How to Interpret Dreams About Deceased Loved Ones

Departed family and friends sometimes make appearances in our dreams, but what does it mean when they do? Desiree Cole turned to dream experts for insights.

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Night sky; Getty Images

It’s been more than 20 years since my grandpa passed away. Recently, though, I saw him in a dream. He was asleep, with the brightest white blanket and pillow I’d ever seen. Even though he was sleeping, he had the biggest grin on his face. Like he was having a really good dream himself! I knelt beside him, pulled the covers up over his shoulders. I heard my dad’s voice behind me. “It’s time to go now,” he said. Then I woke up.

Dreaming of the dead like I did might seem unusual—even startling, if you’re the one having the dream. But according to dream experts, it’s actually quite common. In fact, God might be trying to tell you something in the dream.

What exactly? Here’s what a dream of the deceased might mean…

A Glimpse of Heaven
My grandpa began his battle with Parkinson’s disease when I was just a kid. At that age, I had a difficult time figuring out where to file his death in my heart. But God knew. In fact, after all these years, he may have given me that dream to show me Grandpa really was in a better place. According to Dr. Charity Virkler Kayembe, co-author of Hearing God Through Your Dreams, God uses dreams of the departed to give us closure and a glimpse of heaven.

“Sometimes the last time we see a family member or a loved one is in a hospital bed,” she says. “That’s not the picture you want to be left with. So God will give us the true situation of how they are now in heaven. They’re healthier than they’ve ever been, they’re happier, they’re home. It’s just one way God heals our hearts.”

Read More: Her Grandpa Jacques Sent a Message from Beyond​

Inheritance of a Spiritual Gift
The purpose of the dream could also be to anoint the dreamer with something very specific, says Dr. Barbie Breathitt, author of Dream Encounters: Seeing Your Destiny from God’s Perspective.

“These dreams could mean you’re receiving a gift—or divine mantle—that God had previously given to the person you’re dreaming about,” she says. “That could be a spiritual gift or a divine characteristic like wisdom or kindness. God is allowing the dreamer to tap into that.”

After all, God is aware of the desires of our heart, Dr. Breathitt says, especially the characteristics of someone else we’d like to mirror.

“When the deceased come into your dream,” she says, “it’s an open invitation for you to take on a piece of that characteristic that you admired in them.”

Other times, a deceased loved one might show up in a dream to communicate a message on behalf of God.  Especially to those who are grieving.

“A dream is a gateway, a doorway to the supernatural,” Dr. Breathitt says. “If people have just lost a loved one and they never got to say goodbye, God chooses that person to come back into their dream as a messenger. If the dreamer is stuck in grief, the deceased will tell the dreamer that they are happy, that they’re in heaven, that Jesus is real. And that they want the dreamer to stop grieving and live out their destiny.”

Read More: He Started to Give Thanks After This Traumatic Experience

How to Interpret a Dream of the Deceased
So if you have a dream of a dead loved one, how do you go about analyzing it? Dr. Breathitt suggests looking up the meaning behind the name of the person you dreamed of.

“A lot of times, there’s something to do with their name,” Dr. Breathitt says. “I look up the spiritual connotation of the name, like the Hebrew roots, and see what scripture verse is attached to it. Sometimes that alone is what God is trying to give you. It’s not so much about that person, but what their name represents.”  

Also, be sure to analyze where the dream takes place, Dr. Virkler Kayembe says. Are you in a house? At school? At the beach?

Next, think about how you feel in the dream. Are you feeling those same things in some area in your waking life?  That might shed light as to what the dream means. For example, a woman recently came to Dr. Virkler Kayembe for help deciphering a dream. In the dream, the woman saw her mother—who had passed away 20 years earlier—and a close friend walk into a church.

“The friend was someone the dreamer had been worried about,” Dr. Virkler Kayembe says. “When her mother was alive, wisdom was her big characteristic. So perhaps God was showing the dreamer that her friend was walking into a place of spiritual growth, and that she was going in with wisdom. That’s what her mom represented.”

After talking to the experts, I thought back to how I’d been feeling in my waking life when I dreamed of my grandpa. At the time, my husband had been sharing memories of his late grandpa, which probably triggered something in my heart about losing mine.

Maybe the dream was God’s way of showing me that I still needed healing over his death. When I saw Grandpa again—wrapped in heaven’s purity and warmth—I was reminded by my dad (who possibly represented God) that it was time to go. To trust that my grandpa was at home and at peace.

A message I’ll never forget, thanks to a dream.

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