Death Means Change (Not Death)
Death is the ultimate metamorphosis, the passage from one state of being to another. In the tarot, for example, the Death card doesn't mean death. It means transformation—a major change that hurls you from one way of life to another. In a dream, death usually means the same thing. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, dreams about death are simply metaphors for major changes happening in your relationships, work, or personality,” writes Stase Michaels in The Bedside Guide to Dreams.
When you have a death dream, you should ask yourself whether an area of your life is undergoing transformation. Are you in the middle of a divorce? About to have a baby? About to get married? Are you considering a career change? Any of these big life decisions can prompt a death dream.
Often, dreams about death involve other symbols. A car, for instance, is a perfect dream metaphor for where you're going in life and how the journey is unfolding. For a sixteen-year-old girl, a death dream involving a car was a result of her family's recent move from the state where she'd been born and raised. For a forty-eight-year-old accountant, a dream about death was caused by a major job transition from a large firm to self-employment.
In the next dream, the death symbolism pointed to a young man's changing feelings about his girlfriend. The name of this dream is “Carnival”:
Jan and I are at the carnival that's rolled into town. It was her idea to go and she's like a kid, eating cotton candy, running from ride to ride, insistent that I go with her. I don't like carnivals and wish we could leave. She wants to go on the roller coaster; I don't. We argue out there in front of everyone and I'm totally embarrassed. Just to keep her quiet, I relent and go on to the roller coaster with her.
I hate the roller coaster, everyone screaming, Jan clutching my arm and shrieking like a five-year-old. As our car speeds down one of the hills in the track, Jan's seat restraint suddenly snaps open and she's hurled out of the car. I see her shooting like a missile through the air and know it's going to kill her. I feel relieved.
When I woke up, I was shocked at my lack of emotion and couldn't go back to sleep. But the longer I lay there, the clearer it became that she and I no longer enjoyed the same things, that she was immature, and that for me the relationship was already over. Ending it was merely a formality.
Prophetic Dream: A Rare Example
While speaking at the Miami Book Fair one year, author Anne Rice told the heartbreaking story of how she had come to write Interview with the Vampire.
She dreamed that her young daughter was dying of a blood disease. Shortly afterward, the girl was diagnosed with leukemia. In the aftermath of her daughter's death, Rice wrote Interview with the Vampire in a feverish frenzy in just three weeks, as though it were a kind of purging. It's probably no coincidence that blood is the theme of the book.
In the next dream, a hillside is the setting for a glimpse of a young man's death. This dream is called “The Hillside”:
John and I are sitting on a grassy hillside overlooking a valley. I'm not real sure what we're doing here or how we came to be here, but that doesn't seem to matter in the dream. We're talking about people we knew in college and the crazy things we did. Suddenly he turns to me and says, “It's time for me to move on. But don't worry about me. I'll be in touch.”
The next morning, I remembered dreaming about him and figured the dream meant he would be showing up any day now. He was nomadic in that sense, taking off when he felt like it, hitching around the country and dropping in on friends, who were always glad to see him. I kept thinking that I should call our mutual friend, Linda, who usually knew where he was. But that evening, Linda called me in tears. John had been killed in a car accident the night before.
Several years later, the woman dreamed that she and John met on the same hillside, talking and laughing again about old times. Then he suddenly turned to her and said he was “moving on to the next level.” She hasn't dreamed of him in the more than twenty years since. Apparently, he really was “moving on.” There is nothing to analyze in this dream. It should be taken as a real message from John.
If you have a dream about a departed loved one who says she's okay or moving on, chances are that this person really did come to visit you and means just that—she's happy.
In the case of John and the hillside dream, there was nothing the dreamer could do to prevent the death. But some near-death dreams can serve as warnings. You dream, for example, that the plane you're supposed to take tomorrow crashes and because of the dream, you change your flight. Then you hear that something really did happen. Though they are possible, these dreams are extremely rare.
But a dream doesn't have to prophesy death in order for you to benefit from it. You might, for example, oversleep the next morning and miss the doomed plane. Or you might take a route to the airport that plunges you headlong into a traffic jam and, thus, miss your flight. In the latter case, a series of synchronicities would save your life, but the cause would still be the dream you had the night before.