Judging by the volume of articles published on the subject recently, it appears as though mainstream science is increasingly willing to tackle the subject of “visitation dreams.”
Even if you’re unfamiliar with this term, there’s a good chance you’ll recognize some of its features. Popular culture is laden with stories about visitation dreams; they are so deeply engrained that we rarely pause to consider how odd it is that a supposedly secular society tells ghost stories to its children. Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and “The Shining” by Stephen King are great examples of this motif. Books, films, and television employ visitation dreams as a serious storytelling device over and over again.
Could the reason that we continue to tell stories about visitation dreams be because they’re real? One factor supporting that theory is that these dreams share similar features the world over. Regardless of culture or race, people talk about seeing loved ones who have recently passed. In these dreams, the deceased usually don’t appear as they did at the end of their lives. Instead, they’re younger and healthier.
Visitation dreams are also unusually crisp and vivid. Deceased peopled commonly speak directly to the dreamer, and the dreamer remembers what is said. Further, that person usually wakes up with the distinct feeling they’ve been given an important message.
This last aspect of visitation dreams is probably the most important. Because one of the functions of these dreams, it seems, is to impart knowledge to the bereaved. “Many bereaved people report that these sorts of dreams allowed for the successful resolution of the grieving process,” says Patrick McNamara, Ph.D, in the 2011 Psychology Today article. “Despite the importance of visitation dreams for theories of religion and for the well-being of bereaved individuals very little research has been done on them.” Is this our brain’s way of coping with tragic loss? Or is something going on here, against which the tools of modern science are inadequate?
More research needs to be done before there’s a definitive answer on the subject of visitation dreams. But it seems that they won’t go away. Their continued presence in popular culture, coupled with science’s increasing interest in the subject, means hopefully we’re getting closer to an answer.