A Guide to Bad Dreams About Our Children

August 4, 2013

Given that I can’t really keep up with the demand for dream interpretation that I have been receiving and that I don’t have time to organize the material into a proper guidebook to nightmares about our children I have elected to take an interim step:  to offer nine blog posts dealing with the most common categories of nightmare with some insights about overall themes and a quick guide to get a reader moving toward nightmares that might most closely resemble their own.

My hope is that if you find the best general category, and then go to that list of dreams which have been organized in terms of the age of the child in the dream, you may find some insights that you can then use to think about your own particular dream (and hopefully feel less afraid and more conscious about what is being stirred up for you and about how you personally discover is best to take care of your own self and your child).

Note that the threads are long and you must be patient in scrolling down through dreams until you find some that match the age or situation of your own dream.

While I realize it is still cumbersome to scroll down through multiple dreams until you reach one matching your child or your theme, my hope is that it will be somewhat easier than the random thread of comments at the original post.

So… If your dream involves water or drowning click here: http://privilegeofparenting.com/2013/08/04/that-sinking-feeling%E2%80%94dreams-about-children-drowning/

If your nightmare involves falling or flying try here: http://privilegeofparenting.com/2013/08/04/nightmares-about-children-falling/

If the core dread is kids running away or being hurt from neglect click here:  http://privilegeofparenting.com/2013/08/04/nightmares-about-children-running-away-or-being-neglected-or-abandoned/

If kidnappers or scary animals, bad guys or monsters are the subject go here: http://privilegeofparenting.com/2013/08/04/nightmares-of-children-being-kidnapped-or-chased/

If the child actually does die in the dream click here:  http://privilegeofparenting.com/2013/08/04/nightmares-where-children-die/

If the dream involves overt abuse or graphic trauma read from here: http://privilegeofparenting.com/2013/08/04/nightmares-about-children-being-abused-or-traumatized/

If the dream involves poison try here: http://privilegeofparenting.com/2013/08/04/dreams-about-children-poisoned/

If there is a family feud or families fighting see these: http://privilegeofparenting.com/2013/08/04/dreams-where-families-fight/

And finally, if the dream doesn’t quite fit any of the above categories but you suspect that it is teaching you something consider these dreams: http://privilegeofparenting.com/2013/08/04/dreams-as-teachers/

And… Sweet Dreams

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen @ Motherese August 9, 2013 at 8:46 am

What a gift this is, Bruce, and a generous one to those of us who drink up your wisdom like the nectar it is. I don’t know if I can say I look forward to exploring my own nightmares, but I know if will be time well spent.

With thanks and friendship,
Kristen

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Bruce August 9, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Hi Kristen, Thanks for your kind words—and the friendship :)

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paige johnson January 12, 2014 at 6:06 pm

I have been trolling through your readings about nightmares and could not find much in regards to older children but found similar dreams I have had with my children when they were younger. I have two wonderful children that are now teens(14 yrs girl and 16 yrs boy). I have a college degree in psychology and do understand about the self and dreams. As of three months ago I’ve started to get day terrors of my 16 year of son being hurt and even at times killed by accidents of some kinds. This happens daily and nightly. I could be sitting in a room and get a instant thought him being killed by a car or even choking on food at school. Its never about my daughter I always vision her success and going to college and the normal parent wishes and dreams. something about my son I can’t see that no matter how hard i try to force myself to visualize his future. I’m believe it is a internal fear of him leaving the nest in a couple years but day terrors? plus nightmares? how do i make them stop? I have tried meditation and calming techniques they seem to help at home but its hard at work.

I hope you email me back with some form of answer

thank you
paige

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Bruce January 14, 2014 at 9:00 pm

Hi Paige,

What you are reporting sounds more like anxiety and dream interpretation per se. You also have insight into the underlying fear which is separation (which, if attachment is anxious for you, could mean separation anxiety):

for more on attachment see: http://privilegeofparenting.com/2010/12/15/attachment-in-the-lab-implications-on-the-couch-and-in-the-brain/

Beyond this you might want to get a little help (therapist, or start with reading) about anxiety (you could start with “The Feeling Good Handbook” by David Burns and go from there).

