I have kept a log of my dreams since 1991, just after I met Ken who I would marry in 1993, and who I would lose to cancer in 2006, fifteen years and two young children later. So much good stuff in those dreams and scary stuff too.
With two miscarriages under my belt (so to speak), in 1995 I recorded a dream of a glowing presence in my uterus. Turns out, I was pregnant when I had that dream and that dream would become our real-life daughter. After Ken died, I dreamed a giant, gaping hole in the foundation of my house. Hmm. What could that mean? Some of the scariest, nightmarish dreams I've recorded repeatedly through the years involve me driving alone on dark roads late at night feeling lost, being carjacked by scary men, walking along the side of a pitch black road, or driving off the road altogether in a plume of flame. In waking world, I don't like feeling lost and I'm a lousy navigator. Getting lost somehow strikes at the heart of my deepest fears.
You lose a lot when you lose your partner. Some of your losses are very deep: like losing your best friend and most trusted confidante. When I lost Ken, I also lost my navigator and my traveling companion. I lost the dream of trips we'd take together with our kids or on our own. The idea of losing all those future travels together still makes me wince as I think about it now. I am wistful about all the travels we won't ever take together.
What to do? Still need to find my way in the world. So way back then after Ken's death, I got a GPS which is no replacement for a husband while traveling, but definitely a pretty reliable navigation tool. That device allows me to venture out without fear of getting lost. I've been able to take some good road trips with the kids, feeling confident as I go.
This past weekend, we drove to Indianapolis. My son was playing in a tournament there and I used the opportunity to also visit a college with my daughter. The GPS, as usual, allowed me to get where I needed to go with complete confidence, navigating about Indiana. There we were together in the little cocoon of our car. Laughing. Singing along to the radio. Making fun of the billboards.
On the way back to Chicago I made the wrong turn somewhere around Gary, Indiana in a rotted out looking industrial area. It scared me to the the core, to the point of hyper-ventilating. It was dark. It was raining. The windshield wipers were working away. I was scaring the kids. I was talking aloud to Ken: why have you left me alone to drive around by myself? For a while we drove through a very foreboding and lonely looking beaten down place where I did not see one soul and did not know if I wanted to either. We were in some netherworld that was part desolate industry, part dilapidated residential area, until I found an entrance to a highway which I took and where we were the only car driving. There were no signs, no cars, no lights. I actually wondered if I was on an operational roadway. Dark, rainy, lonely, mother with two kids, lost. Did I mention it was nearing midnight and I had been driving for several hours that day already? Do you see that this was just like my scariest dreams, only it was really happening? Lost. Alone. In the dark.
Then, suddenly, a few cars started appearing up ahead, with their red taillights like welcoming beacons of joy. There was a sign for I-90 to Chicago. There was the tollway booth. I could breathe again. We could laugh again. I wasn't lost anymore. We were OK. Disaster would not strike. I was jittery and alive. The whole episode lasted 12 minutes.
What am I trying to say here? Our fears can be so powerful. They can feel so real and so immobilizing, especially at night.
And fears pass, like cars in the night.
And then you take a deep breath.
And then you keep on going.
The other night I had a dream about a dead hibiscus plant. The real life almost completely dead hibiscus plant is in my house. It was Ken's and he had nurtured it for years, maybe 20 years. He was so pleased every time it produced one of it's magnificent red flowers which only lasted for a day. But now it is dying and I don't know if I can bring it back to life. In my dream, I saw the dead hibiscus plant. And on one of it's branches, a sweet little bird was singing.
- Jill Schacter
- My wonderful husband died when I was 44 years old. Being widowed this young happens to less than 3% of married people. Writing through this loss one word at time helps me understand what I've lost and helps me continue to grow. It is how I have gradually recovered from such a severe loss. Research shows that you can benefit from taking just 15 minutes a day to write out your deepest feelings as a way of healing. On the right side of this blog, you'll see a tag for Exercises to Try. If you need some help knowing how to use writing to help heal yourself, I suggest you start there.