After Maddie died I was haunted by dreams that would wake me in the night, panting, sweating, and trying desperately to shake the images that had just crossed my mind. Eventually those dreams stopped, and a long time passed where I wouldn’t dream at all. I was fine with that (as I’d gladly give up good dreams to escape the bad), but then this week I woke in the dead of night because of a dream that was very different than the ones before.
In the days and months after Maddie passed the grief was so heavy, and the day-to-day challenges so formidable, that bad dreams were the least of my troubles. Looking back today though, those dreams strike me as unbearably unsettling. In some I’d be back in the pediatric intensive care unit reliving the horror of the evening we lost her, while in others I would have a smiling Maddie back in my arms until, after a few seconds, she’d slip away… right there in my arms.
Those dreams came with less frequency as time went on. They were a product of my subconscious mind, I think, and the more I came to accept what had happened the less the dreams haunted me. Eventually, when I’d accepted that Maddie was indeed gone, the dreams stopped.
But then this week I had a series of disturbing dreams – not about Maddie, but Annie. In these dreams Annie was with me, and then a second later I’d turn around and she’d be gone. In the most disturbing one, Annie and I were standing along a turbulent river watching people white water raft when she suddenly sneaked off and climbed into a raft all by herself. Before I could so much as move the raft was pulled away by the current and down the river. I jumped into another raft and tried desperately to catch up to her, but I never could.
The good news about these new dreams, however, was that when I woke up I realized Annie was fine and snoring like a kitten just down the hall. That was much better than the dreams I had about Maddie, when I’d wake up and realize that she wasn’t just down the hall, but gone from this world.
I think I know why I had these dreams about Annie. Last week Annie ran away from me at the supermarket (freaking me out), and then she did the same thing with Heather and her mother a few days later. It’s my subconscious mind starting up again, trying to work through the realization that bad things could happen to her, too, despite my trying my best to protect her. It’s a big tangled mess in my subconscious, I’m sure, and the fact I’ve already lost one daughter only makes it harder to sort out. These aren’t fun dreams to have, but in a weird way I hope they never stop, because having them will always mean that Annie is alive and well, and that I’m worrying about something that hasn’t happened.
Beth Mariel says:
Dreams are funny things huh but be sure not to be too affected by them Mike! Take care best and sincere wishes from the bottom of my heart xx
Beth Mariel says:
Dreams are funny things huh try not to be too affected by them If you can! :-):-) Take care best and sincere wishes from the bottom of my heart xx
I can definitely understand why that would be unsettling — and I remember my mother scolding me mercilessly every time I wandered off while out shopping. Though my parents hadn’t lost a child, their brother-in-law was killed when I was a toddler — and I know that grief weighed very heavy on them, along with the realization that bad things happen to great people. I’m so sorry. Sending you, Heather and Annie warm thoughts.
It is so terrifying when a little one runs away from you in a public place. Tell Annie that a priness never runs away from her sweet parents!
Dreams can feel so real at times. I am so glad that Annie is there sleeping down the hall from you. I wish Maddie was too.
I have had those dreams about the nights our sons died and I so wish when I woke up they were just dreams and Jake and Sawyer were still alive. Sending you hugs and hope.
Annie’s getting more independent, she’s got a big girl bed now … I can see where you’d be having these dreams. Hope they cease soon so you can rest better.
Dreams can be so realistic and terrifying.
You are so insightful! Annie’s definitely at the age where she’s going to start wanting to be more independent from you and testing her limits…my guess is every time she tests those limits it’s going to be extremely hard for you or any parent who’s lost a child. Letting go and worrying about protecting a child is always hard, but astronomically so when you’ve gone through the trauma you’ve gone experienced.
Dreams are the weirdest things, sometimes they tell us things we don’t quite “hear” while we’re awake. Other times they’re just batshit crazy. Wonder if you still have dreams about Maddie now?
Dreams can be so awful. Thinking of you guys, always.
Your daughter is getting to that age where she wants a little bit of independance. Your mind knows that and on some level is getting you used to the idea she will be off and doing things you dont like/wont like/wish you’d never been told. Its subtly easing you into Annie growing up and nudging you along to loosening the reigns.
When the time comes and she goes to pre-school, walks to the neighbours house on her own (with you watching all the while from the door), you will be able to let her go knowing that she will be coming back just as she is still there when you wake from the dreams.
Mike, one thing i was to assure you is that these anxiety dreams? All parents have them. Even the ones who haven’t lost like you and Heather. Losing our children or having something happen to them is our greatest fear and as you come up on Maddie’s birthday, I think your subconscious mind begins to generate these things.
Oh Mike! Ugh!
I do know, from speaking with friends, that all parents have dreams like this, not just those who have lost a child, but for parents who have lost a child, those dreams are even more terrifying I would think!
And there have been lots of things going on that would trigger dreams such as these, as others have suggested: she’s moved into a big girl bed AND she’s run away twice now in a store (not knowing that it’s a dangerous world out there!)…
But rationalization doesn’t make it any easier when you have a dream like yours!
Last weekend I was with my sister & SIL & mom & my niece & nephew. I’ve already lost one nephew and still have to fight down little panic attacks that try to rise up about losing another beloved child. Then before my eyes, that fear could have become true…we all handled the situation fine at the moment of the incident–but all 4 of us because physically ill later realizing my niece could have broken her neck or back last Sunday…because of a stranger’s stupidity. Frankly I’m still freaking out about it in that deep down place inside…I thought blogging about it would help: but even writing this makes me ill-feeling.
So, while I can tell you on one hand that all parents (& even aunties) have these dreams, on the other hand I can also tell you that telling you that is really no comfort at all!
It’s that getting up & walking down the hallway to see that beautiful girl sleeping sideways in her big-girl bed that will calm the fast-beating heat & sooth back the fears.
Sending you love!