The key first point I would make, however, is that in trying to stop the “bad thoughts” you are inadvertently making them stronger. This sort of anxiety is better with cognitive behavioral insights than purely self and symbol sort of approaches.

The meditation is a good base for calming the mind, but in this particular sort of situation you must also have some support to confront the difficult thoughts and you will see them subside.

I’m wishing you well on this and sending empathy and hope you’ll seek some additional help as you obviously love your children and deserve not to suffer with these fears. Another resource I like is “Unified Protocol for Transdiagnostic Treatment of Emotional Disorders” by David Barlow.

Hope you feel better soon

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lisa February 14, 2014 at 3:25 am

I have been up since 4 am i cannot fall back to sleep having the images of this dream in my head. In my dream i was playing around with two of my aunts running arond playing a bit harsh, when all of a sudden one of my younger cousins creams out “his arm his arm is broken and when i turn to run to him i see my son standing there not even able to cry of the pain he is in and i see his arm dangling and i could see where his bone has broken in his arm. So i grab him and carry him down the stairs telling him breath baby breath. And i could feel his body in my arms stiff from not being able to breath and i find all my family sitting around down stair and i scream at them take me to the hospital now his arm is broken so as i start to run to the front door i wake up in terror.

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Bruce February 16, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Hi Lisa,

I’m sorry this dream upset you so terribly. It seems you were too upset to even read the post above, and so I will remind you that if you do read it, it will guide you to many dreams already submitted by others and many attempts to comment on those dreams.

A couple of ideas in the meantime. When we are terribly scared we can’t really think straight, and this is how we miss cues in the present that could help us heal, rather than re-living the past (especially if it has traumatized us).

Thus the first thing to do is realize that the dream was in fact, just a dream. Your child is not hurt and you are okay too (able to search this blog and leave a comment).

BUT… that was not how it felt, not in the dream or when you just woke up. We need compassion and understanding for that feeling.

So… perhaps the child in the dream symbolizes the child you once were. The broken arm might symbolize some sort of physical or emotional experience you had in the past—one that lead to speechless terror. This is natural when we are overwhelmed by pain or fear, and this is why I have been trying to help via this blog, but there have been so many dreams I can’t hardly keep up. I too have to learn that I cannot fix all the pain that is out there, this is why I’m asking that we work together, each doing what we can. Partly that means you at least reading some of what I’ve already written to see if it might not help.

Still, I never want to come across as rude or uncaring, and so I’m taking the time to spell this out.

In the dream you carry the child downstairs, and this could symbolize coming back into reality, “down to earth,” a return to the pain that caused you to leave your old self, or body, in the distant past, perhaps when you were the age your child is now.

You seem to confront a family that is not responding. Perhaps this is part of your pain and your anger—being hurt and then not recognized or helped when you needed holding and healing.

Perhaps the work of healing is to see that while your family may have hurt you, they might have been limited and unable to do better. Letting go of resentments can be a long process, but realizing that you may be justified in your hurt, anger and fear might be a step toward healing, toward forgiving, toward being able to give your child what you may not have gotten, and in the bargain raise them safe and secure while healing your own self of the pain of the past.

Certainly hoping my words help a little, and also wishing you well & sweet dreams ahead

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Yamilet June 6, 2014 at 5:18 am

I have looked through the past dreams and have nothing that can answer my question. I know that it states you can no longer interpret dreams, so I’m hoping that maybe I can get a hint or some insight about a dream I had last night. The first thing I remember about the dream is me outside standing watch. I was outside downstairs and my 3yr old son was in the apartment upstairs on a balcony. I see him opening the door and another boy that I don’t know, about 8yrs old stabs him. I scream and told him to get off my son although in my dream I had not realized that he was stabbed yet. I’m still standing watch , which seems to be my job and can’t leave. When I finally leave and get to my son, I realize he was stabbed. I take his clothes of clean him up. He stops bleeding and I see that it’s now just a deep wound. I finally take him to the hospital and the visit was quick not even an important part of the dream. I go to a couple I know from church to dry clothes that got wet and was still upset about my son bring stabbed telling them I was worried about my sons safety and wanted to move. At then end of the dream I end up getting ready for my college graduation which our cap and gowns were red. Although I just graduated from college about 3 weeks ago, This graduation was to honor military veterans that completed a bachelors degree. I was still worried about my son. There was a girl there in handcuffs that wanted to fight me but because I was focused on my son I tried to not fight her. As people came to congratulate me I just kept saying well my son got stabbed. Please help because I woke up rather low this morning. Thank you so much in advance.

