Tom’s reflection on dreams working in a bereavement setting

When I was younger and first encountered dreams in an academic, psychological way, it was primarily focused on the psychodynamic Freudian theories. Frankly, my perception of it was one of scepticism. My scepticism of it came from the idea that the meaning of our dreams is subconscious and symbolic which meant it relies on someone else interpreting them. It felt wrong to rob someone’s own meaning of their dream from them. This is why when people I work with mention dreams I always use it as an opportunity to explore their dream and find their own interpretation of it.

As you can probably tell, I am not a big fan of dream interpretation coming from a position whereby I as a listener infer what the client’s dream means and represents. We are in a better position to understand our own dreams as we have our own lived experience, belief system and relationships with the things and people we dream about. Dreams can be very powerful and vivid and how a client interprets them gives me and hopefully the client as well insight into themselves.

Usually, dreams relate to what is experienced in reality,  so giving people a safe space to question, think through and express how the dream makes them feel, what it means and how it impacts on them can give them validation and understanding.

When people I have worked with in a bereavement setting talk about dreams, it often relates to the person they have lost or the circumstances of how they have died.  Sometimes the dreams are upsetting and disturbing, but often they are not.  These dreams can instil comfort, pleasure, happiness but inevitability cause sadness and longing as well. Grief is as unique as a fingerprint, and so are dreams. They are different from person to person, dream to dream.   Some people believe these dreams are messages or communications from their loved ones whilst others believe their dreams are purely memories.  I feel whatever the biological reason for dreaming is, of which there are many theories, the purpose, relationship with and value of dreams lays with us, and only us.

Dream Catcher Painting by Imanshu Jain | Saatchi Art
 “Dream Catcher,” by Imanshu Jain


Suicide Bereavement Support Officer