Dreams about the departed are called visitation dreams. Whether or not the person we dream about lives on in some external realm, it's clear he lives on in our internal reality.
The Dream: I am at Ruth’s house. The entry wall is wider than it is in waking life; it’s a room with a table, like a dining room. The staircase is in its normal place. Someone says that Don is upstairs. I feel concern, thinking that this person does not know that Don has died.
“Don is dead,” I tell her. She goes upstairs to verify what I’ve said.
“No,” she says, when she returns. “He’s upstairs, and he wants to see you.”
“I’m not going up there,” I say.
Don comes down, naked from the waist up, radiant and glowing with health. He glows with something else besides. I am filled with joy to discover he is alive and healthy.
Interpretation: Visitation dreams are a way of grappling with the anxiety and loss we feel after a death. The dining table in the entry way tells me that the dream has come to provide some sustenance. Don is “upstairs,” in other words, he’s in my thoughts. I try to accept his death by telling myself (in the guise of the person who doesn’t know) that Don has died, but I don’t really believe it. I go upstairs to see for myself. There I see that he does live—upstairs; in my mind he’s alive, while at the same time my down-to-earth self (the part who insists on remaining on the ground floor) refuses to accept it. I won’t go there. But Don gets the last word, as he often did: he won’t allow me to deny him life after death: he appears, transformed and radiant, and I am also transformed by joy when I see this new reality.