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Bruce June 6, 2014 at 6:54 pm

Hi Yamilet,

Thank you for reading through the other dreams and at least making an attempt to understand your own. My hints are as follows:

The dream might represent your Self in all it’s parts. Thus the “child you” who is innocent and has “higher consciousness” is on the balcony. This is also a position of power, thus he might represent your Spirit, or Higher Power at a personal level. The boy who stabs him would be the angry and envious or aggressive part of your personality: we all have this, most deny it and thus find it in others; this furthers conflicts between people and blocks us from being free to love and safe in our selves and our world.

The fact that you are on watch, and you go to church, brings to mind the idea of the watchmen, or guardian. You are identified with the guardian but what is happening is literally “above your head” (on the balcony). In terms of fathers, sons and stabbing we also might consult the Abraham story which foreshadows the Christ story. Father “sacrificing” the son to “test” his faith, and also to mark an end for the need of personal sacrifice (aggression, for if we are all brothers then anyone who is hurt, in dream or in life, is “family” and tragic, for if any of our kids are not okay none of us are okay).

The “deep wound” might be a symbol for the hurts you carry, that feel like they are visited on the child, but of course you love your child more than yourself, and thus you represent your true suffering with this dream. The wound will heal—good news… your own personal symbol of emotional and psychological healing that your deep Self is suggesting you must do; first recognizing the wound, and then attending to it (the hospital, place of healing, awareness of the dream, searching for insights).

You have recently graduated (congratulations) and this symbolizes initiation and transition. Your dream speaks of soldiers, and thus you are also wanting to graduate, symbolically, into a noble warrior, a True Man, True Father—sacred protector of your beloved son.

Finally, the “girl in handcuffs” is your feminine aspect. She doesn’t want to hurt you, although it seems that way. She symbolizes the tough side of the feminine. She’s like your partner in a buddy cop movie. You hate her at first and think she’s worthless, and then you realize she’s got your back and you love her.

Hope these ideas help. & Sweet Dreams

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jennie August 2, 2014 at 11:29 am

I had a dream that my granddaughter that is year old was running toward a busy street i was running after her before she got to the traffic i looked back and my step daughter was in back of me she said oh my god she is scared i said i know i cant run fast enough to get her so she trys to get her my granddaughter is crying and she is trying to run towards me now n im running and cars are barely missing her she falls and gets up and runs toward me finally i reach her and i hug her n my step daughter is crying and hugging her and i woke up…..as i was waking up my step daughter pulls up in the drive way to come visit as soon as she leaves my daughter calls me and says that my granddaughter wanted to talk to me can you please tell me what this might mean thank you

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Bruce August 2, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Hi Jennie,

I’m not sure if you read the post above, but it explains how to look through the threads of dreams to get some insights into your own, as I’m having trouble keeping up with so many dreams.

So… please follow the directions and if you put in a little effort I hope it will be worthwhile.

A couple of hints to get you started: maybe the child represents your own self and feelings of pain in the past; maybe it represents some sort of guilt you have about how you did as a mom.

The danger could symbolize the way you felt as a kid, and the idea the grandchild and grandmother come together could symbolize an integration of opposites inside your own personality as you mature. It could also represent your unresolved guilt and wish to be affirmed and loved. Sometimes that need to be loved causes our own children to carry some resentments toward us, and maybe you feel like your child criticizes you and/or your grandparenting.

As for the coincidence of your step-daughter coming to visit, and your daughter calling, this fits with dream as wish—you wish to be wanted, you dream of it… and your dream comes true.

Now you can work on having your waking life be more like a happy dream.

