Dreams after loss

Cathy Dobson

Joshua Black has spent the past seven years investigating dreams that occur after the death of someone close, especially a loved one.

He’s documented the dreams of more than 1,000 grieving people and has completed six different studies to earn his master’s degree ­– and, soon, his PhD – from the psychology department at Brock University.

Black says his research shows that dreams featuring the deceased tend to be more positive than other dreams and are generally very comforting.

“When you feel sorrow and grief, you’d think you’d have negative dreams but that’s usually not the case,” said Black, who will host a free presentation at St. Joseph’s Hospice on Sept.12. “The fact that they go against the norm convinces me there is something special going on.

“Many people say they experience a sense of joy and love that they maybe didn’t feel in their waking lives.”

Black’s research reveals that the bereaved will dream of their dead loved one within the first two years 86% of the time.

“I like that the (dreamer’s) last memory of their loved one is usually a happy and healthy one,” he said, noting that negative grief dreams can usually be traced back to the dreamer’s waking life.

His fascination with grief dreams started in 2008 when he was 24 and suddenly lost his father.

“My dreams of my father really helped me through my grief. I began volunteering at a hospice to try to make some meaning out of my own loss.”

He found that many of the bereaved were asking about dreams that included their deceased loved one.

“I didn’t have the answers and couldn’t find them anywhere. I became really interested in how the mind processes the complicated feeling of grief,” he said.

That led to his first research paper. He’s now had several scientific articles published and has co-written a children’s book about grieving called “Dreaming of Owl.”

There is surprisingly little research about grief dreams, according to Black who said he’s become one of the leading academic researchers in his field.

“What I like most is that the information I’ve found can help normalize the experience. I had a goal to answer some questions for the bereaved and I feel now I have some answers.”

Black discusses his research on a weekly grief dream podcast available on iTunes. He has a website (www.griefdreams.ca) and a Facebook group called Grief Dreams, which has over 1,000 members. He has also spoken to about 50 groups to share what he’s learned.

IF YOU GO: 

WHAT: A discussion on grief dreams with Joshua Black

WHERE: St. Joseph’s Hospice. 475 Christina St. North.

WHEN: Wednesday, Sept. 12. 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

DETAILS: Event is free but registration is required by contacting Orley Culverhouse at 519-337-0537 ext. 114 or email oculverhouse@sjhospice.ca.