Monday, June 11, 2012
Dreaming, Part 1
I think it is common in grief to have a change in sleep patterns; oftentimes I think those who are grieving require more sleep than usual, and just as often I would be willing to be that they end up having trouble sleeping.
Both of these things are definitely true for me, even this far out from my dad’s going on ahead. The really ironic thing about it for me is that, unlike so many cases in which the person who is ill sleeps a lot, my dad hardly ever slept during the ten weeks he was sick. After awhile, like my dad - my mom, my sisters, and I were desperate for a good night’s sleep, but, also like Dad, we just dealt with the non-sleep because, well, we had to.
It would seem that, once I was without the struggle that was the cause of the sleeplessness, I would be able to sleep. But now, I think the grief and maybe even the physical and emotional manifestations of the grief are the barriers, and so regular, quality sleep still evades me for the most part, even despite trying different sleep medicines and in spite of the time that has gone by since Dad's death.
Last night, I went to sleep easily but a couple of hours later entered into a dream so disturbing that I feel I have to get it out of my system to keep it from (hopefully) haunting me or recurring. In the dream, my whole extended family was in a van, driving across a bridge that went over a big river. We were talking about how we should hurry and get home because Dad was supposed to meet us there and we knew he wouldn’t be late. As we drove further across the bridge, we looked out the window and saw Dad, dressed in running clothes, running across on the shoulder of the bridge in the opposite direction. He looked tan and healthy and happy, like he was on a mission but thoroughly enjoying himself. He was running into the sun, and he didn’t see us as we passed by on the opposite side of the road. Others in the van said that he would probably run to the other side of the bridge and then turn around and come back so that he could still meet us at home, but I argued and pleaded for the van to be turned around so that we could catch up to him and bring him back with us. “Something’s wrong!” I kept yelling. “He’s never late and so I can’t understand why he’s running the wrong way!” but we kept driving. After we got back to the house, I checked the phone to see if he had left us a message that would give us an idea about what he was doing since he wasn't where he was supposed to be, but the phone wasn’t working. I decided to go up in the attic and check the phone line, and, when I did so, I discovered some loose wires sticking out. I was desperate to repair the line so that Dad could contact us, but when I tucked the loose wires back inside the sheath of the cable, I was jolted by a shock so severe that I was thrown to the floor and couldn’t speak or move. Over and over, I tried to make noise so that someone downstairs would hear me and help me. All I could do was whimper quietly as I lied there in the floor; I was devastated by the knowledge that I couldn’t help Dad, and I was overcome by a sense of utter helplessness.
At this point in the dream, my husband woke me up. “You’re dreaming,” he said. Tears were running down my face, and it took me a couple of minutes to believe I wasn’t still lying paralyzed on the attic floor.
I think dreams are the mind’s way of helping a person to process things that have happened. It isn’t hard to see the symbolism in the dream I had last night, from wanting to turn the van around to pick him up to wanting desperately to have a way to communicate with him. Am I processing; am I breaking through some of the grief? I can only hope.