What does it mean to dream about someone dying? The immediate answer is, dreams about someone dying are symbolic.
In general, when you dream about someone dying, you are dreaming of yourself. However, it would be far too simplistic to say that the dreams about someone dying translate into “a part of yourself dying”. The dream is an image for far more than that.
The question is: what part of yourself is dying? This is not an easy question to answer. If there is anything I can get across to you, it is this: We are profoundly more than we think we are. Establishing your dream meaning is a process of discovering that profoundly more part of yourself. If you, or anyone else, come up with a quick dream interpretation, then I dare to say that you have missed the point.
Okay, slight backtrack on the above statement. In the article What Does It Mean to Dream About Someone, I shared a funny story about a woman who had a dream about an asshole. There, the meaning of the dream was immediately apparent! But anyway, I digress.
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What does it mean to dream about someone dying: symbolism of death in dreams
You should keep in mind that your dreams show you the whole picture of yourself, so that you can make a connection between what you already know about yourself and what you do not know about yourself.
The idea is always the expansion of your awareness, as I mentioned in the introductory article to dream interpretation. So, when asking yourself “what does it mean to dream about someone dying,” you have to remember that, through the dream, you have an opportunity to see something about yourself from within, so to speak. In other words, something within you is dying. That’s not always a bad thing!
It could be a part of your personality that no longer serves your development or some kind of underlying psychological dynamic that hinders your life.
To dream about someone dying could be pointing to the symbolic death of an unhealthy psychological relationship or attachment to the person dying. You might see this in a dream about your mother or father dying, something which I will talk about below.
Dreams about someone dying could also be an image for the withdrawal of your projections from that person. For instance, we often project our own qualities onto another person. We see in others what we cannot see in ourselves. When we recognize that we have done this, we often dream of that person dying. Again, I will share an example later in the post.
I have covered the topic of death and dying in my posts on dreams about death and dreams about killing, and I would encourage you to read both of them. That way you can get a good feel for the symbolism of death in general.
What does it mean to dream about someone dying?
Understanding the characters in your dreams
One should never forget that one dreams in the first place, and almost to the exclusion of all else, of oneself.C.G. JungThe characters in our dreams can represent many things about our own psyche. For example, in a dream our mothers and fathers are more than just our biological parents. They are also symbolic images for autonomous dynamics in the psyche, something you can read about on my other site, Unfolding the Universe Within.
Our Parents in Our Dreams are Not Really Our Parents
The death of our parents is very common dream imagery. The symbolic meaning of our parents dying in our dreams is about your psychological development and maturation.
Far too many people are still psychologically attached to their parents well into their adulthood – and that is true no matter how good or bad the relationship was. You can see this attachment in people who don’t use possessive pronouns when they speak about their parents outside of their family. For instance, a woman I knew always said “Momma” anytime she referred of her mother – and she was well into her 40s.
Even if we aren’t merged with our parents, as in the example of the woman above, our parents leave long-lasting imprints in our psyches, dynamic imprints which affect the way we see both ourselves and the world around us. In order to become wholly ourselves, we first have to break free from everything we have psychologically inherited from our parents, a lot of which is unconscious.
We have psychological attachments to our parents which keep us from moving forward in our lives. It doesn’t matter whether the relationship was good or bad, we still have to break free from the influence of the parents and become our true selves, with our own thoughts, feelings, and ideas about life.
The Father as a Psychological Dynamic
Let’s take the father as an example. Psychologically speaking, he is not just a snapshot of the past. The father is a living psychic complex in us.
Our father and our relationship to him create a certain kind of psychological dynamic which unconsciously affects us throughout our entire lives.
The best we can do to remedy that is to become as conscious as possible of the myriad ways in which that father dynamic manifests.
In general, the father represents your attitude toward life. An attitude is our normal point of reference toward life. It is how we respond to typical life events without even thinking about it. It can be both conscious and unconscious.
Whatever your father represents in a dream has something to do with how you see, not only yourself, but also the world around you. When the actual father was either too good or too bad, it creates an obstacle in one’s life, namely an inability to move forward in life – on our own terms.
What does it mean to dream about someone dying?
Whenever your father appears in your dreams, you need to ask yourself some questions.
Reflect on your father:
- What kind of life did your father lead?
- Did he go his own way or did he follow a traditional path?
