The dreams are back.

At first, I wished for him to be in my dreams.  I wanted to sleep forever and just dream about him, to live in the parallel universe a small part of me believed existed where he was still alive, my life was still the same, and we still had each other.

Ironically during those times I had insomnia and would lay awake for hours each night.

Then the dreams came that were more like flashbacks.  I think my brain was trying to process the trauma I had compartmentalized far away in the depths of my consciousness while Jason was sick.  I remember in particular that I would often dream of our last 4th of July, when I watched fireworks from his hospital room.  That day, I was cool, calm, and collected as I drove him to the emergency room in my Mini Cooper.  He was throwing up because spinal fluid was leaking from an internal incision from his brain surgery a month earlier that wouldn’t completely heal.  I remember calling his parents and telling them we wouldn’t be able to make it to the family picnic that night.  I am calm in my memory of that day.  But the dream was always a nightmare, where I felt terrified and unsure of what to do. There was a time when I would have a dream like that every night, when I didn’t want to shut my eyes for fear of what I might be confronted with.

As time passed, those dreams did too.  It helped that I talked about those flashbacks with other widows, my therapist, other people experiencing grief.  I processed them during the day so my brain wouldn’t have to do that wrestling with itself at night.

It’s been a few years since I consistently had dreams of Jason.  He would pop in every once in awhile, but in a welcome and comforting way.  Lately the dreams have been different.

One recurring dream starts with him coming ‘home’.  I find out the truth is he never actually died, he was taken to a special hospital in Kenya where they treat people who have terrible illnesses like his, and put them in comas until their bodies have time to heal.  The healing process is very slow, and takes a long time, and for some reason it has to be done in Africa. Now, after 6 years he is better and ready to restart our life.  I’ve woken up from this dream, in varying editions, several times in the past two weeks.

The second one also involved him coming ‘back’. This time he is essentially taking me out on a date, trying to woo me again.  I think we went to dinner, but the part I remember clearly is him taking me back to his parents house after.  Neither of us ever says this, but in my dream I know this is the point: his parents and his family have been struggling since he died, and now that he’s back, we need everything to go back to the way it was to help them start living again, too.

Both dreams end with me needing to make a heart wrenching choice, the choice between my old life and my new one.

This is a new type of dream in my grief  journey, and I’m shaken by it.  I do think there is a reason for this turn, and I need to understand it in the same way I needed to understand those flashbacks.

Fear still sits in the back of my brain.  Grief has made me acutely aware of being grateful and helped me let go of worries that don’t seem worth the energy any more.  But sometimes fear still creeps in.  I am afraid of feeling too happy.  I worry that if I am too happy that means something bad is bound to happen.    I guess I can’t let go of the evidence in my life that bad things do happen to good people.

Guilt is the second reason those dark thoughts creep into my brain.  I shouldn’t be too happy with my life now, because in some way that’s being a traitor what was before, and maybe even to Jason.

I think my brain is using these dreams to remind me that I can’t just tuck that fear, or that guilt, far away into my subconscious and try to keep it there.  I need to process the feelings that come with being so incredibly grateful and satisfied with my current life while also always sad for the life and love I lost.

In some ways as time passes it gets harder and harder to let myself do that work.  I want to be present for my family, and not bogged down by events in the past.  But no matter how much time passes my life is still framed by this loss, I must live differently because of that experience.

I suppose this is just another bend in the road in my grief journey.  The scenery is changing, and the road isn’t as smooth as it has been for awhile.  But I’m still moving, the horizon is still beckoning me forward, I just might let myself go a little slower for the next few miles.


Dear Nicholas #2

One year old

Dear Nicholas,

This past weekend we celebrated your first birthday!  It was so much fun, it’s Tuesday and the decorations are still up because I cannot bear to take them down.  I printed out all the pictures your dad and I have taken during your first year of life and hung them all around our house.  From your first bath, to your first taste of sweet potatoes, I love being surrounded by those precious memories of you and life we now share together.

You are growing into a delightful child!  You are still my baby, but you are so much more than that now, you are a definitely a toddler, and I see glimpses of the little boy you are becoming every day.  You continue to resemble your dad, with your blue eyes, blonde hair, and that sweet smile.  I can also see some of Gubba in you, and Grandpa Havlik is in there as well.  We love being a little family, me, you and your dad.

Our life has settled into a nice routine now.  You go to day care a few days a week, and Grandpa and Grandma Havlik come stay with you on Wednesdays. You don’t like being dropped off at day care but you have fun once we leave, and even brought home your first craft for Easter.  Your dad and I miss you all day while we are at work so we make sure to have the time we spend together be quality.  We play with you, we laugh with you.  We build towers of blocks and you toddle over to knock them down.  Lately you even try to build your own towers.  We put the legos in the lego bucket and you take them all back out again.  You love to put things in something else, or play with the top of your bottle, taking it off and putting it back on again.

We eat dinner together every night. Now you mostly eat whatever we are having for dinner, and we can usually get you to try anything.  You love frozen vegetables, especially peas and green beans.  When you are done eating you throw your food off your tray to Bella, who feasts below.  Your dad and I work really hard not to laugh at that, but it is hilarious.

You are so much fun right now.  You love to play peekaboo when we are eating dinner, you put your own hands up and cover your face and wait for us to say ‘Where’s Nicholas?’ Then you laugh like crazy when you ‘reappear’.  You love to throw balls and will walk up and down the hallway throwing the soft baseball I got at a Cougars game when I was about 18.  I knew it would come in handy someday.

You have also started snuggling more.  We ask you for a hug and you lean in and touch your face to our face, or we ask for a kiss and you put your open mouth on our face.  It’s adorable and gross all at the same time. You have a clear love for me and your dad.

You say mama and dada, and a version of Bella that’s more like ay-ya, but it’s definitely an attempt.  You love to babble and squeal as you toddle around the house.  You are always trying to run everywhere and sometimes your feet go faster than your body and you take a tumble.  You like to take your socks off and then try to put them back on again, or play with the blue striped bear hat, or a pair of sunglasses.  You are so curious about everything around you.

We love you so much, Nicholas.  We love being parents, we love being a family.  We are so incredibly blessed by you, and we can’t wait to see what the next year holds.