Dream Gates

Dream Gates

Dreaming with the departed

sunrise - Suzette.jpgThe number one reason men talk about dreams, in my experience, is that they have dreamed of someone who has died and the experience seemed so real that they desperately need help in understanding what is going on. I’m not talking about the brave men who come to dream classes and share thier inner lives with a mixed group. I’m talking about the guy in the neighborhood pub or on the bleachers, the cop in the all-night diner, the commuter on the train.


When I was moving into a former home, I was startled by banging on the French doors of the study in which I was shelving books. I opened the doors and a huge, wild-eyed man introduced himself as a neighbor. He was a former basketball pro. “I’ve just come from the graveyard,” he explained, breathing heavily. “My dad showed up in my bedroom last night and I had to go prove to myself that he’s still in the ground.” The cemetery was half a block away, not a long hike at all.

But in fact the distance between the living and the dead may be much shorter. It is exactly as wide as the edge of a maple leaf, said Handsome Lake, the Seneca Indian prophet.

Today, in a lovely retreat center in the foothills of the Cascades, I’m about to open a session on “Dreaming with the Departed” for a circle of 22 gifted and spirited dreamers – six of them men – who are training to become teachers of my Active Dreaming approach to dreamwork, creativity and healing. So I thought it would be appropriate to share some thoughts about what is going on when we dream of the dead.


Many of us yearn for contact with departed loved ones. We miss them; we ache for forgiveness or closure; we yearn for confirmation that there is life beyond physical death. This is one of the main reasons why people go to psychic readers.

Here’s an open secret: we don’t need a go-between to talk to the departed. We can have direct communication with our departed, in timely and helpful ways, if we are willing to pay attention to our dreams. We meet our departed loved ones in our dreams. Sometimes they come to offer us guidance or assurance of life beyond death; sometimes they need help from us because they are lost or confused, or need forgiveness and closure.

Dreams of the departed help us gain first-hand knowledge of what happens after physical death. One of the cruelest things that mainstream Western culture has done is to suggest that communication with the departed is either impossible or unnatural. There is nothing spooky or “supernatural” involved, though these experiences take us into realms beyond physical reality.


The easiest way for the departed to communicate with the living is through dreams -though sometimes the departed, as well as the living, fail to realize this. For once, Hollywood got this right. In the movie The Sixth Sense a psychically gifted young boy can see and speak with the departed. He plays counselor to a man who has died, is initially confused about his situation, and then dismayed that he cannot talk to his wife. The boy instructs the dead man, “Speak to her in her dreams, only then will she hear you”.

In most dreams, the departed appear to be living, and very often the dreamer is unaware that the person he or she encounters is “dead” until after waking. The reason is that the departed are indeed alive, though no longer in the physical realm. The departed may appear as the dreamer remembers them from their last days of physical life, especially in the first dream encounters. But over time, it is quite common for the departed to alter their appearance, to shrug off signs of age and bodily ailments, and to present themselves as healthy and attractive. People who died in later years frequently reappear looking around 30 years old.


After my father’s death, he appeared repeatedly in my dreams to offer counsel to the family, bringing specific and practical information to which I did not have access in waking life. For example, he gave me the name of the real estate broker on the other side of the Pacific – someone otherwise unknown to me – who moved with great speed and humanity (once we contacted him because of the dream) to help my mother sell her home and resettle in a community where she spent some of the happiest years of her life. My father also made a happy dream visit to one of my daughters, who bitterly regretted never having known him in physical life; he showed himself as a handsome horseman, about 30 years old, and took her riding. Through many dream encounters with my father, I was vividly reminded that a departed loved one can truly play “family angel”.


I have been dreaming of departed people all my life, and have worked with thousands of dreams of the departed shared with me by others. While the departed person in some of these dreams may be an aspect of the dreamer’s own personality or genetic inheritance – or a mask for a messenger from the deeper Self – the great majority of these dreams appear to involve transpersonal encounters.

There are three main reasons why dreams of the dead (and other forms of interaction with them) are entirely natural experiences:

1. The deceased are still with us because they have not yet moved on.
2. The deceased come visiting.
3. In dreams, we travel to the Other Side.

In future articles, we’ll explore each of these situations.

