Dear Claire,

I keep having the same horrifying situation showing up in my dreams. I keep dreaming that my daughter is dead. It is not the exact same dream every time; the situation or the place will be different, but the ending will always be the same. I will find out that my daughter is dead, and then I wake up in horror. Sometimes, in the dream, I will actually see the casket. Other times, someone just tells me that she is dead. A few times, my daughter appeared as a ghost in my dream, telling me that she was dead. What has made this even more disturbing for me is that, lately, I dream that I am the one who killed her. Or I dream that I am killing her, and I wake up.

My daughter is not only very much alive, but I love her more than anything. I don’t want anything to happen to her, and I definitely do not want to kill her. I have tried to analyze the dreams myself, but I can’t come up with anything that makes any sense. I could understand having these dreams if I needed to work out some kind of anger that I have with her. But I don’t have any. I do worry about her a lot. What could this possibly mean?

Classically, death can have multiple meanings in a dream—yet rarely signifies an actual, physical death. For the most part, a person dying in a dream is a symbol for the death of something rather than someone – i.e., the death of a relationship, the death of love or sexual desire, the death of a personality, the death of an enterprise, the death of innocence, and etc. On an extremely basic level, however, a dream death can represent fear for that person’s health or welfare—a fear of losing that person physically—especially if that person has a serious illness or disability in the dreamer’s waking life (or if that person is living dangerously, abusing drugs or alcohol, and etc.).

Another common reason for the death of a person in a dream can be that the dreamer fears that this person will leave him/her—or it can be an expression of loss, reflecting the fact that this person has, in fact, either deserted the dreamer or has moved far away and is no longer, physically, nearby. Furthermore, this death symbol can indicate a completely severed relationship—or a relationship that has become so strained, and where the participants have grown so far apart, that it feels like the relationship is ending. A dream death can also signify the dreamer’s desire to have that person totally out of his/her life—forever removed (and, often, in this type of dream, the dreamer may be suppressing these emotions in his/her waking life). In addition, if the person who dies in the dream is well-known to the dreamer, or is extremely close to the dreamer, it can indicate the dreamer’s desire to punish or delete that person for unconscionable behavior or betrayal.

A dream death can also indicate a dreamer’s desire to destroy certain personality traits in that person—or his/her desire to eradicate recent, negative behaviors being displayed by that person. However, more often than not, when a dreamer repeatedly dreams of another person’s death—and sees that person in a casket, at a funeral, in ghost form, or etc.—it is usually an indication that the dreamer feels that this person has changed so significantly that it is to the point where the person who he/she once knew is gone. That the behavior, personality, and/or demeanor of that person is so drastically different that it is like a death—and only a shadow, or “ghost,” of that person remains.

In this particular dream situation, the dreamer not only dreams that the daughter is dead, but she also dreams that she is the one killing her daughter. It is more than likely that these dreams fall under the “Person Has Changed Dramatically” category—and that this dreamer wants to “kill” the new behaviors and personality traits being displayed by her daughter. The dreamer stated that she worried about her daughter a great deal. This could explain why this death theme keeps repeating—and why there are such extremely negative emotions attached to these dreams. Worry is not healthy—and her subconscious is, most likely, sending these dreams as either a means of venting and getting emotional release, or as a strong directive intended to push her to take action and resolve the issues that are causing worry and angst in her life.

However, whether the dreams represent a fear of losing someone, a desire to be rid of someone, or an expression of loss over how much someone has changed, their function is to be the subconscious mind’s vehicle for exposing hidden truths, releasing suppressed emotions, and calling attention to issues which are distressing the waking mind. And any time that death is being used as the chosen motif in a dream, the subconscious mind is definitely trying to send one of its most powerful and unforgettable images. Death symbols in a dream are like ultimatums from the subconscious. As a result, they should definitely not be ignored.

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