Sweet Dreams

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medya August 31, 2014 at 9:36 pm

for the past 5 years i have been seeing (more than 100 times) that im going to lose my son (5 now) in different ways and different places. Im losing my mind. please please could you help me. is something going to happen to my son or am I going crazy?
Thanks

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Bruce August 31, 2014 at 11:27 pm

Hi Medya,

Not sure if you read the post above, but please follow this thread (and actually read some of the dreams and comments) for insights into your own recurring dream:

http://privilegeofparenting.com/2013/08/04/nightmares-where-children-die/

Since this dream keep repeating, perhaps if you find yourself in a tragic situation your first question to yourself might be: am I dreaming?

If you realize that you are, maybe you can turn the dream into a good one, rescue your kid and wake happily from a much better dream.

It strikes me as a bit ironic that you give your name as Medya, which made me think of Medea—a mythic figure who certainly had complicated relationships with her children…

As you will see if you read the dreams of others, perhaps your child in your dream represents your own child-self. If so, maybe the theme is that your identification with your child self must die, or be “lost” for your full self as a grown-up to emerge.

On the other hand if you experienced loss or trauma as a young child, maybe some help and support with resolving the past could help.

And finally, if you are prone to worry and anxiety, it could be that your dreams are reflecting your waking experience as well, worrying about things that don’t actually happen. If so, maybe some help with anxiety wouldn’t hurt (if yes, consider something like “The Feeling Good Handbook” by David Burns).

Certainly wishing you Sweet Dreams & a good waking life too

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medya September 1, 2014 at 2:42 pm

Hi Bruce

Thank you very much for taking time to write back to me and thank you for the link. I read through it and quiet useful.
I tried group anxiety therapy in Richmond after asking my GP to help me as I do have anxiety over losing my son to my ex-husband in my none ending court battle for the past 5 years and unfortunately he is a millionaire and has all the means to try to get rid of me somehow. any ways in counselling sessions this lady in charge started telling all these women with anxiety that ” please understand that anxiety is not a very bad thing and it is actually a warning for an perhaps upcoming future troubles”!!!
I also have many friends who are in medical field, doctors, psychologist etc, and couple of them I trust say that dreams are our unconscious insight to the future.
My parents are telling me that its my court battles that are making me dream like this and they think I’m acting like an uneducated and shallow woman to be talking about my dreams.
So I’m lost. But I’m going to stick with your advise as it makes perfect sense to me and is quiet comforting to know that these dreams have nothing to do with my son.
About my name :), it is an very old Persian name. few thousands of years ago, many years before Cyrus the King there was a tradition where they used to have a yearly contest and would choose a woman as the best mother of the year and would give her the title “Medya” For a year. part of Persian empire was also called Media. but not the Greek Medea for sure. lol
Mind you I have lived in many different countries in my whole life and you are one of the very few people who actually linked it to the Greek myth or the Persian tradition. I had many Greek friends and had a project in Athens once and stayed there for many months and they never mentioned anything to me. I actually went to many shops and wanted to buy the Medea figure and the shop keepers would go like what? Medea? whats that? could have been my incorrect pronunciation though.
But that means you are very well read and informed and sharp and helps to trust your words even more.
Thank you very much for the website and sharing your knowledge with everyone. I couldn’t sleep last night after having the last horrible nightmare and your website and reading the contents made me feel in ease.

Could you kindly give me a little help in how I could change my dream at the end please.I want to be able to find my son in my dreams. I really would want to try this. sorry I think I’m sounding like a crazy woman right now but I want to get rid of this unreal pain.
Many thanks for your time and advise.
All the best

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Bruce September 1, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Hi Medya,

So… we build our understanding by listening and sharing ideas, with the clear goal of non-suffering. This means non-suffering for your ex, for your child and for yourself.

In that spirit I would firstly caution that I am not truly in a position to give advice so much as to offer insights and support so that you may trust your own deepest Self and her ability to make good decisions and have love prevail over hate and fear.

Not to plug my own book, but the chapter on anxiety might be interesting, but given your broad world experience you might also find that chapters on intuition and telepathy in parenting, as well as the final chapter which deals with the loss of children and re-frames parenting in a spiritual (non-religious) context might also prove resonant for you.

Meanwhile, a short version of anxiety (which, yes, is a “warning” system in the mind/body to keep us safe) is that when it becomes maladaptive is when we are failing to calm down after the actual danger has been averted. Keep in mind our biology wants us to survive, but it doesn’t really care if we are happy. These genes developed a long long time ago, and are not exactly suited to our modern lives.