Next: When the dead are stil with us 

Sunrise photo by Suzette Rios-Scheurer

  • http://sothismedias Justin Patrick Moore

    “Family Angels” was a subject in my journal yesterday. I realize my Mom is (becoming) a Family Angel. I had dreamed that I was on a family trip with my Dad, my Mom and one of my sisters, to the Carolina’s. On my lunch break I went down to the restaurant where my sister works, to eat, and tell her the dream. She told me my nephew was on a trip to Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. I hadn’t known this. He’s 18 and my sister was having some Motherly worries about him being down there. In that moment though I felt that my Mom was watching over my nephew. Hence the precognitive element in this dream involving the departed.

  • Gretchen

    One of my favorite dreams of the departed is one my mom shared with me about ten years ago, shortly after her mother passed. In waking life she was constantly picking up the phone to call her mother, then would have the heart-tearing moment of realization that she could not. One night she dreamed she was sharing something on the phone with her mother, then in the dream recalled she had passed on. In the dream she had a happy revelation that she could, in fact, talk to her mother on the phone!

  • Wanda Burch

    I too dream of the dead, most of the dreams instructive or informative. My father made a frequent appearance in dreams during a health crisis and still appears in dreams, only now just checking in to let me know where he is in his current journey. He’s doing well.
    I have so many dreams shared with me by others; and I had my own epiphany in working with men and women who were going through their personal health crises. When asked about dreams that provided healing diagnoses or healing imagery, each person reported the first dream that really made them realize that they were dreaming of a health problem was a dream of a departed loved one showing up in various forms, from a waking image on a jogging path, to a dream that appeared to be sensual but then changed rapidly to a dream in which the departed one in the dream shouted at the dreamer that she had a health problem that needed to be diagnosed and cared for. I think that each of these people had been dreaming precognitively of their health crisis, but the dreams that really made them sit up and take notice were the ones from someone they had trusted or loved whose opinion mattered to them in life and still mattered in a dream visitation.

  • Savannah

    One of my favourite dreams is of meeting my grandfather in what felt like an alternate reality on the other side, maybe a world created somewhere in the realm of Luna, and being able to spend time with him (curiously in the body of a child). I was helping him pack up a house by an otherworldly kind of ocean beach on moving day, likely preparing to move on to another realm. He passed away when I was ten, long before I ever kept a journal (mine wasn’t a dreaming culture growing up…), and he hadn’t ever appeared to me since that time. I was rather distressed about having to say goodbye in the dream but moved and grateful on waking to have had the opportunity…

  • Karen

    My mom pushed me hard to excel in school while she was alive. I’m sure she meant the best for me, but I experienced it as a nagging pressure. Several years after she died I undertook another course of study. At that time she came to me in a dream and counseled me not to push ahead too hard and fast but to take my own time completing the course. She came back to help me in a new way. It was good advice!……Thanks Mom. I love you.

  • Irène

    I know (from reading Robert & Wanda’s books for example) that dreaming of the separted (it’s a typo, I’ll leave it knowing that I wanted to write “departed”), is natural.
    A few years ago my maternal grandmother came to me in a dream and said “I have something you must tell your mother.” I quite sharply told her to get out of my house and that if she had something to tell my mother she could just go do it herself. (My relationship with my mother and her mother was and is pretty much inexistant.) My grandmother persisted, no longer speaking but just “showing up” until I finally told her to just beat it (reminding her that as in life, I didn’t appreciate her in death and that she should go away and never come back).
    The morning after this last dream, at breakfast, my oldest son said, ” I have a new angel that came to me last night.” And I said, “What color is the angel?” (for my son’s angels are colored). “Orange”, he responded. (Orange immediately places me in the stomach, the 2nd chakra, the creative center that I strongly associate with motherhood. It’s also the color of my hair – and I’ve always thought that “redheads” should be called “orangeheads” – as well as my grandmother’s.) So as you’ve probably already guessed, when I asked my son what was the angel’s name, he said “Caroline” which is in fact my grandmother’s name. What surprised me is that my son pronounced her name with a heavy American accent (I’m American)which is completely different from the French pronunciation (we live in France). I had never spoken to my son about my grandmother and never pronounced her name (in French or English) before him.
    Since then, over the years I noticed, quite independantly, that my oldest son has very strong & dominant Wolf in him. He loves animals and looks, quite litteraly in my eyes, like a great, husky wolf. And last year, when we got a new computer, he placed a new icon for my session, a white wolf, and a screen saver image (a moonlit Grand Canyon). I thought it was strange that he chose the wolf for me and then all of a sudden remembered that my grandmother’s maiden name was Wolf! … I remembered my dream and felt kind of bad thinking that perhaps I somehow cut my son off from his great grandmother. And since the dream dated from a few years before, and my grandmother has not reappeared since, I did nothing about it. … à suivre.

