Jeanne Von Bronkhorst discovered the power of dreams over the ten years that she spent as a hospice social worker; and then it was only through a chance remark with one of her patients that she became aware of the important part that they played in the lives of those with whom she had daily contact.
Amazingly, she found that dream recollection—rather than being embraced by the medical authorities as a powerful diagnostic tool, she found that it was something of a taboo subject within the profession in which she worked.
Her book Dreams at the Threshold: Guidance, Comfort, and Healing at the End of Life grew out of her many conversations with friends,, colleagues and clients from right across the United States and Canada.
Divided into two parts, the book first of all explores the various ways in which dreams can help the dying, as well as the bereaved at the end of life, and in part two she offers ideas on how to listen to the dreams of loved ones as well as how to connect with your own dreams more easily.
Through he researches the author discovered that people often find that their dreams gain a new intimacy and meaning at the end of life—often with dreamers reporting that their dreams fell more real and vivid than might ordinarily be the case.
In many respects dreams are also felt to be more significant in those who are waiting to pass over. As the author states:
I believe dreams can help dreamers and their entire families face the end of life with more hope, comfort and courage.
In her book Jeanne considers the various roles that dreams can take un the lives of those individuals who are experiencing major health problems or who are even facing the prospect of their own imminent demise.
This can include internal feedback regarding medication, pain or discomfort resolution, strengthening close bonds to other family members as well as offering very real help in coming to terms with personal failings experienced earlier in life.
It may be because of the immense hidden power that dreams have that makes some people afraid of them and which makes any discussion of them difficult to initiate.
So it is that Jeanne makes a particular effort, through her care work, to break down the social taboos that invariably surrounds dream recall.
Sometimes this requires concerted effort in confronting the misconceptions that many patients have regarding their own dreams. Sometimes even mention of the subject can conflict with their own social or religious upbringing as well as hardened attitudes towards death and the dying.
One particular area that often becomes problematic for many are dreams that include dying or death. These, as the author explains, do not necessarily point to an incidence of physical demise but may relate to a number of other different connotations: such as change, transformation or regeneration. However, this type of dream can take on a slightly different meanings when they are experienced by those at the end of their life.
Very often these dreams can be precursors for the preparation of death and acclimatization to its inevitability and to this end it seems that the Soul plays an important part in this process by expressing itself through the unconscious mind of the dreamer to the conscious self.
Through her research Jeanne also found that dreams do not have to be a solitary experience. She records how some patients close to their point of departure from this physical world experience what she calls visitation dreams through which contact is made with those who have gone before.
In fact this phenomena may also include actual astral visitations by benevolent discarnate spirits to the bedside of the dying.
Later on in her book Jeanne discusses the function of dreams as they are experienced through the various stages of grief that are felt following the passing of a loved one. Once again the author reflects upon the immense power of healing that these can bring to those who are left to mourn the passing of a loved one but once again she also recognizes the fear and challenge that they can also bring to an unprepared dreamer.
Continuing in the vein if the dark world of dreams the author also reflects upon nightmares and other forms of bad dreams that frighten us. She offers help and guidance on how these can be dealt with and even how to derive valuable insight from them.
Above all else the author sees dreams as carrying important messages and so in the second part of her book she offers guidance on how to pay attention to these internal dialogues and even how to encourage them as a process of enlightenment.
In this regard the author encourages her readers to invite dreams in, to listen carefully to them and finally to respond to them with due respect.
As the author states in her closing line:
They (dreams) gently lead us back, over and over, to the wonder of our hearts.
Caring for a loved one during the final stages of their life often poses and immense emotional and psychological challenge. In ‘Dreams at the Threshold’ Jeanne Van Bronkhorst offers anyone who finds themselves in this or similar situations a totally indispensable guide to an area of palliative care that, sadly, our culture is so quick to dismiss.
Written with an immense sense of warmth and care this is a book that holds within its pages fascinating insights into the valuable role that dreams can play in helping a loved one to pass over, to prepare them for that final journey and to know that as far as possible as much psychological baggage is dispensed with as much as possible.
The book also includes many real life stories of individuals who use dreams in their work and the benefits that their approach so often brings in helping patients.
It includes helpful guidelines, practical advice as well as descriptions of real live experiences in a way that is truly uplifting but also, dare I say it, extremely fascinating at the same time.
In short this is simply a book that empowers everybody and everyone who are deeply involved in the deeply dark issues that invariably present themselves at these challenging times.
It is one of those books that is so utterly invaluable to those who need its wisdom that its value is inestimable and for that I highly recommend it.
Proof, if ever it was needed, that dreams are indeed messages from the Soul permeates Dreams at the Threshold by Jeanne Van Bronkhorst. As the doors to death slowly swing open I can think of few books better positioned to help, support and strengthen those who shiver in response to the icy winds that blow when the Reaper calls.