For this reason one of the best things you can do for your anxiety is to practice mindfulness meditation. There is increasing research to support this, but from a brain standpoint your anxiety is in the fear brain, which is pretty ancient, while your capacity for trust, gratitude, loving kindness and compassion (and happiness) are in your middle prefrontal cortex, which is relatively recent in evolutionary biology. It seems that the loving mind needs a little cultivation, but the steady practice (five minutes a day) if done daily, can really make a big difference long term. Given your sleep issues, perhaps mindfulness meditation before bed would be worth a try. If you sleep better, repeat and make it a habit.

There are Apps to help you with this, and a nice meditation to consider is what the Buddhists call Metta. Google it, but in short it’s about wishing well to yourself, a teacher or loved one, all sentient beings and someone with whom you have conflict. [your map is clear enough on this one: include you, your son, everyone and your ex] Wishing well activates the optimal part of the brain for non-fear and this is also “executive function” which will help you advocate optimally for your custody rights.

Turning to psychological interpretations of anxiety, we have the notion that it is the “unremembered past” projected into the future (with the unconscious wish that what seems to be coming, the bad thing, just might be avoided if we are cunning and on guard). The irony here, consistent with the info you have shared, is that your ex already “took” your son. Thus the dreams may be your unconscious struggling to face that a loss has already occurred, a fact denied and feared by your conscious mind?

In this perspective you might realize that you likely have some underlying sorrow, and if you can work that through your anxiety (as defense against loss, compounded by stuck anger and inability to forgive) you may feel released from this nightmare cycle. The proper response to loss is to rest. Ironic, in that it’s the very thing that is disrupted, making life feel like a waking nightmare.

In my first comment above I mentioned cognitive approaches, and I still think they are useful, particularly the notion of common cognitive distortions, one of which is “fortune telling” or predicting the future. This can become a thought loop which makes us perpetually feel like our feared experience is actually happening, which makes us feel like we are losing everything, which perpetuates the thought that we must be losing, or soon will lose, our precious child in your case.

Of course we all worry terribly about our children as nothing is more precious and nothing could be worse than losing them. You must ascertain what you need to do to truly protect your child, but from as rational a standpoint (in your own opinion) as possible—you must not waste energy on worry that could be used loving, advocating or having a good experience.

Finally, if you were able to become lucid in your dream, you would identify that your are dreaming, and then you would recognize that the whole dream represents your whole Self. You might say to the trees, the environment, whoever is in your dream: You represent my bereavement, my emptiness, my missing child—my nightmare of being separate from the one I love more than life itself. “What am I to learn here?” you ask your dream. “What do you demand of me to learn or do that you would allow me to awaken from this nightmare?” (which is nothing but my own ego-concoction). Where are the angels, the heroines, the ability to fly that comes with dream territory? What helpers will arise from my own deepest and truest Self to allow me and my child safe passage to “reality” in which my child is safe and we are together and we are happy? Your own Self is all about love. Your ego self is like the Wizard in Wizard of Oz, a con artist behind a curtain.

This con artist is NOT your ex (even if dreams, and sometimes life itself, seems to dress him up as the vilain), it is your own lower nature (your limbic brain and the stories you tell yourself in your sleeping mind), the same worried animal brain every human being carries around with them in their nervous and lonely heads. It seems we must get beyond morality, judgement and self-hatred in favor of science, or even the “art” of seeking truth, learning from our experiences in the service of love. Then meditating, and dreaming, and parenting become about cultivating your higher self, your generosity that, in your dream to start, and then in waking life too, asserts your truth: Just let me serve my child, let me know that they are safe and I will work happily to be generous of spirit, forgiving and kind.

Then even that Wizard of a lower mind, once revealed to be weak and ridiculous, is likely to remind you that you already have the Ruby Slippers, you just didn’t realize that there is no place like home and you are actually there… which is when you might awaken to realize that the fear was but a dream and yet the love is more real than you had even dreamed.

Hope this makes sense and hope you are able to make your way to a safe and happy experience (in your dreams, and then in your waking experience).

