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Dreams and Nightmares

[1]Many years ago I had the opportunity to dine with Ann Faraday author of Dream Power and The Dream Game. It was a fascinating and eye-opening evening.

Faraday is noted for sharing techniques for dream interpretation that anyone can use. At Comfort Zone Camp I often say, “Who here has dreams or nightmares that are scary or hard to understand?” Inevitably several campers raise their hands, and some jump right in to talk about them.

Occasionally, one or more campers bring up the subject of dreams without my asking the question. Dreams are important or powerful messages our brains are attempting to communicate to us.

Here’s what I know about dreams from my conversation with Ann Faraday, and from reading her books.

1.  Our dreams, even the scary ones, are trying to help us understand something important. Unfortunately they are often in images that are difficult to interpret.

2.  Usually the dream is related to some thought or experience during the waking hours of the day. The thought or experience may have been fleeting and or something hardly noticed. In the loss of a loved one, it may have a fleeting look at a photo on the desk, the smell of perfume or cologne in a hallway, or being introduced to someone with the same name as the person who died.*

3.  Sometimes the dream is related to a specific unresolved incident, feeling or stressful situation. Here we may be struggling inside with feelings of anger, sadness or guilt that we haven’t felt safe in sharing with others. Children are often protective of the surviving parent and thus keep their feelings to themselves.

4.  The feeling you wake up with is usually the key to the dream’s attempt to help. (Angry, confused, lonely, deeply sad, frightened, etc.)

5.  Much harder to understand is that everything in the dream is the dreamer. The angry dog is me and I am scaring me. That could be: I’m frightened by my anger at the one who died because they left me.

In the camp Healing Circle I don’t try to interpret, but I do communicate that the dream has a friendly, helpful intent, and that it’s important to share the dream feelings with someone they trust. That “someone” can be the surviving parent, a caring relative, a counselor, their Big Buddy at camp, or me.

If you are the person with whom the child or teen is sharing the dream, just listen and affirm the feelings the dream has surfaced. “It’s the anger that scared you. What makes you angry? I get angry sometimes.”

With young children, a bad dream revealed presents us with an opportunity to comfort. Perhaps it’s just a hug and an, “It will be OK. I’ll stay with you awhile. We can talk about it in the morning if you like.” It may give you clues to what the child is experiencing, and doesn’t know how to say. It is also an opportunity to explore.

As a teen or an adult we can ask ourselves, “what is this dream feeling trying to tell me, and how can I face it? With whom might I share the dream and explore what’s bothering me?”

Of course some dreams are not scary, only confusing. For some time I dreamed of returning to a house I once owned only to find it cluttered with junk. My house, me, was quite cluttered at the time with tasks that I didn’t like or want to do. It was time to stop procrastinating and move forward.

*I once dreamed that I tripped and fell down the stairs to the basement. The next day I discovered a loose stair board. My unconscious mind saw it when my conscious mind did not.

Photo Credit. [2]