  • Robert Moss

    Irene – It’s my impression that there are far more people on the Other Side who are trying to communicate with the living that vice versa. When the people they most need to reach cannot or will not heed them, they will seek another channel, as seems to have been the story with your grandmother and your son.
    Do please remember that while people don’t change all at once just because they are dead, they are called to a new phase of growth and understanding and – with new clarity – may then return able and willing not only to offer healing and mutual for giveness but to serve as family counselors and even as “family angels.” We don’t want to remain closed to the possibilities that this offers.

  • Robert Moss

    Karen – This is a beautiful transition, and illustrates how our departed continue to learn and grow in thir new lives. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Robert Moss

    Savannah – The ancient belief is that fortunate spirits live in diverse envoronments in the astral realm of the Moon before they are ready to leave behind their astral bodies and go on to a new existence. For me, this is satisfcatory working model of how things operate in the world-behind-the-world, at least for some, and your beautiful experience suggests a geography of this sort.

  • Robert Moss

    Gretchen – It’s interesting how our departed keep up with technology. In contemporary dreams, they not only call on the phone, they IM and email and impart burst transmissions.

  • Robert Moss

    Justin – Grand to know that Mom is on the case! As for precognition, the appearance of a deceased person I know and trust in a dream is for me a frequent marker to look for clues to the future in that dream. The departed (when they have clear sight) are not confined to our experience of linear time and can show us things of the future.

  • Janice

    The most interesting dream of the departed I have ever had — and there have been many — is the one in which my departed brother-in-law sent me an announcement. An envelope appeared in my dream and it held this new birth announcement. On the announcement was the new name that my brother-in-law was going to take on his rebirth. It was such a profound dream feeling, that I shared it with my brother, who also dreams. He was shocked. The name I had given him was the name of someone he knew, whom I had never heard of before. The interesting this was that this person’s daughter was going to give birth to a son in a few short weeks.

  • Janine De Tillio Cammarata

    In the one and a half years since my son, Nick, passed from this world, he has visited me many times at many different ages. For a while he was aging backwards until he was about 2 years old and blowing me kisses on Mother’s Day. His younger brother was the first to dream of Nick after he died and he played with Stephen telling him that he would always be there for him.
    A couple days before my Dream Teacher II training I dreamt of Nick. We were walking arm in arm. Nick was taller than me, his dark hair curly around his face. He wore his favorite blue Giants sweatshirt. I told him that everyone missed him and that I missed him. I felt so sad. Then Nick smiled and shrugged his shoulders and said, “But we are together!” It just felt natural to him and he couldn’t understand why I didn’t get it. I smiled and felt so much lighter. A woman on the other side of Nick was staring at me, because she couldn’t see him and didn’t know who I was talking to. We both laughed and continued on our way.
    That was a precious visit from my son and I am so thankful every time he visits.
    Robert, I thank you for writing about this on a day that I am having a hard time not having Nick physically here with me. It’s important to remember that he is all around me, especially in my dreams.

  • Grace Osora Erhart

    One thing I have noticed is that when I have dreams of the departed (coincidentally I had a strong one last night) I often feel healed and so happy on some level. Last night I dreamed of my grandfather and he became so young in my dream. I felt so great upon awakening, knowing that he is still with me, came in for a visit, and I felt a strong sense of how life and love continue, how family and life itself is eternal and how our dreams are our access to the realms of the departed.
    I had no thoughts of my grandfather consciously for a long time, I was so honored that he really “came to visit ” me.

  • Robert Moss

    Grace – It’s wonderful to have that sense of happiness and continuing love after these encounters. On your grandfather appearing younger than he was at the time of death – our departed eventually learn that they do not have to stay in the semblance of the old used-up body, and often grow younger in looks while remaining enough like themselves for us to recognize them.

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