Why You’re Dreaming About Death, According to Dream Analysts

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There are few things more unsettling than dreaming about death, whether it be your own or that of a loved one. But while death-related dreams might seem like a bad omen, there’s no need to feel too anxious about them. In fact, they can portend a positive transition or change in your life.

“Death in dreams is really about some kind of change or ending you’re dealing with in your real life,” says Lauri Quinn Loewenberg, professional dream analyst. “The subconscious will show us this change in the form of a death so we can better understand the finality of it. We can let go of that which we no longer need so we can grow and embrace that which is coming.”

On the off chance you are having some sort of prophecy, Autumn Fourkiller, mystic and writer behind the newsletter Dream Interpretation for Dummies, says you will know it deep down in your body. “My entire life, I’ve had minor prophetic death dreams, i.e., before my great-grandmother died, my dad. But those dreams feel different in my body. I would never outright tell someone that had had a death dream that it was a bad omen, not if I didn’t know them and their spirit, but it could be.” Luckily, Fourkiller reassures that “it’s usually less dire than that,” adding, “Most of the time, the death in the dream represents the death of a time of your life, of a hope or a dream, or the end of a relationship.”

Death dreams can also be prompted by witnessing death in our waking lives, which is why you might have started having them during the pandemic. “We have to take into consideration that a lot of people have died recently — and that death anxiety is at an all-time high — when we begin to interpret our own death dreams,” Fourkiller explains. “They still could mean something specific, but they could also be reflective of the time and societal miasma we find ourselves surrounded with.”

Whether it be a global pandemic or a more personal challenge, Fourkiller says life’s more trying seasons are fertile ground for death dreams. “There are definitely times and phases in life when it’s more common to have death dreams, and those all have anxiety and stress in common.”

Below, Loewenberg and Fourkiller analyze all the reasons why you may be dreaming about death, from dreams about your own death to dreaming about a death due to COVID-19.


If you dream of going to a funeral …

“The main element of [a funeral dream] is that your subconscious is telling you there is something you need to lay to rest in your real life,” Loewenberg says, “something you need to close the lid on and recognize as no longer being an issue. Of course, whose funeral it is makes all the difference. If it’s your own funeral, what part of yourself is now at peace? If it’s the funeral of a friend, is there some issue between you two that you can now put to rest?”


If you dream you’re at a graveyard …

Loewenberg says that if your dream takes place in a graveyard but there’s not a funeral happening, it could be a sign that something from your past is being dug up that ought to stay buried. “Your subconscious is showing you this issue in a graveyard setting to let you know how wrong it is to excavate it.


If you die of a disease like COVID-19 …

“First off, if you have a huge fear of COVID this could just be your release of that stress,” Loewenberg says. “But otherwise, any form of disease that kills you in a dream is the way your body is telling you, there’s something going on in your life that’s very unhealthy. What would you, in your real life, also refer to as a disease? You know, are you drinking too much? Are you in a very unhealthy, toxic relationship? Your subconscious is trying to tell you this is going to yield some irreparable change if you don’t correct this, you don’t find a way to heal.”


If you see a dead body in your dream …

While most dreams about death have to do with the finality of a life change, the specifics of your dreams can give you clues as to how you’re processing the change, according to Loewenberg. If you see a dead body in your dream, it could be a sign that you’re struggling to let go. “It would also be about something that needs to be buried, isn’t yet — it’s been exposed, something that may have been brought back up.”


If you witness an autopsy in your dream …

Per Loewenberg, “An autopsy is to figure out the manner of death. So an autopsy in a dream would mean you are trying to figure out why this relationship ended, or why this situation ended. Why your job ended, you know, whatever the case may be, what ending has happened in your life? And what means are you doing to figure out why?”


If you dream of your plants or pets dying …

Plants and pets are things in your life that you spend time and effort nurturing. So Loewenberg explains that if your pet dies in a dream, it could signal that you’re forgetting to care about something else in your life. “So for any of these things that would be in our care that are dying, we must ask ourselves, What in my life am I neglecting? Plants tend to represent something that has the potential to grow. A dog can represent a relationship. A cat often represents a woman, either the reproductive self or the sexual self. Fish can represent creative ideas, your ideas that thrive in your creative juices.”


If you die peacefully in your dream …

“This is a really good indication that the change you’re going through, you’re okay with it. You’re going through a welcome change.”


If you die violently in your dream …

While dying peacefully indicates a welcome change, Loewenberg explains that dying violently is the opposite. “There’s a change happening that you’re resisting, or you’re afraid of the change that’s going on.”


If someone you know kills you in your dream …

“If it’s someone you deal with closely, like a family member or best friend or your partner, then that means they are probably urging you to make some sort of change in real life. Death in a dream is a natural-occurring change that’s happening, whereas murder is a forced change: You have to force yourself to quit smoking or you have to force yourself to cut off a friendship. If someone you know and are close to is trying to kill you, then they are probably urging you to make a change that you are resistant to.”


If a stranger kills you in your dream …

“If it’s not an actual person you know, then this stranger is going to represent a part of yourself, or it can represent just the forces at work that are making this change happen.” If you have this dream, Loewenberg encourages you to ask yourself, “Am I feeling pressured to change?”


If you know you’re going to die in your dream and you can’t escape it …

This has to do with a change you’re anticipating and know is going to happen, according to Loewenberg. “That sort of dream is preparing you for this inevitable ending.”


If you wake up right before you die in your dream …

Loewenberg explains that this could just be your body’s physiological response to a fear of death. “Or you can wake up before the death happens because in real life, the actual change has not been completed. You’re on the verge — you’re on the cusp of it.”