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medya October 11, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Dr Bruce

Just wanted to thank you for your help. For some reason or perhaps after reading your comments and going through your websites etc, I have had no more dreams. No more. its either a coincident or your explanation has somehow affected me deeply.
I really don’t know how to thank you. thank you for sparing your time and writing back to me. I am so happy for not having nightmares anymore.
lots and lots of thanks from London.

Bruce October 11, 2014 at 3:03 pm

Hi Medya,

Thank you for your lovely and gracious comment. I am thrilled and heartened to learn that you are feeling liberated from your nightmares.

My wife and I adore London, so if you have a chance to play in the park at Coram Fields with your child you can think of us :)

Candice September 3, 2014 at 2:40 am

Hello,

I’ve read through your posts and cannot seem to figure out this dream I just had. It involves a few different things.

In my dream, I went to check on my son as he was playing outside. He’s soon to be 8. I’m standing right outside the sliding glass door and he’s on the porch with 6-7 other boys. Most are around his age, two are about 15-16 years old. The two older boys have two kids facing each other, one with a gun in his hand against the other boys head. In the dream, the boy with the gun to his head is my son’s good friend. The boy with the gun pulls the trigger and kills the kid. My son, originally wasn’t facing the situation. He was turned the opposite direction playing with his Bumble Bee Transformer. But he turned around right before the kid got shot and saw everything. My son immediately looked at me and started crying. The look on his face is what tore me up. His innocence was gone. I immediately went to my son.

As for the whole scenario, I keep wondering why I didn’t grab the gun. Maybe in the dream I felt the situation was very unstable and the two older boys had control over the situation. But, seeing the look on my son’s face, and then him crying, that just tore me apart. I cannot get the image out of my head. I laid next to my son, and hugged him at 5 in the morning.

Any help would be very appreciated. Thank you.

…Candice

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Bruce September 4, 2014 at 10:18 pm

Hi Candice,

I know you read through the posts, but I think if you look at the dreams about kids dying you might get some insights into possible meanings here:

http://privilegeofparenting.com/2013/08/04/nightmares-where-children-die/

A couple of hints in the meantime… Perhaps your child in the dream represents your own child self, and thus the “not facing” something, playing with a bumble-bee “transformer” (symbol of transformation, from innocence to disillusionment).

Maybe thinking about life for yourself when you were just turning 8 would yield a clue about seeing something that made you feel like you’d lost your childhood, your innocence. You talk about guilt, and perhaps you as a kid felt responsible for something, and at the same time powerless—confused about what was your fault, maybe blocked from working through your own trauma.

On the other hand, our world has a lot to be concerned about and your mind might just be trying to work out or process disturbing images you had seen recently.

Do read some of the other dreams for more insights.

Certainly wishing you better dreams ahead and a nice waking life too

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do with nightmare October 18, 2014 at 4:18 pm

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joann January 9, 2015 at 8:41 am

Hello Bruce, I was combing thru the list and read a lot of scenarios of frightening dreams that folks were having. I know you are bombarded with many emails and I totally understand if your unable to answer mine personally, but since mine is of a somewhat different category I thought if it was added perhaps it may help others so here goes, my daughter died at the age of 20 due to an motorcycle accident in 2007. My dream is that I awake FROM a dream that my daughter was in a accident and has died. Then she walks thru the door and I see her and shower her with hugs and kisses. In my dream I’m so happy. When I awake in the morning for real, it takes me a few minutes to realize it was all a dream and she really is gone, its like being tortured every day. I wish it to stop, but I don’t know how. Thanks for reading this.

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Bruce January 9, 2015 at 10:08 pm

Hi Joann,

Firstly, I just want to say how sorry I am that your child died. This does seem to me a complete catastrophe and the worst thing any parent can imagine at a personal level.

While so many dreams parents write in are about the loss of a child, but it is actually “just a dream,” sadly your dream follows this same seeming truth: the continued physical existence of your child in this living realm we call “reality” is but a dream, something your mind creates.

Just as parents sometimes dream of the loss of a child because they are unconsciously frustrated and overwhelmed by parenting; you dream of your child dying and then waking from that dream to the “reality” that she’s okay… only to wake again to this current reality where she’s gone. If this represents a “wish” it is obvious and understandable: you wish your child was still alive.

