What Dreams About Death Really Mean

The desire to understand dreams goes back as early as the ancient Mesopotamians, who believed that these nighttime unfoldings came from the gods. They even recorded them in special dream books, according to Tuft and Needle. Even in "The Epic of Gilgamesh," an epic poem from the time period, some of the story included dreams where the main character previews his future fate.

Psychologists Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung popularized dream analysis and believed they offered insight into the slumbering person. Freud thought dreams represented our repressed desires, often sexual thoughts, that the subconscious exposed. Jung thought dreams as a way the psyche communicated with a person, showing them insight through symbolism, said The Society of Analytical Psychology. "They do not deceive, they do not lie, they do not distort or disguise," the website quoted him. "They are invariably seeking to express something that the ego does not know and does not understand."

Interpreting what dreams tell us can be confusing. The unconscious mind and its messages aren't necessarily straightforward. Yet the effort yields rewards, according to clinical psychotherapist Jeffrey Sumber. "Dreams are the bridge that allows movement back and forth between what we think we know and what we really know," Sumber told Psych Central. Since understanding your dreams includes finding out how they place in "the larger context of the individual's unfolding and self-discovery," analyzing these subconscious musings require you to go deeper than the obvious. For example, death in a dream isn't necessarily a portent for your untimely demise.

Nightmares can offer insight

"There's a variety of reasons why people might have disturbing dreams or nightmares," Dr. Kelly Baron, associate professor at the University of Utah, told Glamour. "In many cases it is because they've experienced a trauma, and they are having a form of PTSD." Dreams allow people to understand what is happening in their life, and helps them process it. In fact, "death in dreams is symbolic of things that are coming to a close, or ending, in your life," wrote dream analyst Jane Teresa Anderson, per the publication. So if you dream of attending a family member's funeral you might be on the brink of discovering that the relationship is no longer healthy, and you might benefit from distancing yourself. Death in a dream can also represent truths or necessary changes that you are not quite ready to accept or implement.

While it might seem scary dreaming about death, you can learn from your subconscious. "The emotions in the dream are very, very real," Lauri Quinn Loewenberg, professional dream analyst, told The Cut. "And so you wake up thinking, 'Dear God, am I seeing the future?' But you're not. So don't worry. Instead, just ask yourself what change or ending is happening in my life right now?" That old urban myth that asserts if you die in your sleep, you die in real life is just that, a tall tale... unless you're seeing Freddy Krueger in your dream. Then all bets are off.