Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Message of the Terrible Dream

(see previous post)

This is what I think the dream was telling me — and I must say I don't much like the message, but I know I'd better not ignore it. I think it's clearer if I put it in present tense.

A man has died and is haunting me. Well, that'd be Andrew. 

I'm scared and trying to pretend I'm not. Yes — no-one to look after me any more. Even though he couldn't do a lot of practical looking after in recent times, he was always good for moral support. It's scary going on alone, and I have been refusing to acknowledge that. 

When the dead man connects with me — when I am in effect stuck to him (to what is behind me) — I become unable to move forward or express myself. It takes a great effort of will to do so even a little. 

I call out for Bill. Perhaps this is confirmation that Andrew is the dead man who is haunting me, not the living husband in my bed. Or could this be a reference to the fact that there's a cost if I want to be rescued from my situation — as in paying the bill, or even calling for the bill to find out what the cost is? I'm speculating here; it's not real clear to me.  

But then, Bill is also a dead husband. In fact the man in the bed looks like Andrew. 

I manage to wake him from his sleep. I am trying to wake the dead, to bring him back to life and back into bed with me.

I do exert my will enough to find my voice again — literally, not just in dream. This wakes me out of my dream and shows me that I am alone and Andrew is dead. In my waking life I am expressing myself in my writing, both poetry and blogging, and in the writings I am acknowledging that he is gone. 

Since that moment of waking I have had more sustained crying and sobbing than at any time since his death. I have cried before, often, but only a little at a time before my mind gets diverted. Perhaps I have now reached the point where I'm able to do some heavy duty grieving. And it appears that I haven't really let go yet — heck, I know I haven't — and now my subconscious is telling me it's time I did or else I'll get stuck in the past. If I am to keep moving forward and expressing myself, I must make that huge effort of will to do so. 

And it's no good calling on the dead to comfort me, or trying to rouse them from their sleep — they aren't actually available to me in that way any more. 


It is definitely not a welcome message! But I think it's a necessary one. My unconscious wouldn't be giving it to me otherwise.  I almost never remember my dreams. When I do, and so vividly, it must be because I need to.

I still wear my wedding ring. I intended never to remove it. As far as I was concerned, I was still married to Andrew. I have likened myself in my mind to the heroine of the film, 'A Man and a Woman'. When the new lover asks her is there someone else, she says, 'My husband.' The man says, 'But he's dead!' and she replies, 'Yes. But not yet for me.' I don't have a new lover, nor the slightest hint of one — but I have been feeling that Andrew is not yet dead to me as my husband. 

But we promised 'till death', not beyond.  Even religions which don't condone divorce allow that a person is free once the spouse is dead. I am not talking about remarriage or a new relationship — I know I don't want that — but I see that I have been unwilling to become unmarried. I have wanted to think that being widowed doesn't mean being single. But of course it does mean just that.

In a way, I suppose, it's like not setting him free either, to go on and do his work in spirit. I know he is in fact free, and doing that work, and I also know that our souls are connected for eternity ... but earthly marriage — what am I thinking? Of course that is over for us in this lifetime. 

I don't want to stop wearing my beautiful wedding ring. It's not just a band of gold; it's a dark sapphire with a diamond each side, set in gold, and it was our engagement ring first. We planned it that way. I'm not going to shove it away in a drawer. But perhaps I could move it to my other hand now and make it a dress ring.

It will be Andrew's birthday in a week. Friends have suggested I should plan to go out rather than stay home alone, thinking. But I have decided to celebrate his birthday, instead of trying to put it out of my mind. I have been thinking of creating some private rituals to do so. Now I am thinking I might include a tie cut. That will not sever the soul connection, but it would free us from bonds that no longer serve us. And it would be a good time to swap the wedding ring to my other hand.

I might stash some of the photos of us that are around the place, too. We never had so many on display, but my friends who hosted his commemoration gave me the large, framed ones we created for the occasion, and I have had them on show. I could put some of them away now. The big wedding photo could go, and the one of the two of us in the nursing home when he was dying — photos of us as a couple. The nice one of him on his own, taken in 2005, can stay. And so can the one of us cuddling our baby god-daughter, Flo (now nearly three). It has been on display ever since her parents gave it to us, did not feature at his commemoration, and it's more about the relationship with her than with each other.

Flo, who is an extraordinary soul, came to his commemoration with her father. (Her Mum stayed home with new baby brother.) Her father wrote in the tribute book, 'I asked Flo what could we say to Andrew. She said, "Goodbye".' Out of the mouths of babes! I think it's time for me to follow her wise advice.


Re-reading this later, I remember learning from a psychologist long ago that when, in a dream, you are desperately trying to call out to someone and can't, it means the relationship is ending. And I remember experiencing just that in regard to Bill, shortly before becoming (consciously) aware that our marriage was breaking up. Perhaps this latest dream was saying to me, 'Remember how it was with Bill? It's happening again with Andrew.' I like to think it is also saying, 'You moved on from that and found a new life. You can again.'

Nothing could make me forget, but it is time to say goodbye. I won't wait for his birth date. There is a full moon tonight — perfect timing.

A Terrible Dream

A man had died, and he was haunting me. I was scared but trying to ignore it. One night as I walked through the living-room, I felt him touch my back, and then I couldn't move and I couldn't speak. I was terrified. I was exerting enormous effort to no avail. Finally I managed to make my legs move to take me into the bedroom. My husband was asleep in bed. I tried to say his name to wake him — i'd been trying to call it all along — but I couldn't make a sound. I was desperate. I started shaking him to wake him, but had no strength to shake him hard. He didn't wake. Finally I managed to croak out his name in a whisper. He stirred and opened his eyes, and looked at me, bewildered. I started telling him what had happened, wanting the comfort I knew he would give me any minute. Then, as my will became stronger, I managed to get out a few syllables aloud. The sound of my voice woke me right up and I found myself in bed alone, with the sheet pressing against my back as the ghost had been.

My husband in the dream was clearly Andrew, yet when I was trying to wake him, the name I kept calling was 'Bill' (my previous husband).

When I woke up, I cried because I was alone, no Andrew to comfort me. 

Andrew and Bill are both dead. Either one of them would have hugged and comforted me in those circumstances, while alive.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Living in the Past

... is what I'm doing, I realise, when I think of Andrew — particularly when I experience the 'phantom stings' a friend warned me of, the times when you cry all over again at what the beloved went through before they died. And then there are the silly little regrets. 'If only I'd been able to get those taps fixed before he died; he would have enjoyed the way the water flows now.' Then I remind myself, 'it doesn't matter. He hasn't got a body now. He doesn't need water; it's nothing to him how well the taps work.' 

The grief is inevitable and needs release. Better to cry than to bottle it up. I don't dwell on it but it gets triggered by all sorts of things. Just having a shower is a frequent trigger. We so often showered together, when whichever rented home we were in had a shower big enough. Most of them did; this one does. Going to bed is another obvious one, in the bed I used to share with him. I've no intention of getting rid of it; it's an excellent, comfortable bed which cost us a lot of money when we bought it — and there's something comforting, anyway, about being in this bed: I can imagine him in it too as he used to be. That's a matter of mixed feelings. I like it, and then I cry. 

I'm getting adjusted, though. My cat, Freya, comes to bed with me, waiting until whatever time I decide to retire, and insists on a cuddle before we both settle down for the night. We both sleep soundly. The lump of prehnite I put under my pillow seems to help; so does having the bed to myself (except for one small cat, who never disturbs me).

The silly regrets, though, are just that — silly. It is then that I notice I'm stuck in the past, whereas Andrew has moved on. Whatever might have been nicer for him while he was alive is irrelevant now. And they are usually such little things. Perhaps these feelings, too, are part of the necessary release? Or perhaps they reinforce my adjustment, every time that I notice: 'Hey, he's not here any more. That doesn't matter now.' 

I notice over and over that I find it hard to enjoy things just for myself, for my own sake. This is a bit weird, because I certainly enjoyed many things before, regardless of whether he did or not. We didn't always have the same tastes or interests, and that was fine. There was, however, a lot of shared enjoyment too. It's that which I miss.

And I miss the way he was so proud of me, so admiring, so congratulatory. He would have told me how clever it was of me to arrange for the new taps, for instance, and he'd have meant it. He told me often that I was looking good. I'm no great cook, but I aimed for healthy and tasty. He loved the meals I prepared and told me so. As I went from a timid driver to a more confident, capable one as he more and more relinquished that task, he complimented me and told me how glad he was that I was driving and not him. 'You're doing we'll!' He would say as I negotiated tricky situations on the road — just when I didn't want to be distracted by conversation. But now I'm glad of all that reinforcement to my self-esteem. It's still with me. It's only with new things I do — like getting the taps fixed — that I miss his praise. And yet, I know it would have been there, so in a way I don't need it. I can 'hear' his voice so well, telling me those things, and 'see' his eyes shining.

There are practical ways, too, that I'm stuck in the past — notably the food shopping. It is so hard to get out of old habits and realise it's no longer economical to buy large sizes or quantities. It's not a saving when food goes off before I can use it up! Even when stuff will keep for a while, finishing it while it's still good can result in having the same meal night after night after night. I had a friend to lunch recently, and feeling lazy dashed out to buy a barbecue chicken and some prepared salads. I knew it was too much for one meal, even for two of us, but I figured I'd use the leftovers. And so I have been. That was five days ago. I finally finished the chicken yesterday; I'll probably manage the last of the salads by tomorrow night. I HAVE to readjust my thinking when I'm in the supermarket!

I have to readjust my thinking in all sorts of ways. Bit by bit, I guess. One step after another. I think I've said that before. It seems I come to the same realisations over and over. Hopefully they will gradually sink in.

Monday, January 21, 2013


It's a quieter life now. I still have, very slightly, the habit of being alert for his needs. I stood washing the dishes tonight with half an ear cocked, and the memory of there always being so many things to do and be aware of. Yet already I am moving on from that, too. It is only the remnant of an old habit. In the act of remembering, and catching myself doing so, I notice that all that background noise, all that hustle and bustle, is really not there any more. The reality is peace and silence. I am moving away from that other mind-set, and I would not want to move back into it again.

I experience what a friend who has been through it calls 'the phantom sting' — weeping over the ways in which he suffered towards the end. Yet I am also coming to the realisation that, had he not had those health problems which made life so difficult for him, I would never have been able to tolerate losing him. It is only made bearable by the fact that I know he had reached the end of what he could cope with and was ready to leave. In so many ways, no matter how it looked or felt, it all worked out perfectly. I realise this more and more.

And I know he is free now, and fully engaged with life again, as he was here — only now it's life on a different level. Some people remark on my 'great faith'. I don't even see it as faith; it's just knowledge. I couldn't have the experiences I have had, and not know that there is life and consciousness after death. And still he feels so far away.

'We'll never break up,' I told him, 'Even if you go into another dimension.' He was wiser. I see now that it is a kind of break-up, in that he is now having experiences I am not sharing, and cannot share. I too — life is happening to me. I am already making new friends he did not live to know. I am reading books and seeing movies I'll never discuss with him. We are indeed going on separately, and there is no other way it can be. Even if I could tune into him all the time and be in constant communication — and I know that I actually could if I put my mind to it — that would be no life for me. I need to be in the here and now, not half in some other dimension.

It is an adjustment, a gradual adjustment. And it is happening, inevitably, whether I like it or not. Even the cats are developing new routines for the new circumstances. The days and weeks and months go by. The most horrifying thing is the realisation that I will change. I won't be able to help it. I can't and shouldn't stand still, static, like a living corpse. I must go with my own evolution. I must allow myself to become whatever I shall become, as the days and weeks and months — and years — go by.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Reminding Myself to Look After Me

To look after myself as we'll as I did him — that's what it boils down to.

I find myself getting weepy about nice things I bought and little efficiencies I put in place to make our lives easier and pleasanter. I weep because he is no longer around to benefit. Some things I'm inclined not to bother with now, because of that. But I catch myself — I am still here, I can benefit.

So I do what makes life easier and use the things that give me pleasure. But I have to remind myself, and I don't always care very much.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Penny Drops a Little Further

Or perhaps it is that several pennies drop, one by one. At any rate, I come to various realisations, rather slowly. Old ways of thinking, I suppose, take a while to clear.

It dawns on me that I don't have to keep old videos he treasured, which I am never going to watch again. Old war movies for instance — he loved Second and even First World War stuff. They don't grab me in the same way. When he was alive, I would never have thrown them out. There was the idea that one day we'd get them turned into DVDs. No, the opp shop can have them.

Last time I changed the sheets, I finally took the incontinence protector off the bed. Towards the end, he was sometimes in danger of accidents. Having that in place gave me peace of mind and saved him some embarrassment. But I am really not going to have any such accidents myself — maybe when I am much older, but not yet. The protector was unobtrusive, like an extra sheet, but the bed is even more comfortable now that I am that much closer to my beloved sheepskin underlay, which nurtures me in all weathers.

I dare say I'll never again need cutlery for 18 people. I don't remember ever having so many dinner guests at once, even when I did more entertaining! But a friend persuaded me to keep them. 'What if you get sick?' She asked. 'You can leave the washing up until you feel better, if you've got lots of clean things to use.' Good point; I'll hang on to the cutlery, and the extra plates and glasses, at least for now. 

There were television programs we used to enjoy watching together, which now I find don't interest me enough to turn them on. I still love my great favourites, but some others I'm surprised to find I can't be bothered with now. I'd rather read a book, or get on the net, or even do a bit of housework. Yet I did enjoy them when we watched them together, and I could enjoy them quite well now if I did watch; it's just that I can't summon up the interest. I realise that what I enjoyed most was the sharing of the experience, the togetherness. I have to reassure myself that it's OK to let them go now, and to become better acquainted with my real, personal tastes. There is no-one else I have to consider. We broadened each other's tastes and interests, no doubt, but now I may narrow mine again if I please. It's not a bad thing; it's just what is.

So, bit by bit, I create a life that is mine, not ours. To write that fills me with grief for what has gone. Yet the truth is, I quite like this solitary life, having my own space to myself (except, of course, for the cats — but they are little trouble). At times it feels pointless and purposeless, but that happens less and less often. It also feels free and autonomous.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Of Taps and Dogs

The plumber came. As well as new washers on the bathroom taps, I now have lovely new stainless steel knobs. ('Spindles', he called them.) I'm thrilled. And I miss Andrew being here to share my delight. There is no-one any more with whom to share such trivia, no-one who will respond with equal enjoyment. I was quite pissed off about this, and said aloud to him accusingly, 'You used to ring me up three times a day when we were apart.'

That was when he used to go to work and I worked from home, in our early days. And whenever one of us was in hospital, or away on a separate trip for some reason, or he was in a nursing home, we used to have phone calls at least once a day, as well as visits. Even when I was in Texas we managed daily emails most of the time. Why can't he get in touch as often from the Other Side, I query petulantly.

I give myself two answers. One is that he does but I am too deaf to hear. The other is that he is occupied with rather more important things nowadays, and cannot take the same pleasure in a mere new tap or two. I tend to think both are true.

Of course, the second one also works in good ways. There are things I put in place to try and make his life better, thinking he would be with me longer, such as buying DVDs I thought he would enjoy, when he became unable to go to the cinema any more. Most of them he never got to watch. I have moments of regret, and then I remember, 'It's OK. It doesn't matter to him any more. He's not here now; he's in his new life.'

A psychic friend says I will have a new male companion in my life, though not a lover. (Good! I don't want a lover.) Maybe it won't be a human companion. I have been getting a yen for a dog. I have been trying to stomp on these yearnings. 'Not at all practical,' I tell myself. And then I see a request on Facebook for a good home for a 9-year-old German Shepherd. He's been brought up with cats. Hmmm. (I should add that, for me, a dog has to be at least German Shepherd size before I consider it a real dog.)

Housing Department says that because I have a fenced yard I may have a dog; I don't even need to ask permission. 'Lucky dog,' my contact adds. (They like me at HD.) Now I await a call from the woman who is giving the dog away. She is the previous owner's daughter. The owner had to relocate overseas. There is one other person interested, but the daughter isn't sure she would suit.

I am not altogether sure I would suit, or that the dog would suit me. Maybe I'm insane to think of acquiring any dog. And this one would cost a bit to feed. And my back yard is too small for a dog that size to run around in. I'd have to take him for long walks twice a day. (Well, that would be good for me too.) I must find out about his medical history, and how obedient he is, and whether he's a barker who might disturb the neighbours.

I've seen photos. Lovely boy, but he looks a trifle overweight. He's fairly long-haired and would need frequent combing. Just when I am relishing my freedom to come and go as I please, and enjoying the lack of nursing duties, I contemplate taking on this responsibility. Yes, I must be mad. Well, we'll see. Whatever happens, it's nice to know I can just go ahead and get a dog if I want to.

Post script: On further enquiry this dog turned out not to be the right one for me, nor mine the right home for him. Perhaps it's just as well. I'd hate to put the cats' noses out of joint when they're still adjusting to being without Andrew. But I'm no longer completely closed to the idea of having one some day.