If neither you nor your sister recall any disturbing events that occurred at your grandparent’s house, then we are directed to search for a symbolic understanding of your dreams—one that could appear independently in both your, and your sister’s, minds.
If you were especially close to your grandparents, it is possible that their death was a traumatic event. As is always the case, though, the loss of a loved one also causes us to be aware of our own mortality. (The logic is convincing: If they can die—so can we.) Accordingly, the shadowy and threatening figure who lurks outside the door in your dream most likely represents Death, who is “knocking forcefully” at your door. In this context, your desire to hide in the “living room” (as opposed to a “dead” room?) appears to be doubly significant.
Darkness in dreams is a representation of obscurity—of being unable to clearly identify feelings and circumstances in our waking life. The fact that your grandparents are not present in these dreams again suggests that you are not afraid specifically for their death, but rather for your own. (The person outside wants to get you.)
Were you close with your grandparents? Do you recall how old you were when the dreams started? The key to understanding recurring dreams is to be able to identify events occurring in our lives at the time of their onset.
Dear Dream Doctor—
My grandfather died when I was 15 of lung cancer. The first dream that I had involving him was 2 weeks before his death. I remember it as vividly today as I did then.
It begins with me and grandpop walking in the back yard of my parent’s house. I have a very happy, peaceful feeling. He turns to me and says, “Go find a tree branch. I want to show you something.” I turn, walk into the woods, and as I turn back to give him the branch, I see a huge waterfall come out of the shrubs. I can hear the roaring sound. My grandfather is standing in the middle of the waterfall, and he reaches out his hand as I give him one end of the branch. All of the sudden he starts traveling up the waterfall and I start to lose my grip, so I start pulling to bring him back and he says, “Come with me.” The next thing I know, he lets go and I just stand there and watch as he goes all the way up the waterfall. Then I turn and look at my house, and I feel so afraid because now I have to tell everyone that, “I lost grandpop!”
My grandmother died of Alzheimer’s disease when I was 21. Although I was very sad, I was much more grief-stricken by my grandfather’s death. My grandfather was a wonderful person who I admired and respected tremendously. That was the start of the recurring dreams.
I also had another dream, about 5 years ago, about a brother (born before me) who died at two days old. I obviously have no memories of him. My question is, how could I see my brother as a grown person when he was only two days old when he died? And before I was even born! There were never any pictures of him. I used to think about him years and years ago, but not at the time that I had this dream.
Thanks for providing the clues we need to solve your dream mystery! Not only were you close with your grandfather, you also had an extraordinary dream 2 weeks before his death, that reflects feelings that you—somehow—were responsible for his death. In the dream, you had to tell the rest of your family that you had “lost” your grandfather.
Because your dreams of the “shadowy figure” began shortly after your grandfather’s passing, we can understand these dreams as normal reflections of fears experienced when he died. The passing of your brother again caused you to be acquainted with death at an early age. As a child, you may have wondered why death chose to visit you twice in such a brief time span. Also, upon learning of your brother’s death, it would be normal to experience some level of “survivor guilt.” (Why did he die, and not me?)
The ability of your dream to recreate your brother’s likeness is a quality that dreams effortlessly possess. It is natural for you to wonder about your brother—what he would be like if he had survived, and how your life would be different today. Your dream, accordingly, is an entirely normal reflection of these thoughts—wondering abut a relationship that could have been, but that, for some mysterious reason, is not.
If you still hold on to feelings from childhood that you somehow were responsible for your grandfather’s or brother’s death—it is time now, as an adult, to release these beliefs. When you do, the shadowy man who knocks upon the door of your dreams will leave you alone, and you can enjoy, once again, the light and warmth of “the living room.”