My day job requires me to be a voracious reader. Over the past few months I’ve read a spate of articles on why increasingly technological and science-minded societies cannot shake off spirituality. There are many reasons for that, but one is visitation dreams.

If you don’t believe your friendly neighborhood Catholic blogger, then perhaps you’ll listen to Patrick McNamara Ph.D., of Psychology Today.

Dr. McNamara wrote in October 2011.

My father and mother died over a decade ago and about one year apart. Approximately 6 months after each death, I had at least one vivid dream with one or both of them in it. In both cases the dream did not feel like the typical run of the mill dream.

Instead the dream had a kind of hyper-real intensity to it. I felt that I had been touched or visited or communicated with. I could not easily shake the conviction that my father and my mother had communicated with me from beyond the grave. Now if I, an individual who studied dreams with a skeptical scientific cast of mind, could not shake the conviction that I had just communicated with my dead parents, how much stronger must be the conviction of someone with a less skeptical approach to dreams than me?

The general rule of thumb about a visitation dream is that if you have to ask yourself if your were visited by a deceased relative, then you probably were not. Regardless, here are a few signs that someone was trying to communicate with you:

  1. Visitation dreams are like dreams in high-definition.
  2. The deceased relative does not look sickly or old. If they are old, they will have a glow to them.
  3. The deceased relative will be direct and to the point. They have a message to get across and a short amount of time to communicate.
  4. You will wake up with a sense of relief.
  5. You will wake up and know in your gut that you were visited.

Since it would be rather rude to say “This is real” and then not share an example from my own life, I will do so now.

My grandmother died four years ago. We were extremely close. When she was in the hospital with a blood clot, I remember staying with her and brushing her teeth. When she was sick in her late 90s, I remember sleeping on the floor next to her bed so I could be there to help her get to the bathroom in the middle of the night. She moved in with our family when I was born and always said, “We came here together, Douglas!”

She was, for all intents and purposes, a second mother to me.

Prior to my grandmother’s death, my mom called and said I should buy a plane ticket as soon as possible. I secured a flight home that night, but sadly I did not make it from Washington, D.C. to Chicago in time. My grandmother visited me in a dream within a few days.

In my dream — my “high-definition dream” — I was standing over my grandmother’s bed. She was “dying” again in a way where I was allowed to be there, but she looked at peace. I told her I was sorry that I couldn’t be there in time. She told me not to worry and that she was okay. She said she had to leave and that she loved me. I told her I loved her and kissed her on the forehead and she disappeared. I woke up and my lips felt like electrical currents were running through them. I was crying tears of joy because I knew in my heart it wasn’t a dream — and my “official” grieving process ended. I knew she was at peace, and there is nothing anyone on earth can say to make me believe otherwise.

There are other ways the dead sometimes communicate with the living, which I am happy to talk about, but the five points above are tell-tale signs of a visitation dream.

If you’ve had a visitation dream, feel free to share it below. I’d love to hear about your experience. Or, if you just have questions about dreams in general, then I’m happy to talk about that. Regular readers know that I am a lucid dreamer.




About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.


  1. I used to put it down to coincidence but I am frequently visited by my Mother in dreams when I have a big or difficult decision in real life.

    I used to think it was my subconscious but I am becoming more convinced that it is her spirit visiting me

    1. I would say that on some occasions, that may very well be the case. I’ve had two dreams with my grandmother where I know it was her (those were very early on after she died), and then one where it was a coin flip. All the others seemed like just random dreams to me.

      The best way to really be sure is to gauge how vivid the dream was, and how you felt when you woke up.

      I’m not sure how all of that stuff works, but my guess is that a person’s openness to something like that happening probably has a lot to do with whether or not it does happen. Obviously there are instances where even a skeptic can be shaken, such as the doctor in the Psychology Today article I referenced, but having receptivity to a visitation dream has to make it easier for the person trying to communicate. I don’t visit psychics, but I’m willing to bet they would agree with me.

      It’s unrelated to this post, but there is a very good book by Gerard J.M. Van Den Aardweg titled “Hungry Souls: Supernatural Visits, Messages, and Warnings from Purgatory” that I may review. These are much rarer than dream visitations…but still incredibly fascinating.

  2. I had a dream on scottish referendum night about a spirit who came to my bed and whispered something uplifting in my ear…no audible words passed from her lips, but I felt reassured regardless. Mind you, next morning I woke to find we hadn’t achieved independence, so maybe the message was to stay calm and certain in a period of uncertainty.

    1. Hmmm. Well, I can speak on dead relatives and guardian angels, but I don’t think I could comment on that one. Tell the spirit that whispering isn’t allowed if you can’t understand what she’s saying. 😉

    2. My reading, based on what little I know of the details, is that it was probably just a really weird dream. There seems to be too much confusion as to who or what it was, there wasn’t a clear message, and you didn’t come away with it with a profound psychological or spiritual change.

      Was it a “high-definition” dream? My own, and from what I’ve gathered from others with similar experiences, is that such dreams also seem more real than reality…if that’s possible. I think that’s because everything is so crisp and clear and you’re hyper-aware of what’s going on around you.

  3. A few months after my father died I had a dream where he appeared to me. Sounds really corny but he did have a white light behind him. He had his best suit on and looked really well and healthy and happy. He simply hugged me and said goodbye. It was so real. Anyway there is more. Before he died, the last time I saw him I said goodbye and drove away back to where I lived. I had driven quite a few miles when I got stuck in traffic on M25. I had this “feeling” to turn around and go and see him again to talk to him. I turned his doorstep again with my father looking surprised. I then proceeded to tell him how I loved him and I would be there for him. My father had suffered from a mental health problems most of his adult life. He also was a Christian and his faith gave him much strength and hope I’m certain. I believe now it was God that told me to visit him again the last time and it was for this reason my father visited me in a dream to say good bye and let me know something very important. There is an afterlife and there is a heaven.

    This is still not the end of my account of dreams of deceased family members. After my father died my brother in law got sick with cancer. Very dangerous form of cancer. He was only in his forties and was not ready to go. Anyway he fought the illness very bravely but sad lost his battle for life and died at home after only a few months. After he had passed away I dreamt he visited me is but this dream was very different. It was very dark and he looked very sick! He was shouting at me and was very angry. I was terrified. I was a grown man in my 30’s but I was scared I was calling out for my mother. He was in a place of absolute terror and fear and absolutely no hope. My conclusion of this the dead really do visit the living in dreams and what choices we make in this life is very important for the next.

    1. Thanks you for taking the time to share your stories with me, David. I really appreciate it!

      “I believe now it was God that told me to visit him again the last time and it was for this reason my father visited me in a dream to say good bye and let me know something very important. There is an afterlife and there is a heaven.”

      I’m a tad biased, but I think you are spot-on with your conclusion. 🙂

      One book that you may be interested in, given your second story, is “Hungry Souls: Supernatural Visits, Messages, and Warnings from Purgatory,” by Gerard J.M. Van Den Aardweg. I was pretty impressed with the author’s work. I will pray for your brother-in-law’s soul tonight.

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