of her funeral she told the story that she had a dream the night before that her father; who had passed away a few years before her mother, came to her, cradled her in his arms and told her everything was going to be okay, that her mother would be fine because now he could protect her again, and that she did not have to be sad that she was gone because he could once again be with the love of his life.
    My grandmother is not a spiritual person, and whether or not she believed that her father actually came to her in her dream or not, I am not sure, and I do not want to ask. But I believe she had that dream because her mind needed resolution.
    It would be interesting for research to see if the dreams change as the grief process progresses. And also if there is a difference in regards to how close the person was to the deceased, and how they died. For example, if the person died suddenly, would there be more dreams of the person still being alive, or trying to give a message etc.

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  33. An important theory that we have previously discussed in other blogs, as well as our lectures is the continuity hypothesis. Since dreams are thought to be the extension to our day time thoughts; it is a big factor to be looked at in bereavement research. As previously said by many other blog replies, the nature of the death and the relationship between the dreamer and the person that passed away is very important. The nature of the death can influence the way the person sees the death. If the person died because of a car accident at a young age, it can be very different for the dreamer than if an elderly person died due to old age. The relationship should also be considered of the dreamer and the deceased. The strength of the relationship will be important in the research. Also, I think the way in which the dreamer has carried out their lifestyle also matters. Is the dreamer trying to help or change the lives of others, such as joining MAAD or the Canadian Cancer Society? Or is the person carrying on with their daily routines? Also another important topic to look into is the closure of the death. I believe that if the dreamer did not get to say goodbye to the person who passed away, it may be different for dreamers who did get to say bye to the deceased.
    Dream therapy is helpful for everyone as we have seen in our daily labs. It can definitely help bereaved dreamers because it will give them that closure of what their dream means, and closure of the death itself. Grieving over a death is a horrible feeling, and just having that comfort of closure will definitely be helpful to the dreamer.

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  34. Ashley HutchingsJune 10, 2012 at 7:45 PM

    The researcher should include elements should include if the death was expected, unxpected, or if the person was young or old. This would be important because it would help the researcher get an idea of how dreams would differ when looking at these elements. The greiving process would be different from someone who lost an individual expected or unexpected for example. I believe that dream therapy would help the bereaved with their loss especially if the person has not accepted it. Maybe the bereaved did not get a chance what they needed to say to the individual for example. Also, it may be able to help the bereaved understand the death or help them get closure. Other methods that would help immensely would be The Storytelling Method (TSM), the 2A Method, and The Projective Method. I think these would all aid in gaining insight to one's dream and understand what they mean.

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  35. I think that it is very interesting that Josh Black is examining the dreams of the bereaved in relation to their grief process. I think that a lot can be learned from this study and that it can be useful to those grieving.
    There are many important elements that should be included in this study. One is the relationship with the deceased. the relationship status and the deceased members involvement can play a role in bereavement dreams. The cause of death and time-frame since death are also important elements. Another important element is cultural beliefs.
    I think that dream therapy help the bereaved with their loss. This is because they can make connections with their dreams and relate it to their waking lives. The dreamer will also feel connected with the deceased member because they were present in a dream.

    Kristen Thumm

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  36. I personally can relate to this as my grandfather passed away in May. Since then, I have had many dreams that involve my grandfather. Some include bits of memories that were shared and others where he has told me everything will be okay.

    Looking at the content of the dreams is also very important. Like I stated before, some of my dreams have been actual memories of my grandfather, while others have not been. Does dreaming of something that actually happened differ from fictional dreams? Does that mean a different coping process?

    I think another factor that should be considered is how the person passed away. Was the person battling something such as cancer, were they in a car accident, etc. This can definitely affect the dreams of the bereaved. If it was something that was more expected it might affect the types of dreams they have compared to if the death was something more sudden.

    Kristin Vieira

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    1. I agree that one element of the study should consider how the person passed away. Especially if the bereaved one was there throughout. I have witnessed my uncle fight for his life with cancer and was having a lot of emotional dreams. As well my aunt suddenly passed away from a stroke, and didn't suffer. My dreams of her were always peaceful and only lasted a month. So I think this would factor into how much your waking day is consumed thinking of them.

