A Series of Bungee Cords: Part Eight

by Lily Landers

I am in 4th grade in Mrs. Brown’s classroom. My dad is there and I am so happy. I introduce him to everyone. Then he disappears and I find out he is dead and everyone thinks I am crazy.

Okay, so I know nobody wants to hear about anybody’s dreams but since my dad died I have had so many different dreams about him and it is blowing my mind. I’ve been writing them all down and they pretty much fall into five different categories.

1. Alternate Realities of Dad’s Actual Death/Funeral

In these dreams, Dad is dying or dead and I have glimpses of what it could have been like if he was dying in the hospital and we had to visit him there, or if he died in New York and we didn’t get to see him. In one of these dreams he contemplates suicide, in another he is overweight and telling me that he will soon die of a heart attack. Sometimes in these dreams he is already dead and I am hosting a very different memorial for him, or an open casket funeral, or a Viking funeral where we light a boat on fire.

2. Alternate Realities of My Life Involving Dad

In these dreams, Dad is alive and I see different potential realities of my own life if he had lived. In my favorite version of this dream, Dad is a healthy old guy playing beach volleyball with us. But there are others where he is old and sad in a wheelchair, or one where Mom and Dad never got divorced and they are both still alive and healthy but miserable. In one version of this dream, Mom died young instead of Dad and he gave up acting and got into real estate to try to give us a more stable upbringing.

3. I Talk on the Phone with Dad

I found some research on these — phone calls in dreams seem to be a popular way of communicating with the deceased. I usually know he is dead in the phone call dreams. Sometimes the reception is bad and I struggle to hear him, but sometimes I can hear him clearly. One time he told me he was “practicing his shadows” the night after I saw what looked like a weird shadow walking through the doorway.

4. Dad at Different Stages of Life Rocking Different Looks

In the world of these dreams, Dad is alive and is usually a supporting character — the dream is not all about him. Sometimes he looks like himself at different ages but sometimes it is a version of him that never existed, like nerd dad with a full head of hair parted to the side with glasses and high-waisted pants.

5. Dad Comes Back From the Dead and I Have to Explain it to Everyone

This is the category I find the most fascinating. In this dream, I usually tell him that “people are going to freak out” and I feel anxious and awkward because we already had all of these memorials and bought him a bench. I’m always glad to see him but the focus is more about how I’m going to tell everyone that Dad is back from the dead. Not like a zombie. Just like alive again.

So where are these dreams coming from, you guys? It definitely feels like I am dreaming them to help me cope with the trauma of losing my dad, but how does my brain know to do that? I wake up after the alternate reality dreams feeling relieved that everything went down the way it did in real life, so I think they are serving a very real purpose. In our hospice grief sheets, it says that sometimes people have a hard time believing that their loved one has actually died. I totally get that because even after experiencing the whole process with him and touching his dead body, it was still hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that my dad died. Fiona and I still practice saying “Dad died” to each other because our brains are still processing it. And that is what I find so cool about these dreams — it is like my brain is working over-time to help me understand what happened.

I’ve been doing some research on dreams about deceased loved ones — some from legit sources and some from questionable sources. The term “visitation dreams” comes up a lot. These dreams are very vivid, they feel like they actually happened, and sometimes the deceased person has a glow around them. Some people believe that these dreams are actually the spirit of the deceased person stopping by for a visit. I have had two dreams that could potentially fall into this category. In one dream, my dad is dressed in a white three-piece suit with a classy cane and a hat and a watch on a gold chain. He definitely has a shimmer around him and he walks up a city street so quickly that I have to float/fly/hover to stay with him while we talk. This one felt more like I was visiting him. In the other one, he is unpacking his suitcase at my house (visiting me) and I hear his voice coming from the back bedroom. Fiona and I look at each other in shock as he walks into the living room looking just like his 40-year-old self and sits down on the couch and I hug him and sob into his neck.

Believe me, I’m happy to get all woo woo about this stuff, but at this point I’m more interested in the science behind it. To me, even these potential “visitation dreams” feel less like my dad’s spirit is guiding me and more like my brain is trying to help me recover from the trauma and move on with my life. However, the research I’ve found so far suggests that science doesn’t have a great explanation for these dreams. I’m fine with it if they remain mysterious and just more proof that our minds are powerful and awesome. With that being said, if anyone has any reading recommendations for me about dead people dreams (especially sciency stuff), please leave me a comment. And also feel free to leave a comment about a dream you’ve had about a deceased loved one. But please do remember to keep it short — nobody really wants to hear about anybody’s dreams.