Now reflect on your relationship to your father:
- What are the ways that has influenced you psychologically?
- How do you feel about your potential to make something happen in your life?
- Has his approach to life affected yours?
- Are you following his way or forging your own path?
- Do you have your own ideas about life, based on your life experience?
- Did anything about the relationship make it difficult for you to make your own way?
- Is your current attitude toward life keeping you from living an authentic life?
The father effectively superimposes a perspective on all aspects of life. Because of this, he can sometimes appear as an oppressive authority in dreams. No matter how he was in actual life, his power is insistence, whether conscious or not, on a particular way of being in the world and a refusal or inability to see or accept the possibility of change or difference.
What does it mean to dream about someone dying: the death of the father
When you have answered all of the questions above and reflected on how your father has unconsciously affected your life, then you can see how dreaming about his death is really a dream about breaking free from an unconscious dynamic. This dream indicates that something in your psyche has separated itself from the psychological attachment to the father. Now your conscious attitude needs to adjust itself to the new inner situation.
Psychologically, this translates into a new attitude and a fresh perspective for the dreamer. And more importantly, it should translate into a new attitude and fresh perspective that is based on your own ideas about life.
I covered this in my main article on Dreams About Death, but I’ll quote it here too.
What does it mean to dream about someone dying: the death of the mother
In order to talk about dreams about your mother dying, I will use an example of the negative mother complex. A woman who has had a terrible relationship with an unloving mother will often suffer from a recognizable set of psychological signs and symptoms. These symptoms include fear of life, insecurity about her place in the world, and self-loathing.
These recognizable signs and symptoms make up the negative mother complex.
The imprinted negative mother-image is at the center of that complex. The complex is bound together by all kinds of associations and psychological triggers. That negative mother-image also becomes an inner figure in a woman’s psyche; and, she will appear in dreams as the mother herself or other female images who fit the profile.
For example, if you have a boss who reminds you of your horrible mother, she will trigger that mother-complex. The boss may have some of your mother’s qualities, but any hyper-emotional reaction you have to her is your complex.
That imprinted inner mother-figure also becomes the voice of inner criticism and feelings of general insecurity in a person. In order to break free from such a complex, we have to learn to separate ourselves (the ego) from the complex and its effects on us.
After a woman has thoroughly worked with this negative mother complex and its associated effects on her personality, she will often have a dream where the mother dies. This is psychic death. When we speak of psychic death, we are often referring to the death of one’s psychological identification with the complex.
So, in this case the answer to the question, “What does it mean to dream about someone dying” is easy. You have psychologically broken free from something with which you were once completely identified. The effect this has on a person’s attitude and personality can be transformative, hence the idea of rebirth after death.
What does it mean to dream about someone dying: withdrawing your projections
Here’s another example from one of my clients, who has given me permission to share this. She was a very intuitive woman who had studied a lot about Jung and symbolism. She became fascinated with symbolic art. Of course, soon the woman met a fine artist whose work she had really admired.
She could see all kinds of alchemical symbolism in his paintings. Now, she assumed that he meant to put all of it there. I remember smiling as she told me about him. Then she had the chance to meet him. But when she talked about this symbolism with him, he had no idea what she was talking about. He was definitely intrigued and could see what she meant when she showed him some alchemical imagery, but he was otherwise totally ignorant of the symbolic nature of the work.
This came as a shock and disappointment to her. Let me tell you, this happens all of the time! If you notice that you have some kind of uncanny attraction to someone, pay attention to that.
So the question in analysis becomes, “why is her psychic energy so drawn to this man?” What does he reflect that actually belongs to her psychic constitution? She had the following dream about the artist, whom we’ll call Henry:
I knew this was the perfect time to tell her that it was in fact she who was the artist with all the knowledge of alchemy and symbolism. She had projected that quality in herself onto this artist, whom she really did not know very well. Projection is when we unconsciously transfer qualities of ourselves onto another person.
Whenever we do this, we do not see ourselves for who we really are: good or bad. We see this a lot in dream and fantasy imagery. In this dream, the man dies. This only means that the projection is dying. It is time for her to realize and integrate something about herself.
This struck home for her. Soon she began to paint and discovered that she had some skill in it. But through painting, what she realized was not that she was a painter, but that she was a writer. She started to recall a time when she wrote daily and how much that it meant to her. Writing was the medium through which she could bring her artistic self to life.