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  37. I also think investigating the dreams of the bereaved can help the dreamer understand the relationship they once had with the deceased. People may not necessarily continually dream about someone that passed away because they miss them. It is possible that the dreamer may be feeling guilt with regards to the past relationship they once had with the deceased, or there could be other reasons as well. The way the dreamer felt about the deceased can affect the dreamers waking life because if they are feeling overwhelming grief or guilt regarding their past relationship with the deceased, it can negatively affect they way they conduct their day-to-day life. I think studies that regard looking at dreams of the bereaved should investigate the past relationship the dreamer had with the deceased, as mentioned in past posts, as well as helping the dreamer understand that if they are feeling overwhelming guilt for something they did to the deceased before they died, that they can not rewrite the past, but the dreamer needs to move on in their waking life and learn from their mistakes.
    -Sarah Aseerwatham

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  38. there would be many interesting aspects of this study to look at. It would be interesting to see if there was a pattern between the person that passed away and the type of dreams people have. Perhaps dreams vary depending on if you lost a close family member or friend or someone not as close to you. I also would want to know if there was a pattern in the types of dreams and how the person passed away. Many times it is hard for someone to come to grips with how a person died, if it was painful, scary, unexpected etc. and dreams could be a way of processing through and comming to terms with how a person passed away. I think it is also important to get a lot of good qualitative data in this type of research. People do not always want to know the numbers and variables or be broken down into numbers and variables...I think it is important to interview people and get their actual dreams documented rather then just having people fill our surveys and questionnaires.

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  39. Important elements that should be included in this study, as previously stated, is relationship to the deceased. Also, knowing how the individual had passed on is an important element. dream Imagery can be easier to understand knowing the relationship and how the person has passed. Dream Therapy can help the bereaved to get closure with their loss. To accept it. It could be a way to say goodbye if they never got a chance in the waking life.

    -Amanda Edwards

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  40. Certainly important to the study of bereavement and dreaming is the individual's spiritual or idiosyncratic view of death. Dream therapy could assist the bereaved in coping with their loss by helping individuals make sense of their dreams. The therapy could help the bereaved individual recognize the emotions and symbolism playing out in their dream imagery and these insights could provide closure, acceptance or understanding for the sufferer.

    Alya Al-Joundi

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  41. I believe a number of factors influence an individual to grieve, spirituality, culture customs, expected roles, ability to cope positively and support from peers. Dreams may be able to provide insight into which part of the grieving cycle an individual is unable to overcome, and consequently shed light on changes that can be made in waking day to better cope with the loss.
    Dreams indicating feelings of anger or resentment may help an individual understand their unsettled feeling, toward the deceased. Working out feelings of resentment towards the deceased can often be the hardest part of accepting a death. Everyone has a different way of coping with death , therefore having dream interpretation as a tool to sort out feelings and determine which aspects you may need more support in can help someone to the place where the death is accepted.

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  42. I think that our dreams can help us come to terms with the loss of a loved one, it can help us move on in ways that treatment and the comfort of friends and family may not be able to help us with. by interpreting the dream and finding out and explaing what each specific part of the dream means to the dreamer themself, it can allow them to work out feelings and emotions that they are having a problem with overcoming. by tying the dream back to their waking day life, it will make it easier on the dreamer to understand the true meaning behind the dream itself, and hopefully beging to move foward and feel better in regards to the deceased.

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  43. There are many times that when a loved one passes on, the ones left behind have many unanswered questions, regrets of not saying or doing what you hoped to accomplish, etc. So what I think that is happening when the bereaved are having these dreams of there loves ones who have passed, is their unconscious thoughts. They could be dreaming what they wanted to say, or do with their loved one.
    Dream therapy would help the bereaved, because they could use interpretation and discovery to find out what is really upsetting them about their loved ones passing. This will allow for counselling or acceptance of what has happened.

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