Spoiler alert: More than likely that dream you had about your death or the death of a loved one has nothing to do with physical death.
While there are of course death omen dreams, usually dreams of death are actually harbingers of life-altering experiences. In order to understand the symbolism of death dreams we need to look to the reality of physical death.
Physical death is inevitable--it is an ending, a completion to the physical form we now embody, but death is also a natural occurrence. It is as natural as childbirth, just on the other end of the spectrum. Like childbirth and pregnancy dreams, death dreams actually often point to a beginning as well as a completion. We can only see this part of death, however, if we remember that death is a transformation, a release from bodily form into another mode of experience and being.
Keeping all of that in mind, death dreams usually fall into a few categories. Here are some of them and some ideas about their meaning.
You Are Dead or Dying
With all due respect to "A Nightmare on Elm Street" the truth of the matter is that dreaming that you are dying in a dream or are dead in a dream does not mean death in waking life. I know: I've died at least five times in my dreams yet I'm still here writing about the dreams!
Usually in dreams where you yourself are dying, what is actually going on is some sort of major transformation. You may be at a place where you can finally "leave it all behind" and move on to bigger and better things. While this may appear painful, especially if you are leaving behind relationships, the good news is that, as with physical death, the process of leaving things behind will be a natural one: things just slide away naturally, rather than being ripped away from you. As these things disappear, you are free to move on in whatever direction you choose.
Someone You Know is Dead or Dying
In these dreams, it is important to look at who or what is dead or dying and then see what that symbolizes. Often we dream of family members dying. Look at what family member is in your dream. Parents dying often symbolize freedom from the negative archetype: freedom from the archetypal authoritarian father figure or the suffocating mother figure. Dreams of children dying can actually point to dream of abandoning creativity or feelings of a loss of innocence. See if there's something you've neglected that you want to restore in your life.
Dreams of Dead People
Look at these dreams and see who appears. Always think about the relationship you had with the dead person appearing in your dream because therein lies the key to its interpretation. Is it Grandma Helen, your favorite grandma who always had words of wisdom for you? If so, you might want to listen to her as she may be appearing as the "Wise Woman" archetype, one of the "Grand Dream" archetypes. Dreams of this type often offer invaluable insight. On the other hand, if it's old, alcoholic Grandpa William who always shook his finger at your and told you you'd never amount to anything, it's probably best to look at this dream as a reminder that you're being haunted by the past and it's time to put his ghost to bed.
Remember that dreams of death, while they may be frightening at times, actually portend great things: mystery, the unknown, and transformation. While change is often scary, it is good to remember Meister Eckhart. Eckhart said that it is our perspective that matters most when we die. If we are attached to everything around us, we see devils ripping us apart. But if we are at peace all we see are angels freeing us from everything that hold us back.
May you see only angels in your dreams!
*~Aisling Ireland~* is an ordained Spiritual Counselor providing dream interpretation and Tarot readings. To make an appointment check out her website at: web.mac.com/aisling.ireland