Nightmares Return

About one month after Barry passed away, I started having nightmares. Terrible nightmares – the type that make you scared to go to sleep! Thankfully, they only lasted about a month and I returned to normal dreaming.

Last week, I started having nightmares again. The first night, 22 November, wasn’t too bad, but the second one on 23 November left me feeling upset and anxious when I awoke the next morning. As the hours passed I became depressed, but luckily I had a counselling session booked in for that day.

I want to share the nightmare. I am doing this because I feel it’s important to confront my fears and worries. Locking them away inside me isn’t going to help me get over this.

I want to make it perfectly clear that I knew I was dreaming while the following was happening. I think this elevated my feelings and anxiety levels.

Anyway…Daniel, Gary and I found a way to bring Barry back to life. We were in the house we live in now and we were excited to think that Barry was with us again. This doesn’t sound much like a nightmare. What’s the saying? “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

Having Barry with us meant we could ask all those questions that have been torturing us for so many months. I admit openly that I didn’t like the answers (even though I can’t actually remember the questions or answers now). Then we (Daniel, Gary, and I) did the most horrifying thing.

We put Barry back into a dead state.

We agreed that no one could know that Barry was in the house, it had to be a secret, so when we weren’t home, we put him “to sleep”, only to “wake” him again when we arrived home. We kept Barry prisoner in this way until I woke up.

It’s only a dream, I hear you say. I’ve told myself that over and over again. My counsellor asked if I was trying to protect Barry. Unfortunately, I had to be honest and tell her that no, I wasn’t. The dream was a nightmare. It felt dark and sinister. It felt wrong. I was horrified and depression overtook me. I kept my beloved son prisoner. What’s more, I helped put him back into a dead state.

Can you imagine how guilty I feel about that, how disturbing it is?

I’ve had a week to think about the nightmare and I have talked about it with several people – my counsellor, Gary and my support group. All agree that something is troubling me about Barry’s death, or, more specifically, the way I’m handling his death.

There are two possibilities:

1. Maybe I feel that Daniel, Gary and I are the only ones keeping Barry’s memory alive. Maybe I feel that the people around me are forcing us to hide our feelings during the day when we are away from the house, and we can only show our true feelings at home when we’re alone together. In other words, maybe it’s the only time I feel free enough to be open and honest, and not have to pretend.

2. Or maybe this has nothing to do with external forces. Maybe this is all the inner turmoil I’m faced with each day. I have said several times that I have asked Barry to come to me and tell me that he’s alright. It is one thing that, as his mother, I really need to know. Sometimes, in desperation, I plead for this knowledge. And maybe my head is telling my heart that by doing this I might be holding Barry prisoner, by holding him here, earthbound, instead of letting him go where he wanted to go.

A woman in my support group said that maybe Barry is trying to show me that I have to let him go. He chose to go to another place, presumably heaven, and my actions might be keeping him here against his will. I crave for the truth as to why he made this decision. I want to understand. I don’t want to feel guilt over nightmares and I certainly don’t want to keep my son prisoner. My head tells me that letting go doesn’t mean forgetting. My heart screams that I have to hang on!

Every night since then I’ve dreamt of death. Not Barry’s death or any other family member’s death. Just death in general. Every night someone dies, someone takes their own life, someone ends the misery. I don’t know any of them, but it affects me. I know I’m dreaming, I feel anxious and upset while it’s all happening, but there’s nothing I can do to stop it. I’m powerless.

Sometimes I wake up covered in sweat. Most days I wake up feeling exhausted. What happens next, I don’t know? But I know that this inner conflict will not go away until I stop fretting for Barry. However, I don’t think any mother really stops fretting for their children – in life or death. Do they?


2 thoughts on “Nightmares Return

  1. Rosepetal

    Karen, we have each lost a son in such very very different circumstances but I identify so much with what you said. I also want to keep my son’s memory alive. I talk about him to lots of people, show them his picture, try to get tangible things to remind myself he was really here and it wasn’t just a dream. I do manage to be myself with a few friends and I have lost interest in some friendships which cannot accommodate that.

    I have struggled with wondering if anyone was looking after my son wherever he was, or if he is crying for his mother, hungry and cold. He died in the summer and was cremated wearing summer clothes, and I wish I’d given him a jacket and a hat.

    But slowly, very slowly, I am learning to think that where he is, these earthly things do not matter. What matters is love and I believe Barry can feel your love from where he is. For myself, I have likened the love I have for my dead son as like being in love, a love that goes unrequited. I love him with no guarantees since he has gone somewhere unknown to me. I think this means that your love for Barry does not have to “bind” him to you and prevent him from leaving to wherever he wanted to go. It’s unconditional, as I think it must always have been.

    I do think I believe that I will meet my son again, when I myself am dead. I will take him in my arms and cover him in kisses. I like to try to think that for him my lifetime will pass by in an instant.

    I don’t know how to say this sensitively since Barry suicided. Maybe your dreams of death are due to a new affinity with death. I say this because I am not afraid of death or dying as I believe I will see my son again. This does not mean that I wish to hasten that death, just that I believe that when the moment comes I will be looking forward to something I will have waited a lifetime for.

    I send you much love.

  2. Rosepetal, your words affected me in many ways.

    Firstly, the tears streamed down my face as I read your comment because I know you do understand, and in this situation I need people to understand.

    Secondly, it feels like you looked into my heart and put what you found there into words. I wouldn’t call myself a maternal woman, but I love Barry with something so strong (and always have) that it can never be taken away from me. No matter how many years pass.

    And finally, I too, feel diffently about death. I don’t fear it either, because, like you, I look forward to being reunited with my son. That doesn’t mean that I want life to end, it just means that when my time is here I’ll go without fear.

    Life before and after Barry’s death is different. I am different. My eyes and mind have been awakened to things I never gave a moments thought to before. I realise now that “things” are not important, love and happiness is all that matters. Life is too short for anything else.

    Thank you for writing that post. It touched my heart.


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