This is just heart-breaking. On the pragmatic level this dream might be telling you that you still have not come to terms with the loss; and your unconscious is trying to work this out: exposing you to the loss, undoing it, but then, as T.S. Elliot writes “Human voices wake us and we drown.” Thus if you want to be practical, perhaps you can strive for lucidity in your dream. If you dream your child has been killed, you might realize, this is my nightmare, this is my past. This already happened so this must be a dream. Then you can invite your child into your lucid dream, and you can talk to her (she might represent your child, or even your child self, or both). If you say: “I know you are my child self, and maybe a symbol of my very soul—I am your parent, but I am also a hollow ghost, I am not even alive in my soul, for you are my very soul. Please show me how to integrate you into my lived experience, show me the magic that I might bring love and soul to others until the time I might be released from life, perhaps to be a soul, perhaps in the mere evaporation of this dream we call life. I admit my confusion, but as my soul-self, please teach me, or at the very least don’t make me wake up without you, for life without you is untenable while life with you feels more like “real” life, the life I want to live.

While these ideas hint at this, a romantic idea could be that your dream is teaching you something very deep about love and truth, but who can say for sure. Dreams are interesting and they can be quite profound, even if they “prove” nothing at all. Perhaps your dream within a dream, like a surrealist trope along the lines of Borges, is challenging you to consider the nature of reality?

Figures like Buddha suggest that what we call reality is an illusion. As far as I can tell it is a very convincing illusion, but still, how can we be sure of “truth”?

If your dream holds some deeper truth than our so-called reality, it just might be that your daughter’s true spirit still lives (even if only in, or through, your mind or heart or soul). It seem so many people who are supposedly, or technically, “alive” are like walking zombies, hollow, unhappy, materialistic, frightened—so human, but so sad. Maybe your dream gives you a glimpse of the release from the nightmare sort of life where children die, into the bliss where they are here with us and fine, while the waking back to the nightmare “reality” misses the mark of soul and is instead a hollow realm no better than your own personal nightmare only shared by 7 billion people. Thus the “middle path” between a personal nightmare, and a collective waking nightmare world is marked by a “good dream”.

Could this be our collective path forward? A quiet awakening to a more loving world, a dream we turn good so that we can awaken from it, for we seem as yet unable to awaken from the world of hate, terror and collective madness.

I have way more questions than answers, but at least we can be honest about our questions and bond in not knowing, but in loving all the same (in perhaps the Platonic sense of seeking truth while admitting we cannot know it). My sense is that you need compassion, love, validation and support to navigate life in the context of such a loss.

A colleague who specializes in this topic might be of interest to you:

http://www.parentingafteraloss.com/

And in any event, it does seem that we humans make sense of our reality by way of stories, stories of gain, loss and gain. The classic movie: boy gets girl, loses girl, gets girl back could be reframed as mom gets child, loses child… and now we desperately need to get child back. Thus we can cope with reality, and accept death, or maybe we can leap into the void of truly not knowing and seek whatever ultimate reality marks the source and destiny of our individual and collective minds.

Maybe humans will evolve in their consciousness to some deeper level in which we are socialized to experience ourselves through each other and not just as discrete individuals who are born and die for no clear reason in lives filled with uncertainty and “ruined” by death (or else told fairy tales about a “better place” that casts life itself as some sort of prequel to the real action, the real “good stuff” and persuades us to live less and not more in this life)

The best I can come up with is that life might be about love, and so you can take all the love you have to give and give it to whoever crosses your path who seems to need it; meanwhile allowing love from others to help mend your broken heart if it is possible. If you can heal, you can speak with authority to other parents who face is tragedy and maybe that could turn your loss into some act of love to help others? If you have an epiphany, in your dreams or in waking life, you’ll probably just feel better and more able to love and yet disinclined to talk about it. All I know is that I don’t know, and if you do figure something out please feel free to share :)

In the meantime maybe we can all at least try to be a little nicer to each other.