More than anything though, it opened her eyes to something about herself that she had not previously realized. Until then, she felt like she was not artistic or talented in any way whatsoever. She lived in fear of never becoming anything in her life. This was a turning point for her. Her fears about life started to vanish, one by one. She literally transformed into a completely different person. She started to live the life of the artist that she wanted to see in her artist friend.
What does it mean to dream about someone dying: seeing your own death in dreams
I have literally worked with thousands of dreams, and no one has ever come to me with a dream of seeing their own death. I have received a lot of general questions about this dream image, so I will try to answer what such a dream could mean. As I have already said, when we dream, we dream of ourselves.
If we dream of ourselves dying, then we must be dreaming that some part of us is dying. Again, the dream can be a positive image, possibly meaning that you are undergoing some kind of psychological transformation. A dream of seeing yourself dying could also mean that you are being careless with your life energy, and thus, you could be killing an essential part of yourself.
Only through a careful examination of your dream images, and the context in which those images present themselves, can reveal to which of these two possibilities the dream applies.
What does it mean to dream about someone dying: Possibilities for transformation
Real psychological transformation can be a spiritual experience. In fact, the whole idea of rebirth is about psychological transformation. I talk about this extensively in both my article on snake symbolism and in a long post of the symbolism of death.
Now, maybe you don’t feel as though you are going through any transformation, but that doesn’t mean that something isn’t happening beneath the threshold of consciousness.
All of our most profound transformations begin long before consciousness realizes it. Throughout Jung’s writings, he elaborates on how this happens. I’m working on a project that will congeal his thoughts and realizations about this process, but I can’t say much more about it here because it would take up too much space.
My advice if you have this kind of dream depends on your current situation. If you have been going through turmoil or have suffered some kind of existential crisis, this dream could be an indication that your suffering is coming to an end. I would encourage you to hold on and stay conscious of your suffering.
A dream of your death could be a good sign from your psyche that your painful process is coming to its symbolic end. This is certainly not a dream image encouraging your death. In fact, if people would realize their suicidal wishes symbolically, they would not have to take the final measure of ending their lives.
Sometimes we have to let parts of ourselves die so that we can be reborn, so to speak. This is the symbolic meaning of the sacrifice: surrender something of yourself and be reborn in this life.
What does it mean to dream about someone dying: killing our essential qualities
The other meaning of seeing ourselves dying in a dream could show us that we are killing our own precious essence. This kind of death would not be transformational, but could be something drastic such as a nervous breakdown or the onset of depression. Again, you have to look at your current life situation. Ask yourself some questions:
- Are you clinging to something that you should let go of?
- If so, then letting go of it, no matter how bad it hurts, would be something like a symbolic death. You may suffer the loss, but you will come out stronger if you stay with the process.
- examples: childhood, a relationship, a long held desire that is not meant to be
- Is there an attitude that needs to change?
- Sometimes we get trapped in our own limited mindset. If your attitude gets you in trouble, then this could be the meaning of your death in the dream
- Work on changing your attitude and let your old self die.
- Are you doing something that is destructive to your life energy?
- Obsessive thinking, destructive habits
- If this is the case, then the dream is letting you know that you are killing your own soul.
- Pay close attention to these dreams because if you do not, you could suffer something psychologically tragic.
What does it mean to dream about someone dying: Final Thoughts
I hope this clears the air for those you who had some fear around dreams of someone dying. Always remember that they are symbolic and not literal. Take your time when you are working with the dream images. Establish the context of both the dream itself and your current life situation. Don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself about any uncomfortable imagery. And please feel free to post your dreams about someone dying in the comment section. I’d love to see some interaction on the site.
If you do post a comment with a dream, leave some information about your current life and some of your associations. It’s the only way I can give you real answers.
And if you want to work with me in personal dream dialogues, feel free to reach out.
Want to learn more about working with dreams or Jungian Psychology?
- Dreams of Father Dying: A Symbolic Rite of Passage - February 15, 2020
- Dreams About Dead Fathers: It’s Time to Re-Think or Update Your Conscious Attitude - February 14, 2020
- Nightmare Meaning and Nightmare Disorder:A Jungian Perspective - January 22, 2020
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