In my early days of grief I had a recurring nightmare.
Chris was away on a business trip and I was trying to get a message to him that I needed him home. My attempts to get this message to him were becoming increasingly desperate, but whatever I did, whoever I called, wherever I went, I just couldn’t reach him. He wasn’t returning messages and calls, and nobody had seen him. I might glimpse him in a crowd but then he would disappear. In another version, he was ignoring me and then I discovered he had left me for someone else. I would wake heart racing, sweating and crying and it would almost be a relief to remember that he had died! It is difficult to articulate in writing the desperation, fear, longing, pain and sorrow in these dreams. I thought I was going mad.
Another “symptom” that bothered me was the difficulty I had in accessing happy memories. My mind was so busy playing the final, awful days and months in loops and on repeat that I couldn’t find any of my happy memories. It was as though my mind was playing films in my head, behind my eylids. I would rewatch the last days in the hospital, relive the moment we were told he was terminal. But try as I might I could never get it to play me anything happy! My nights were spent searching for him, and my days were reliving losing him.
It took over a year for me to be able to recall happier times, to remember what he looked like before the cancer changed him, and to remember him in any other setting than a hospital or at home.
One of the most wonderful things about belonging to a support group such as WAY (other support groups are available!) is that you can share these things and discover that you are not the only one having these experiences. I discovered that these dreams are normal in the early weeks and months of grief. It is your brain trying to make sense of the enormity of the loss, the finality of the reality that they are gone and not coming back.
If you are going through grief and you are having nightmares, or your mind is playing tricks on you, you are not alone, you are not going crazy, you are adjusting. This too shall pass. Painfully, but eventually!