sad woman in bedWhen we get hit by loss and heartache, life turns upside down. The routine “normal” we’re used to disappears. Nothing is the quite the same.

We lay down at night and our minds spin. Sleep flees from us. When slumber finally comes, we wake frequently.

In times of grief and heartache, we might have dreams about those we’ve loved and lost. We naturally wonder what these nighttime, internal dramas mean.

One grieving client shared this with me from their journal:

Last night, I dreamed of you. We were walking through a meadow. A gentle breeze was blowing. Flowers were blooming, and there was a delightful fragrance in the air. 

At first, we were side by side, and then you began walking a little ahead of me. We walked down a hill and arrived at a peaceful stream. It was so beautiful. 

You walked into the water and then turned and looked at me. You smiled, and I could see the love in your eyes. Then you turned around and waded back in. 

I tried to follow, but I couldn’t move. I panicked. I called out to you, but you kept going. As you got closer to the other side, you began to slowly disappear. Then you were gone. I stood there, weeping. When I woke up, I could feel the tears streaming down my face. 

What was that? What does it mean? 

Are you telling me you’re okay? Was that a goodbye of some kind? 

I was glad to see you, if only in a dream. I miss you so much. 

Somehow, you feel less far away today. I know you’re gone. And yet, I still have you somehow. 

I don’t understand this at all. 

When the heart has been hit, life can get confusing. If you’re hurting from a loss of some kind, here are five things to keep in mind about heartache, grief, sleep, and dreams.

1. Sleep is designed to be healing.

You heal while you sleep. Your body rests and rejuvenates. Your mind often grapples with what you can’t consciously process during the day. All this makes sleep a more unpredictable adventure during times of loss and heartache.

2. Your heart is at work, even while you sleep.

Dreams can be an attempt to reconnect with departed loves and to somehow make more sense of what happened. Your inner pain and fears can surface. Not everyone has dreams of their loved one, and not every dream is a positive or reassuring one.

3. Your world has been shaken, and most likely your sleep will be too.

For most of us, our minds don’t rest well after a loss. Just as our worlds are shaken, our sleep is usually affected. Fatigue and even exhaustion are common.

Please adjust your expectations of yourself accordingly.

4. Your dreams reflect your heart’s pain, hopes, and fears.

If dreams of your loved one come, you naturally want to know what they mean. In most cases, the best place to look for an interpretation is your own heart.

When you have dreams of your loved one, it is certainly related intimately to your grief process. Let the dreams be what they are. If they concern you, consider seeking expert assistance.

5. Your dreams have an impact.

Some dreams might generate more questions. Others might reassure you and bring more peace to your heart. Still others might stir or intensify your longing for the one you lost. Be aware of your dreams’ impact and use them to grieve in healthy ways.

Grief is exhausting. Rest well, as you can. Practice breathing deeply. This may be the griever’s most important skill. Breathe deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth. Practice this several times a day. Get good at it. This skill will serve you well and have a greater healing impact than you can imagine.

Be patient with yourself on this unpredictable journey. What you don’t understand now might make more sense later. Consider what your heart is telling you and grieve as well as you know how at this point in your journey.

We can only live life one moment at a time. We grieve the same way. Give your heart some space. Let it breathe, grieve, and heal over time.


Multiple award-winning author, speaker, and grief specialist Gary Roe is a compassionate and trusted voice in grief-recovery who has been bringing comfort, hope, encouragement, and healing to hurting, wounded hearts for more than 30 years.  Click here to get his free eBook, Grief: 9Things I Wish I Had Known.

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