Warmest Regards, Bruce

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Priscilla Basaldua January 13, 2015 at 3:14 am

Hi Bruce, I’m in need of your help please, I’m terrified & worried for my four year old son, also my oldest out of two kids. Well I’m bothered with this dream I just woke up from & it took place at my husbands grandmother’s house, she passed away 4 years ago but there’s always been rumors and talk that there is some sort of paranormal activity going on like my husband told me when he slept there he felt his feet being pulled but I’m not sure about it I mean I treat them just like stories but anyways, my nightmare began when we decided to spend the night there & I kept telling my husband I wanted to leave so bad because I kept feeling hands on me, lights were going off and things were being thrown across the room. I kept praying but I couldn’t say the prayer right because it felt like something was holding my lips together. Then at the end of my dream I noticed that my 4 year old son was being possessed by something and all I remember is just holding him and praying for this thing to get out of my son, suddenly I woke up crying! I’m not sure what this dream meant and why sort of focused on my son. I’m scared to go back to sleep, of course right now all I can do is just stare at him, if you could please read my email and reply when you can I’d appreciate it. Thank you.

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Bruce January 13, 2015 at 8:36 pm

Hi Priscilla,

I realize that you were writing this comment in the grip of fear, but now I would recommend that you go back to the top of the post itself and follow the thread to read about other dreams that resemble your own.

Probably dreams related to kidnapping and “monsters” might apply:

If kidnappers or scary animals, bad guys or monsters are the subject go here: http://privilegeofparenting.com/2013/08/04/nightmares-of-children-being-kidnapped-or-chased/

As for how to “interpret” your own dream about so-called “paranormal activity,” I would say that the author of the dream is your own mind, so whatever “possessed” your child (a symbol of your child self, given it was your dream and not your waking experience) is a dream-world representation of your own dark aspects.

In rushing, in a victim sort of mind-set, to have me “interpret” the dream (as if I would be “rescuing” you, you see a symbolic enactment of how someone might give away their power—as if I would know better than you what your own mind “means” by this dream) you miss the point of your own self-education and resist your own deeper lessons.

The world has been filled with people ready to tell others what their dreams, wishes, etc. mean. Even if I’ve done that in the past, in a wish to be helpful, what that has brought to me, apparently, in waking life is a lot of bad dreams—other people’s bad dreams. We’re both awake as I write this and while I want the best for you, I’ve now interpreted many hundreds of bad dreams and I’m starting to see how they are all more alike than different. Join me in caring not just about your dream but about “our” bad dreams as awake humans who have plenty to think about in the “real” world much less in the shadows of our imagination. I don’t want you to feel alone, but I also don’t want to feel responsible for your good feelings: I’ll root for you, but you need to meet me halfway and do some work.

My vote is that we practice loving kindness, meaning respect for your own intelligence and the realization that the only “boogie man” you have to fear is the one in your own mind. Just as you would tell your child if they had a bad dream, that it was just a dream, that’s all your dream was.

However, now you are “awake,” and you love your child and you have the power to reason, think, and particularly to love. We can take our dreams seriously as teachers of the nature of our fears, but we need to see ourselves as authors of our dreams. From there we can take responsibility for the irrational fears (some related to survival but not relevant to our waking lives, some related to past hurts that need to be made conscious so we can let them go, etc.).

If you are serious about growing and learning, then you will read more dreams, and think deeply for yourself, and see if your dreams change. Just like kids play at being grown-ups and then they grow up, you can play at being empowered in your love in your dreams and then live it in waking life. Ghosts of the past trying to take your innocence could be your way of trying to wake up to reality and stand for love and not nonsense (after all, if you were a grandmother and you were dead and you still had any consciousness, you would probably want to protect your grandchildren and not hurt them… only if you thought the mother was not doing a good enough job, i.e. your own guilt, and that’s normal as a mom, would you imagine “taking possession” of the grandchild out of love and the idea you could do a better job.

Thus, if you ever have the dream again you can say to the “ghost”: You’re my “great mother self” and you obviously want to love/possess my child. And I am my current mother self, pretty good but not perfect, so if you think I could do a better job, then go ahead and teach me, but I realize that I’m as much my kid as I am some old ghost in this dream. You might also, in waking life, want to work out any unresolved anger you might still have with your own mother, but if that’s not possible, then consciously grieve that situation and try to move forward for the sake of your actual child (and your inner “dream child” self).

Hope this helps. Sweet Dreams and an even sweeter waking life

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