Last night, I dreamed that Mom was still alive. It was not one of those wish-dreams where she was healthy and cancer free, but it was a very real replay of a scenario that we lived through a few times. She was in a period of relative good health, having beaten the cancer down to almost nothing again. She had energy to leave the house and move about almost normally. But even in my dream, it was apparent that this was the top of a cycle, and there was a palpable feeling of foreboding. Though we all tried, as in real life, to place as much positive energy into our efforts as possible, we always knew that these upswings were likely temporary, to be followed by a crash. In my dream, I remember wondering how many times we would go up and down like this.
As so often happens with dreams like these, it took me several moments after I awoke to realize that Mom really isn’t here anymore. These transition periods after waking are so cruel. As sad as it is for me, having had the normal human experience of losing a parent, I wonder how horrible it must be for people who have lost a child to experience these blissful moments of forgetting, only to have the weight of the truth crush them again and again.
Shortly after we arrived in Colorado to live with Mom, she pulled me aside to talk with me. At this time, she had begun aggressive chemotherapy, but was still feeling pretty good. She told me that she wanted me to know that she wasn’t afraid of dying, and that she would be happy to talk with my children about why she wasn’t afraid. In particular, she knew that my older son, Hayden, was scared. I am sure she also knew that I was scared, and was skillfully talking me through my fears by pretending it was about my kids. But she also wanted me to know that, even though she wasn’t afraid, she had no intention of dying from this disease.
My mom was not a very religious woman, so her comfort did not necessarily come from a faith place. But she was very spiritual, and she had had experiences in her life that had assured her that death was nothing to fear. One powerful story she had told me again and again as a child was of the night her own mother passed away, and how she was awakened from a deep sleep by an electric pain shooting down her arm at the moment of her mother’s death. My grandmother had lived her life in frail health from childhood, and had had close brushes with death on more than one occasion. Her matter-of-fact account of a near death experience as a child is part of our family lore, and I know it brought Mom much peace around her own grief after her mother passed. It brings me some peace to know that it brought Mom peace.
Dreams like the one I had last night sort of put the events of these past few years into a surreal light. Even now, many waking hours since, there is a strange other-worldly fog clouding the reality of what transpired, and I find it necessary on some level to keep reminding myself, “Yes, it all happened.”
Someone told me that about six months after a death, the shock begins to wear off, and a new, strong wave of grief comes. I wonder if this may be true, as the dreams become more frequent. My kids have begun to speak of their grandma more, of things they miss about her. They have begun to display some new avoidance behaviors of grief triggers, and perhaps, some new anger, but mostly soft sadness and, maybe, the beginning of acceptance.
Perhaps this is when we all begin to realize that our waking dream has been real all this time.
4 thoughts on “Dreams”
Neddie, you write beautifully, and I am enjoying your perspective and insight. Aunt Terry
Thank you! 🙂
Many of us seem to find some peace in what we learn to be common feelings that others describe. It would not surprise me for others to share some of the things that I will share. The FIRST thing I wanted to say, is that I typically would not have taken the time to read all my posts and I honestly would have typically skipped over this one, on a busy work day ( perhaps would have taken the time on an off day). However, I had a dream about you last night and since the day that I met you, I have NEVER had a dream with you in it. We were with other midwives, in a circle, chatting.. and you were sharing the reasons why you moved to CO. Many of us understood your need to be close to your mother. You shared with us all the mixture of feelings that you have experienced since moving and since her death. You were contemplative, you expressed how much you missed her and when you ended the conversation, you just stood up and did this slow, swaying dance, twirling around in your own circle. You had a big smile on your face and the dream ended. So, while I was with you and other midwives in the room,, noone else really played a part in the dream, except you! This is why I decided to read this email! Moving to another thought,,, I also had something very interesting happen to me, at, what I believe to be the moment my father died. Not ready to share here… It has been almost 6 years now and I still wake up at times feeling like you described. The waves of DAYTIME grief are with me almost every single day… and I am waiting for them to leave… to perhaps come just on his birthday or Fathers Day, etc. I do not dream of him much at all at night. And yet, I frequently daydream about him throughout the day. Sometimes this is comforting, but most of the time it is not. I cry and I miss him and am pissed that he is not alive to witness his grandchildren as they graduate college, go to med school, get married… I am driving in the care on the way to a consult and one of the songs he use to sing all the time comes on… and I cry on my way to visit a pp mother,, sigh… I get a phone call from my son who is moving to Miami to start his third year in med school and while I am talking to him and enjoying our conversation, I get a feeling of sadness that my Daddy is not here as he would have been so proud. Things like this.. happen all the time.
So, the most common sentiments I hear from others who have suffered a close loss,, is, in and of itself…. grief is different for all of us,, waves.. happening at different times… 6 months, 1 year anniversaries, etc. Collectively and broadly, we may share a timeline, but individually, it is all across the board. Thanks for sharing your experience as I think it is helpful to be able to “talk” about it. Lori
Thanks for sharing, Lori. I am honored to have visited one of your dreams. 🙂 And I appreciate your words about your dad – up until this point in my life, I haven’t had a lot of conversation with my friends about this subject. Now, I am learning more and more about other people’s experiences, and I feel a sense of solidarity. And I love hearing stories of love for our parents.