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The Meaning of Death and Dying in Dreams

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Sue has been an online writer for over eight years. She is a mother, social worker, writer, and dream interpreter.

This article will explore the meaning of death and dying in our dreams.

This article will explore the meaning of death and dying in our dreams.

What Does It Mean if I Dream of Dying?

Before interpreting your own or another’s dreams, it is important to remember the following:

  • Although only the dreamer truly knows what his/her dream means, this article explores what death typically symbolizes to people. Each individual is greatly influenced by the world around them, but dreams are a reflection of the dreamer’s inner world. Dreams reflect the dreamer’s mental, emotional, and physical state. A dream's symbols and contexts reflect the dreamer’s beliefs and cultural influences. So although only dreamers know what their dreams mean, this article discusses shared perceptions of the symbolism of death and dying in dreams.
  • Dream interpretation is most effective when the dreamer is taking an active role in exploring and discovering the personal meaning of his/her dream. It works best when the symbol is analyzed within the context of the dream and the dreamer examines the emotions evoked during the dream and how it all connects to their current day-to-day life. It is important for the dreamer not only to recognize what meanings resonate most but what meanings produce a strong response.
  • If a dreamer is deeply offended or annoyed by an interpretation, this may hint at a possible issue the dreamer is attempting to deny or repress. Incorrect interpretations help the dreamer eliminate the possibilities of what his/her dream means and are still useful.
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Common Meanings of Death and Dying in Dreams

Most dreams of death and dying symbolize the end of something old and the start of something new. This dream could be positive or negative depending upon the thoughts and feelings the dreamer has about the dream and the context of the dream. Dreaming of death is most common in people experiencing a major life change or a rite of passage (entering adulthood, graduating, marriage, changing a career, retiring, etc.).

If the dream feels negative and the ending of something old is emphasized, this may indicate the dreamer is either too fixated on the past and needs to move forward, the dreamer is prematurely ending something that still needs his/her attention, or, in the case of dreaming of a death of someone still alive, may reflect feelings of jealousy, hatred, and resentment towards that person.

Many dreams are simply fulfilling a wish the dreamer has. The wishes we dream of are often the ones that are socially unacceptable, the things we don't allow ourselves to think about during the day. Wanting someone else in our lives to die or wanting to die ourselves is socially unacceptable and the desire may come through in a dream. Dreams revealing these dark desires may help the dreamer seek help from a professional or face the feelings of anger and rage they have towards others in their life. More likely than not, dreaming of your own death may indicate your desire and need to escape the current stressors of your life. Only confronting these stressors in your waking life will resolve the dream and negative feelings associated with it.

Dreaming of the death of a former lover may symbolize the end of the relationship and the dreamer’s ability to begin to move on.

Death dreams may simply reflect the dreamer’s preoccupation with a loved one’s illness or recent death or a struggle with the acceptance that death is a reality to us all.

Psychodynamic Perspective on Dreaming of Death

Dreams can assist the dreamer to explore and understand the state of his/her unconscious and see what is needed for greater personal development.

Dreams may not mean what they appear to mean at first glance. Characters and objects within a dream, although separate from the dreamer, may actually illustrate aspects of self to the dreamer. The qualities assigned to each object and their relationship to each other may reflect aspects the reader is unaware of, or is beginning to develop, or has repressed, or has only recently accepted.

In dreams, death tends to be a powerful symbol of self-transformation, inner growth, and change. It may indicate the the dreamer is discarding what is no longer needed and making room for something new.

Analyzing this dream requires the dreamer to consider what is dying. The death of a child may symbolize the ending of childhood and the beginning of adulthood. The death of a person in one’s life may symbolize an aspect of self symbolized by that person for the dreamer. The dreamer may either lack this aspect or may have decided the aspect is not useful and is improving it or moving on from it. For example, if a dreamer dreams a superficial person is dying, perhaps the dreamer has recently identified how they have been superficial and are attempting to improve themselves and reprioritize their life.

Since the death may symbolize the ending of old beliefs, habits, thoughts, or inner qualities, the dying person or animal may offer further insight into what is coming to an end. Animals such as rats, mice, and other typically unpleasant creatures may symbolize negative thinking or negative approaches the dreamer is discarding. Animals also tend to symbolize an individual’s more primal, instinctual nature.

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If the dream feels negative, it is possible the dreamer is attempting to repress what the dying object is experiencing. It is important to note that the nature of relationships one experiences with others in dreams reflects the relationships one has with oneself. In dreams, how we allow others to treat us is how we treat ourselves.

If the dream involves an individual who has already passed away, the dream may be a message from a wiser part of the dreamer’s psyche to his/her waking ego.

Carl Jung’s theory: If the dreamer is dreaming of the death of the opposite sex, especially if this person is unknown to them, this may represent a repressed anima (for men) or animus (for women). This theory states that all individuals possess both masculine and feminine aspects of self. In dreams, individuals may find they struggle to acknowledge and express all parts of self in balance and harmony.

If dreaming of a person who has already passed away, it is believed that this may be a message from the dreamer’s unconscious to the dreamer’s superego. This dream may also be part of the mourning process, allowing the dreamer to make peace with the loss.

The Christian Perspective on Death Dreams

Dreams of death, especially the death of Jesus, may symbolize martyrdom, sacrifice, and religious devotion. The dreamer may feel persecuted by others and has experienced the need to turn the other cheek. Death dreams may be a dream of self-sacrifice for Christians where they are choosing to put the needs of others ahead of their own.

A dead dove may symbolize loss of innocence, the painful ending of peace and harmony, and the tragic end to love and beauty.

A dead dove may symbolize loss of innocence, the painful ending of peace and harmony, and the tragic end to love and beauty.

Alternative Perspectives of Dreaming of Death

Some believe that death is a positive sign that the dreamer will have prosperity and longitivity.

Many believe dreaming of their own death or a death of someone they know is a predictive dream showing what is to come. This belief is typically anxiety-provoking which makes it even more likely this dream is a reflection of the dreamer’s fears, anxieties, and stress.

If the dream involves someone who has already passed, many may interpret the dream as a direct message from that individual.

Dream Interpretation

It is important to note that dreams can mean so many things to each individual, at any given time, and could mean more than one thing within the same dream. It is common for dreams to be layered in nature where a symbol may relate to something that occurred during the day, to our subconscious, to our spiritual growth, and to events in our childhood influencing our beliefs, thoughts, and behavior now.

Interpreting one's dreams can be a powerful way to gain insight into a world the individual is too busy to explore during waking hours.

How About You?

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Sue B. (author) on September 23, 2013: