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Dreams and Nightmares

It's been a little over eight months now since I lost my husband to pancreatic cancer. Overall, I think I'm doing fairly well.  The house is still standing. I am still standing. Those both seem like significant wins. 

I get through most days now without hardly a tear but there are those other days, days when I find myself unexpectedly crying.  Maybe it's a song on the radio or a touching scene on the screen setting off memories or reminding me of dreams unfulfilled. I cry then. It's impossible to hold back the grief, the self-pity, the wishes for more, or the distress at what happened in those last few weeks.   

But for the most part, I think I am functioning fairly well. I am keeping my shit together. I am getting stuff done. I am taking care of what needs to be taken care of, whether that's the house, the bills, the car, the camper, the day job, the kids, or the grandbaby. 

Every now and again I give myself permission to do nothing, though, because the loss of a partner is hard. So this last Saturday I sat on the couch almost the whole day. I binged television shows, played games on my phone, and lounged around in my PJs. When I finally got into the bath, I read a book for a good hour or more. I relaxed. I recharged. I indulged my need for solitude and stillness without feeling even a tad bit guilty. It was needed.  Heck, it's probably needed a lot more often. 

The truth is I'm afraid of falling into a debilitating depression, so I limit my do-nothing see-nobody go-nowhere days. But sometimes you just need to stop. Pause. Recharge.

I think these things - the doing and the being still - are all signs that I'm doing better. 

Or so I hope.

I am concerned, though, that while my waking brain is doing a better job of coping, my subconscious is still struggling to come to terms with everything. In the beginning, Ken would visit me in dreams. We would talk. We would snuggle. We would drive down the road and chit-chat about the kids. They were good, reassuring dreams. 

Lately, though, the dreams have been replaced by nightmares. He is sick and dying. He is in pain. Those are hard enough but I lived through that very reality so I can usually console myself with the idea that his misery is over and he's in a better place. The nightmares where he is absent are more difficult. I've seen my kids killed.  My dad. More loss and more pain.  Anguished by these too real nightmares, I lay awake for too long trying to regain some measure of peace. I talk to myself or hug my dog. I turn on the lights. I've even found that guided imagery helps push out the horrific images by replacing car accidents and health crises with sandy beaches or autumn forests. The gentle music underlying the narrator's gentle suggestions eases tension from clenched muscles.  

I think these nightmares are signs that I still have a long way to go until I'm truly okay. Right now, I'm wondering if I'm just not faking it more than a little bit even when I don't feel like I'm faking it. If that makes sense..


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