Dreams and other signs bring comfort to the grieving
We've all had dreams. Some people dream vividly and often, some not as often. And there is the problem of forgetting the dream when you wake up, or shortly thereafter. I usually try to make a note to myself right away or when the dream wakes me up. I keep a bedside notebook for ideas, etc. Otherwise they are just forgotten.
And there are many types of dreams -- happy and pleasant, wishful thinking, nightmares, anxiety dreams such as being lost, and, most difficult of all, distorted or mixed up dreams with the characters and events all combined and scrambled. There are many types of dream analysis, as well: ways to try to interpret the meaning of dreams. And we also have our own ideas about what a dream means.
But there is a special type of dream in grief, in which your loved one appears as if in life.
This can be very comforting. You are lucky to get one of these once in a while. I've had a few over the years and cherish them. They create a happy sensation, even after I wake. One vivid one I had a year or so ago was just a normal scene with my beloved Baheej's arms around me. That was nice. A blessing. He appears in dreams occasionally but not very often.
There are lots of anxiety dreams in grief. Usually along the lines of being left alone, abandoned or other stressful scenes. Or danger where you can't save the other. Or you can't find him or her.
So dreams are a mixed bag. And they are different from "signs," which are almost always pleasant and encouraging in my experience -- and among people who've talked to me about signs. They are happenings/messages that serve as communication from lost loved ones, easily recognized by the bereaved, and very comforting.
The problem with signs is most people, unless it's happened to them, think it's just a person's imagination, wishful thinking, or some fantasy because of grief. Or they think the sign is just a coincidence. But I continue to believe signs are a method of communication from the lost loved one. It's a reassurance that they are still around and watching out for you.
Some people even experience a visual visit from a spirit, but this has never happened to me. It did happen to my sister and a couple of friends. I always hope my dear Baheej may appear someday, but not so far.
A while back, I got an email from a reader who described a sign he and his wife got from the adult son they lost. It was graphic and quite clear to them. How nice.
Last night I was talking with a close friend who had a huge sign from her father-in-law who died a few days ago. She went into the city alone to see a big art exhibit, and felt she was doing it not only because of her personal interest, but also in memory of her father-in-law, who loved art and would have enjoyed this exhibit.
Well, as she was walking around the gallery, there was a couple near her. From the back, the man looked like her father-in-law and seemed to be dressed like him. He turned around and looked just like him, but 10 years younger. He had on the same clothing, shirt and vest, of the same brand and style her father-in-law always wore.
My friend was surprised so she approached the couple and told them. They said to her, "Of course, he's probably here with you now." Wow. So I immediately said, "That's a sign."
This is how it happens, totally unexpected but clear as a bell.
My friend told me, "I think you have to be very open to recognize these signs when they happen." I agree with her.
I've written about signs with lots of examples in earlier columns, so won't repeat those. But here are a couple more examples:
Once I was at a swap shop in New Hampshire and I picked up (free) two darling flower watercolor drawings. Each is about 8 inches square, with matching frames. They now hanging in my dining room. One is the July water lily. It's my husband Baheej's favorite flower and his birthday month. The other is the December rose, my father's birthday month. The two most important men in my life. My brother Nic had died shortly before. I expect to find the Nic's April flower one of these days -- my brother's birthday month, and it's also my mother's.
Another sign is a feather. It's widely thought to be a sign from a lost child or infant and, I think, could also be from someone young in spirit. Baheej was one of the latter; he had a really young joy of life. Well, in the first month or two after his death, I found many feathers around the yard, on the patio, even one in the house. My cats never go outside, so it wasn't them. And I don't have any pet birds.
I've only found one feather ever since. However, a friend who lost an infant found many, many feathers. Signs as far as I'm concerned.
So the point is: There are some extrasensory phenomena that happen in grief, chief among them dreams and signs. I think everyone agrees we all have dreams. So if you are lucky enough to have pleasant dreams of your lost loved one, whether spouse, partner, friend, child, parent or other, you are very fortunate.
Life is so complicated. And so is death. We just need to be as open as possible. Comfort comes in many forms.
• Susan Anderson-Khleif of Sleepy Hollow has a doctorate in family sociology from Harvard, taught at Wellesley College and is a retired Motorola executive. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or see her blog longtermgrief.tumblr.com. See previous columns at www.dailyherald.com/topics/Anderson-Kleif-Susan.