Dreams of the Deceased: Who Has Them and Why?
The limited research on dreams of the deceased is a cause for concern for those working with bereaved persons. This research addressed four questions: 1. Why do some bereaved individuals dream of the deceased while others do not? 2. Why are some dreams of the deceased a positive experience, while others are negative? 3. Are dreams of the deceased a form of continuing bond? 4. Are continuing bonds helpful for grief recovery? Four studies were conducted. In one, participants were 268 U.S. residents who had a romantic partner or spouse die in the prior 12 to 24 months. The second study had 199 U.S. residents whose dog or cat had died in the prior six months. The third study had 226 U.S. residents who experienced a stillbirth or miscarriage in the prior year. The fourth study had 218 participants, mostly U.S. residents, who had a romantic partner or spouse die in the prior 6 to 24 months. Participants completed all questionnaires online. Study 1 and 2 focused primarily on the issue of predicting the frequency of dreams of the deceased and found that frequency of general dream recall (all dreams, not just dreams of the deceased) was the primary predictor. In addition, grief intensity, openness to experience, and attachment security all showed indirect effects. All four studies, but especially studies 2 through 4, addressed the questions about the quality of dream experience, the relation of dreams of the deceased to continuing bonds, and the adaptiveness of continuing bonds. In general the findings from all four studies, but especially study 4, support the idea that there are multiple types of continuing bonds with differing impacts on grief recovery, and there are differing forms of dreams of the deceased, not all of which represent continuing bonds.