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.