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Seeking closure with the deaths of my mother and father


Question & Answer


Q: By Heather
My name is Heather, I was born into a family that, at the time, was a MO Synod Lutheran (my father was an ordained minister and my mother was a K-5th grade teacher and was also very active with the church; whose father was a minister that also was a missionary in Brazil, was in a concentration camp for two years. We, as a family dealt with a lot of issues behind the scenes. A LOT BEHIND THE SCENES!!!

I have dreams at night about both my parents coming to life but they are dead in the dreams; it is their corpses that I encounter and I am not afraid of them. I am afraid for them. I know that this is unusual, yet my mind cannot wrap itself around IT. Please, if in any way, that I could have your perspective on this, I would be most grateful.


A: By Lauren Van Ham

Dear Heather,
You are dreaming powerful images that bear potent messages for you.  Thank you for bringing your curiosity and willingness to better understand some of the wisdom your dreams are trying to impart.  Within these dreams, I suspect, there are multiple meanings.  The late and respected dream scholar, Rev. Jeremy Taylor, used to begin all of his dream exploration like this,

“It is my assumption that all dreams come in the service of health and wholeness and that only the dreamer knows for certain what his/her dream means.”

To provide you, Heather, with tools and support for interpreting the gifts “hidden” in these dreams, I enthusiastically suggest that you join a dreamwork group and/or, if you don’t already have one, find a spiritual director to meet with on a regular basis.

There are a number of formats and techniques used in dreamwork.  To discern the best one for you, and to ensure that the process will feel safe, caring and ethically-grounded, the guidelines offered by the International Study of Dreams are helpful.  Similarly, not all spiritual directors are trained or feel skillful in dreamwork, but meeting regularly with one who witnesses and accompanies us in our spiritual journey provides an intentional and productive space for us to ask questions, wrestle, grieve or celebrate our evolving relationship with God/Divinity, as we perceive it.

That you are recalling the details of your dreamlife so vividly speaks to the important role dreams play in your deepening spirituality.  You are in good company!  Consider the men and women who, in so many sacred texts, call upon the wisdom given to them in the hours their conscious minds were at rest.  May you move forward with good heart and courage, Heather. Blessings upon you and your dreams!

~ Lauren Van Ham

This Q&A was originally published on Progressing Spirit – As a member of this online community, you’ll receive insightful weekly essays, access to all of the essay archives (including all of Bishop John Shelby Spong), and answers to your questions in our free weekly Q&A. Click here to see free sample essays.

About the Author
Lauren Van Ham was born and raised beneath the big sky of the Midwest, Lauren holds degrees from Carnegie Mellon University, Naropa University and The Chaplaincy Institute.  Following her ordination in 1999, Lauren served as an interfaith chaplain in both healthcare (adolescent psychiatry and palliative care), and corporate settings (organizational development and employee wellness). Her passion and training in the fine arts, spirituality and Earth’s teachings has supported her specialization in eco-ministry, grief & loss, and sacred activism.  Lauren’s work with Green Sangha (a Bay Area-based non-profit) is featured in Renewal, a documentary celebrating the efforts of environmental activism taking place in religious America.  Her essay, “Way of the Eco-Chaplain,” appears in the collection, Ways of the Spirit: Voices of Women.  Lauren tends a private spiritual direction practice and serves as Dean for The Chaplaincy Institute in Berkeley, CA.

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