Unsettling Dreams: Grieving In My Sleep

I’ve always had vivid dreams.

That was a problem as a young child because often I couldn’t tell where the dream ended and real life began when I woke.

Many, many nights I’d cry out from my bed, begging my parents to come save me from whatever monster followed me from my dream.

I pretty much grew out of that as I got older and learned to be very careful what I fed my mind-especially right before I fall asleep. I don’t watch horror movies, dark so-called comedies, violent dramas or anything that my brain might twist into scary or disturbing shapes in the dark.

After Dominic left for Heaven, I once again experienced a season of uncomfortable dreaming. Only one or two of my dreams were actually awful, but I would often wake feeling out of sorts, a bit “off” or vaguely aware of something just outside my consciousness that was sure to frighten me if I could see it clearly.

That season passed and only very rarely was I troubled with those kinds of dreams these past few years.

But since my mama joined Dominic, I’ve had at least one disturbing dream every single night.

I can remember some of them-like the one that woke me at two this morning-but not all of them. Even when I can’t recall the exact sequence of events, they all have a similar theme: Someone I love is in peril and I can’t save them or something I hold dear is lost and I can’t find it.

And that awful feeling of helplessness follows me when I open my eyes.

It doesn’t take a PhD to interpret these dreams.

Grief is leaking out in my sleep.

All the feelings I’ve become so good at pushing down during waking hours since Dominic left us are growing stronger again in the wake of my mother’s death.

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The lid my conscious mind keeps screwed on tight is no match for the power of the unconscious.

Off it pops and all the sad, scared, anxious, helpless, longing, fearful emotions stirred up by losing one more soul my heart loves come flying out and swirl around until they create a perfect storm of awful to parade across my mind’s eye while my body tries to rest.

I think I’ve only had one night of more than three hours uninterrupted sleep since the week Mama was hospitalized.

I’m trying all the old tricks of carefully tending what goes into my brain each day. I’m feeding myself healthy and wholesome images and words. I’m ending each day with prayer and asking God to give me sweet dreams or no dreams at all.

I may have to revisit some of those old feelings.

I would rather face my fears in the daylight.

I don’t want them to leak out at night.

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Night Time is So. Much. Harder.

I’m pretty good at pushing away uncomfortable or sad or downright horrifying thoughts in the daytime.

Sunlight means there’s plenty to do and plenty to keep my mind from dwelling too long on anything that will make be cry or bring me to my knees. 

But there is a dangerous space just between wake and sleep, when the house is quiet and my mind is free to explore random corners that guarantees unpleasant thoughts will pour in and overwhelm me.

I can’t tell you how many times the last moment before sleep claims my consciousness is filled with thoughts of Dominic.

Not sweet memories of his smiling face.  

Oh, no. 

Instead they are graphic images of what he looked like, crumpled on the ground, perhaps gasping one last time trying to fill his lungs before his soul flew to Jesus, leaving his body behind.  

It’s impossible to describe the electric current that shoots through my midsection like a lightning bolt.  I cannot help a heart that doesn’t carry this awful burden understand how such flashes disrupt any hope of peaceful sleep.

I used to be afraid of ghosts in the dark.  

I never slept without aid of a nightlight until well into my adult years.  

I’m not afraid of specters anymore.  

They are small potatoes next to a mother’s own heart screaming, “Where WERE you????” when your baby breathed his last.

Nights are just plain hard.  

No distractions. 

Only sorrow and a broken heart in bed together.  

night silent tears