Bereaved, Take Heart: Dreaming of Death While Dying is Comforting

 
 

I wish I had known this when my best friend from childhood's husband was dying last week.  But a new study shows that it's not uncommon for people to have extraordinary dreams or visions in the final weeks of their lives. Accounts of pre-death visions span recorded history, according to newswise.com.


I would feel greatly comforted if John had these.  Diagnosed in June with stage IV cancer, he was dead the second week in October.  At the end he chose no more treatment but to go quietly with his family by his side at his home.  I'd really love to think he was having a vision of Heaven and God welcoming him with open arms.
These dreams and visions may improve quality of life and should be treated accordingly,” says Professor James P. Donnelly, PhD, associate professor of counseling and human services and director of measurement & statistics for the Institute of Autism Research at Canisius College. 

His team's research showed that these visions and dreams are an intrinsic and comforting part of the dying process.

John died at 68, what used to seem old to me when I was in my 30s but now seems very close.  He was a wonderful husband, father and friend, an upstanding member of the community and he is already missed fiercely by all who knew him.  (Even as he lay dying, his dry wit shone through.  Visited by a number of close friends and family at the end, he asked his wife, "Are the cast of characters gone yet?").  He was an incredible man.

In the study, Donnelly and his colleagues interviewed the patients daily about the content, frequency and comfort level of their end-of-life dreams and visions (ELDVs). The researchers found that “the most common dreams and visions were of deceased relatives or friends.” Dreams and visions about the deceased were “significantly more comforting” to patients than other kinds of ELDVs, and became more frequent as the person approached death.

This study demonstrates that ELDVs are commonly experienced and characterized by a consistent pattern of realism and emotional significance,” Donnelly says.

The study noted that, sadly, some medical professionals tend to discount pre-death dreams and visions. “If they are seen as delusions or hallucinations, they are treated as problems to be controlled,” according to Donnelly.

But there is an important distinction between ELDVs and delirium. The study concluded: “During a delirium state, the person has lost their connection to reality and ability to communicate rationally. Delirium is distressing and dangerous, and must be treated medically. In contrast, our study shows that ELDVs are typically comforting, realistic, and often very meaningful, highlighting a critical difference.”

So, John, wherever you are, I pray that you are in that magic land you saw you as you took your last breath.




 


 
 






“These dreams and visions may improve quality of life and should be treated accordingly,” says Professor James P. Donnelly, PhD, associate professor of counseling and human services and director of measurement & statistics for the Institute of Autism Research at Canisius College. 

His team's research showed that these visions and dreams are an intrinsic and comforting part of the dying process.

John died at 68, what used to seem old to me when I was in my 30s but now seems very close.  He was a wonderful husband, father and friend, an upstanding member of the community and he is already missed fiercely by all who knew him.  (Even as he lay dying, his dry wit shone through.  Visited by a number of close friends and family at the end, he asked his wife, "Are the cast of characters gone yet?").  He was an incredible man.

In the study, Donnelly and his colleagues interviewed the patients daily about the content, frequency and comfort level of their end-of-life dreams and visions (ELDVs). The researchers found that “the most common dreams and visions were of deceased relatives or friends.” Dreams and visions about the deceased were “significantly more comforting” to patients than other kinds of ELDVs, and became more frequent as the person approached death.


“This study demonstrates that ELDVs are commonly experienced and characterized by a consistent pattern of realism and emotional significance,” Donnelly says.

The study noted that, sadly, some medical professionals tend to discount pre-death dreams and visions. “If they are seen as delusions or hallucinations, they are treated as problems to be controlled,” according to Donnelly.

But there is an important distinction between ELDVs and delirium. The study concluded: “During a delirium state, the person has lost their connection to reality and ability to communicate rationally. Delirium is distressing and dangerous, and must be treated medically. In contrast, our study shows that ELDVs are typically comforting, realistic, and often very meaningful, highlighting a critical difference.”

So, John, wherever you are, I pray that you are in that magic land you saw you as you took your last breath.

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