We all have dreams. And it’s likely that when someone close to us dies, we all have what are known as grief dreams, too.
But the amount of research around these kinds of dreams is wanting, says Joshua Black. He’s a researcher with a special focus on dreams about the deceased. And what he’s learned over the past several years, he hopes will help the bereaved through the grieving process in the future.
And additionally, he hopes it can help those who work with the bereaved to understand these sometimes confusing dreams.
Black will be in Chilliwack on Saturday, Jan. 27, with a presentation and workshop called Exploring Grief Dreams, presented by the Chilliwack Hospice Society. The day will be split into two parts, with a morning presentation for the general public. Black will discuss the things he’s learned from his years as a grief dreams researcher.
In the afternoon, there will be a workshop for people who work with the bereaved. Both events take place at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre (ticket information below).
The trauma of a loss can bring about negative dreams, even nightmares, Black says, and often it is a negative dream that will wake someone up in the night.
“But grief dreams tend to be more positive, and they provide more comfort,” he says. “The images are more positive in nature.”
But because they’re soothing, he says, we are less likely to recall them. That in itself can cause anxiety, Black says. People can also shy away from discussing uncomfortable dreams, or they may be fearful of dreams because of religious beliefs. They could feel the person who has died has forgotten about them, or is angry at them, he adds. There are so many myths and mysteries about dreams, that actual scientific research into how they can help heal grief was nearly non-existent when Black started delving in.
He says we dream more often than we realize — almost the entire time we are asleep.
“The best way to start recalling your dreams is to write them down,” he says. “Talk about your dreams. Increase the importance of your dreams in your life. You’re probably dreaming of the deceased more often than you’re remembering.”
And why is this important? He says because when the bereaved can recall that one dream, that one moment with the departed, it can equal years of grieving. These transformational dreams can have a dramatic impact, Black says.
“They’ll say they felt warm and loved,” he says. “Their grief transforms and 10 years of psychotherapy can happen in one night. You see it happen enough to know that it’s not uncommon.”
Black will be joined by his research colleague Jade Karling, a Chilliwack dream researcher, life skills coach, author and podcaster.
“A large percentage of my clients are on a grief journey of some sort, and struggling with their grief,” she says. “A lot of them express regret, or a longing to have another ‘simple moment’ with those that they’ve lost. It’s never really grand things. The majority of people really just say, ‘if I could just sit with my mother or hold her hands or look into her eyes.’”
When she hears her clients, and guests on her podcast, (www.griefdreamspodcast.podbean.com) tell these stories of these simple moments, it illustrates how important grief dreams are to the whole process of bereavement. And it underlines, she says, the importance of talking about it.
“I have thousands of dreams I’ve recorded on my iPhone,” she says. “It’s amazing. You wouldn’t think it is that helpful, but the more engaged I become with it, my recall has gone up.”
For tickets ($10 for the morning, $20 for the workshop) or more information, visit www.chilliwackculturalcentre.ca or phone 604-391-7469.