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‘Death is right with us’: Nova Scotians reporting increase of weird, vivid dreams during COVID-19

People's dreams can be influenced by what's happening in the world around them.
People's dreams can be influenced by what's happening in the world around them. Getty Images

Since the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Heidi Fraser has been cleaning her grandparents’ house, which she says is as “old as my hometown of Sherbrooke.”

As she was cleaning their sun porch one day, Fraser says she found a book on dream interpretation called Mystic Dream Book from 1937 buried in their old piano bench.

“My grandparents have both recently passed away. My grandmother was always into horoscopes, so it wouldn’t surprise me if she was into dreams,” said Fraser.

Heidi Fraser says this Mystic Dream Book from 1937 was buried in her backyard.
Heidi Fraser says this Mystic Dream Book from 1937 was buried in her backyard.

She says she’s been having recurring dreams in the past couple of months, so the book has been helpful.

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“I’ve had recurring dreams about my teeth and getting them knocked out the past couple of months. According to this book, dreaming of your teeth means to watch your health, which is fitting for COVID,” said Fraser.

“I’m also a nurse and I have recurring dreams about situations that I’ve encountered working in ER, just about different outcomes if I would have done things differently.”

READ MORE: Having weird dreams during the coronavirus outbreak? You’re not alone

Halifax-based Jungian analyst Beaty Popescu, who has been trained to help her clients understand their dreams, says the uncertainty brought up by the pandemic and ultimately the fear of death has been brought up to the fore, and is being mirrored in people’s dreams.

“If people are sort of used to just a regular life with their usual routines and jobs or family dynamics, and they have a kind of a knowing of how things are, it’s just like a map that they just take for granted,” said Popescu.

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Now the map has been taken away, like a rug pulled out from under them, so this is causing people to have anxiety dreams.”

READ MORE: Our mental health won’t be the same after coronavirus pandemic, experts say

Darren Bailey from Halifax is one of the people feeling the impact of the pandemic on his dreams. He says being trapped in a house all day has altered his dreams and made them more anxiety-driven.

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Bailey says he has been having recurring dreams about Freddy Krueger chasing him in a maze, which has been giving him a hard time sleeping.

Jungian analyst Beaty Popescu.
Jungian analyst Beaty Popescu.

Popescu says this is not at all surprising because “the unconscious is basically mirroring to people an aspect of their true situation.”

She explains that North American culture is very much about youth, being alive, and success-oriented.

READ MORE: More than half of Canadians feel lonely, isolated during coronavirus pandemic

“All of these things are pushing far away from sickness, mental instability and death, and so all of a sudden we’re in a global pandemic that is threatening life.”

Popescu says that generally because people live so much in the light and aren’t willing to embrace the shadow, then they will start to dream exactly about that.

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And in that shadowy dream world, she says it is also possible to dream of our dead loved ones during this time.

READ MORE: Our mental health won’t be the same after coronavirus pandemic, experts say

Caine Meyers, a 26-year-old man from Halifax, says he has been having a recurring dream of his mother who has passed away two years ago. Little symbols like the sickle of the grim reaper have also shown up in one of his dreams.

Popescu says seeing your dead loved ones is also about the fact that “death is right with us.”

“It’s not 30 years in the future. It is always right with us, but most people lived in an illusion that death, illness and all of that doesn’t exist or isn’t going to touch them,” she said.

READ MORE: For people with OCD and illness anxiety, the coronavirus outbreak is a ‘worst-case scenario’

Meyers said on top of the current stress caused by the pandemic, people are also trying to deal with the pain they are feeling due to the recent tragic mass shooting that happened in Nova Scotia.”

“We’re faced to deal with the reality that our lives are more fragile than we think,” he said.

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However, during this time of uncertainty and fear, Popescu offers a message of hope. She says COVID-19 can be seen in two ways: as a threat and a difficult challenge, but also an “incredible teacher.”

“We need to take good care of ourselves and everyone else. That is a concrete necessity. But it’s really good for people to also take their dreams seriously and see what messages the unconscious is giving the conscious.”

She says dreams are the best possible expression of the unconscious situation.

READ MORE: COVID-19 pandemic taking toll on Canadians’ mental health, survey says

“If people can look at it and go, OK, what is happening in the unconscious? As a sort of companion side to conscious life, then we can see the imbalances between the two,” Popescu said.

“Like if somebody is totally negating the fact that there’s any danger, then they may well have a terrible anxiety dream about dying.”

Popescu suggests that people respect their dreams and tune in to their messages.