Dreams & Dying

The dreams of the dying

     In her 1998 book "On Dreams & Dying: A Jungian Interpretation," psychotherapist Mary Louise von Franz gathered together what she had learned from the dreams of her clients and also from world literature about this important life transition. Examining numerous case studies of actual death dreams, von Franz related these to persistent themes in cultures from ancient Egypt to contemporary Europe, casting all our assumptions about death, life, and a possible afterlife in a surprising new light. Maintaining that dreams prepare people for death and afterlife and that traditional religions have ignored dreams when it comes to death, the author attempted to uncover the symbolism of death as found in dreams. She also compared death dreams to accounts of near-death experiences. Using Jung's discoveries, she revealed how our unconscious mind, the world of our dreams, prepares our conscious mind for the profound psychophysical transformation associated with death. In this way, she attempted to allay our deepest fears concerning death.

     In a more recent book. Kelly and Patricia Bulkeley draw from a rich understanding of dreaming in culture, history, psychology, and modern dream study. Dreaming Beyond Death (2005) explicitly addresses three common aspects of pre-death dreams and offers interpretations that will aid both dying persons and their caregivers. Rev. Patricia Bulkeley's experience with the transformative possibilities of pre-death dreams as a hospice counselor lend this book a deeply personal and human touch, while Kelly Bulkeley's insightful analysis and intellectual framework provide an understanding of the deeper meanings behind this type of dreaming. A final chapter provides resources and concrete methods for caregivers to respectfully guide a dying person through the dreaming process to a sense of peace.

     For those left behind, I can heartily recommend Geri Grubbs 2004 book on bereavement.

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