If you don’t wake up immediately after dying in your dream …

“So many people tell me they’ve actually experienced the feeling of death and leaving the body. That dream would indicate that change has happened. If you feel yourself leaving your body in that dream, that’s a good indication that you’re feeling like this change is transforming you.”


If your child dies in your dream …

Loewenberg says this is one of the most disturbing death dreams that anyone can have, but it’s much less scary than it seems. “It’s because your child has reached some sort of milestone, it’s the end of the phase of their life. Whenever they start crawling, start walking, start feeding themselves, all these different big phases of life mark the end of that younger child. It’s actually the way we kind of grieve — the loss of that phase of their life. Because once you have a child, time goes really, really fast.”


If your partner dies in your dream …

There are some questions to ask yourself if you’re having this dream, Loewenberg says. “What change is happening with them? Have they lost a job? Have they lost weight? Are they working a lot more and you never see them? How have they changed, or how has your relationship with them changed?”

Fourkiller adds that if your death dream involves someone you are regularly in contact with, like a partner or a friend, it may not be the worst idea to reach out to them. “If you dream that someone you know has died and you regularly communicate with that person, I would tell them,” she urges. “You don’t have to outright say, ‘I had a dream, and in it you died!’ But saying something like ‘I had a terrible dream about you. I hope you’re doing well, and be careful out there’ is actually more appreciated than you’d think. Letting that person know that they are on your mind, even if it sprung out of weird circumstances, is always sweet, and we take that for granted.”


If your friend dies in your dream …

This will likely mean that your relationship with your friend is changing, but Loewenberg says that if nothing is different, this dream could indicate something else. “Your friend is going to represent a part of yourself. How are you like your friend? What quality do you share? Maybe your friend is always cheerful and the one that’s always emotionally supportive and you dream she dies. What’s going on with that part of you? Have you become depressed? Are you in need of cheering up? Are you having a hard time finding happiness right now?”


If your parent dies in your dream …

“As a culture, we’re death avoidant. We don’t tend to our dead in the same ways we used to, for a variety of reasons, and we often are not given the time or space to grieve for them,” Fourkiller says, adding there are two reasons our subconscious will present us with a dream like this. The first is to “process our fears about dying, and about our loved ones dying.” The second is to “remind ourselves of the simple fact that death is a part of life — a natural one, a universal one.”

Fourkiller has had some personal experience with this particular dream. “Some of the worst dreams I’ve ever had are about my mom dying,” she shares. “When those happen, I tell her to be extra-careful that day, and to be sure to check in. For someone whose practice is super … well, death-heavy … I still can’t comprehend that one day my mother’s life will end. It’s a hard pill to swallow.”

When it comes to processing a harrowing dream like this, Fourkiller has a process in place. “I like to first start by acknowledging that all life will one day end. ‘Autumn!’ you say. ‘Howdy!’ you say. ‘That’s super-dark!’ But it’s true. And I think we shy away from it too much. You can acknowledge this truth and, with enough time, learn not to fixate on it. Then I allow myself a moment to grieve the future and the mistakes of the past. I let myself sink into it just for a moment, then I reorient myself into the present. I take three centering breaths. After that, I feel a lot freer about going about my day.”


If you have a dream where someone returns from the dead …

“Did they say anything to you verbally, or was it just a visit?” Fourkiller asks. “How did it make you feel? Were you sad? Angry? Peaceful? Did they look like they did in life, or was there something different about them? I know that not everyone believes that those we love can come back to us, even in dream form, and I respect that. Still … especially if they were someone you loved, and who loved you, you can thank your mind for the gift.”


If you have a dream about a recently deceased loved one dying all over again …

“If a loved one has just passed, dreams wherein they die again can permeate the grieving process,” explains Fourkiller. “These dreams can signify several things, the most common of which is lack of closure. Maybe you didn’t have the conversation you needed to have before they passed. Maybe there were loose ends you thought you could get to later.” If you want the dreams to end, Fourkiller has a simple solution: “Sometimes just saying, ‘Thank you for showing me this, message received,’ after you wake up is enough for them to end.”


If you kill someone in your dream …

“If you’re the one doing the killing, then you are the one actively making some kind of change in your real life. So if you are trying to quit drinking, if you are trying to eat better, if you are trying to change careers, what part of yourself or what part of your own life are you killing off, ending?”


If you die young in your dream …

“If you are a younger self in your dream and you die, you’ve got to ask yourself, what was going on with you at that age? What were you like? What were you dealing with? Is there something from that point in time that you’ve been carrying with you but that now you’re finally over?”

The takeaway: If you’re having dreams about death, there’s most likely nothing to be worried about. In order to fully get to the bottom of what the dream meant, Fourkiller suggests beginning by asking yourself what message the dream imparted. “If there is nothing, think about what has been plaguing you recently,” she suggests. “Is it something you can solve? If not, finding how you can center yourself is a practice welcome in all parts of life.” If you feel that your death dream imparted something upon you, “write that message down,” she adds. “Does it feel like it’s from your subconscious? From the beyond? Do you even believe in a beyond? Journal about it. Notes-app it. Talk to your friends about it. You’d be surprised how much comes up.”

It is also essential to feel the feelings that come along with what is oftentimes a harrowing dream to wake up from. “Especially if you’re dreaming of your own death or if it’s of a loved one, you feel that fear and that grief,” says Loewenberg. “The emotions in the dream are very, very real. And so you wake up thinking, ‘Dear God, am I seeing the future?’ But you’re not. So don’t worry. Instead, just ask yourself, what change or ending is happening in my life right now?”

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