This summer, as I was crawling out of the hole of PTSD and facing the brick wall of my husband not wanting to get divorced, I had a dream. Calling it a dream feels like such an injustice. It was an experience…one that just so happened to occur while I was sound asleep. Yes, that sounds better.
It’s been four months, but I still remember it. You don’t normally remember dreams for this long, but like I said…I’m sure it wasn’t just a dream. Here’s how it went down: In between the hodge podge of me traveling to all sorts of places, staying in weird hotels, bringing the boys skiing, whatever (just a chaotic mix of running around), I come to see my Nana. My sweet Nana, my dad’s mom…the one who I stayed with every weekend after Mom moved away when I was 9. The female caretaker who gave me the attachment bond I was craving after the bond with my mother was severed. In real life, I wear her wedding band. I have her rocking chair. I use her baking pans. I keep her memory alive in my daily routine as best I can. In the dream, she was there, right in front of me. Sitting at a picnic bench. So vivid. So real. So beautiful. I stop the chaotic running around and center myself to her presence. As it is in every single dream I’ve had about her since she died, I know it’s a dream. I know it’s not real, but I don’t care, because I’m just so happy I get to see her sweet face in front of me and not have it be a memory or photograph. Since I know it’s a dream, I appreciate every second of it, and dread the end…the waking up. Every time I see her in my dreams, she doesn’t talk and I never touch her. That’s just the unspoken rule we both understand…until that night. I see her sitting at the table. She’s looking away from me, like she often does. I get up close to her and look at her face, her skin. It feels so good, so nostalgic, to be that close to her again. I’m absorbing every part of what I see…her cheeks, her neck, her mouth, her hands. She looks up at me. I’m standing next to her as she’s sitting, and she looks up at me, smiling. But unlike her other dream visits, she has tears in her eyes. At first, I can’t tell if she’s really sad or happy. As I know it’s a dream, I can appreciate that this is different than when I normally see her. Smiling, I take her face and I cup it in my hands. I’ve never touched her in my dreams before. This was so special. I’m cupping her chin in my hands, with my fingers holding each cheek. I’m actually feeling my grandmother for the first time in 16 years. God, it felt so real. Her eyes are welled with small puddles of tears, but she’s smiling. I know I can’t talk to her, nor she to me. That’s the rule. Touching her grounded me. Amid all the turmoil in my life, touching her made everything bad stop for a few minutes and I felt lovable again. In my mind, I’m thinking “I miss you so much. What am I going to do when I wake up and you’re not here?” Wow, I’m crying as I typed that sentence. She looks at me, and doesn’t talk…but she thinks something, and I can hear it, in my brain. She thought “When you think about missing me, just think about the love you feel all around you. That’s me. That’s my love”. I could hear her think that in my head.I felt the emotion of what she was saying to me. I emerge from this dream hearing a sound emit from my body…like a start of a wail. I wake up to realize she’s gone. I’m in my bed, alone. Except, I don’t feel alone. I realize the magnitude of what just happened, and I feel lucky, because I know she just gave me such a powerful message, even though I’m not sure of what it is. I think that’s why she was crying. She’s sad for what I’m going through, because she loves me like no one has before, but she’s smiling to show me that love and to let me know that she knows I will pull through this and she knows I will be happy. I’m not 100% sure, but I know it’s close to that. It has to be, because in just writing and remembering it, tears are flowing…and I feel happy.
I often ask Nana to come to me in my dreams, because her unconditional love makes me feel safe. I want to wrap that love around me like a warm blanket and hibernate forever in it, but you can’t hibernate forever. That would mean you aren’t living. She never comes when I ask, of course. She comes when it’s time. The week of that dream, I’d been using guided meditations of Lisa A. Romano on the Insight Timer app. They are all about healing the inner child, whether it’s from abuse or neglect or living with narcissistic parents. They are supposed to reprogram your brain to get rid of the thought processes that were created as a byproduct of the abuse. I think the dream was a direct result of listening to those meditations. Nana has probably been giving me messages in her dream visits all the time, but I never knew how to receive them or even notice them. I wasn’t open because my thought processes were all screwed up. I was in survival mode, except I wasn’t really surviving. I’ve spent my life sealed shut…my brain’s way of protecting me. But now I’m starting to open. Therapy, yoga, meditation, exercise…nurturing myself and learning to love myself has cracked open my shell. Nana was crying because she loves me so much…I’m going through all this pain, and she’s feeling it. Except, she’s smiling, because she knows it’s only temporary. She knows. It’s funny how we always shielded her when she was alive. She was so pure, we didn’t want to taint her. “Don’t tell Nana, it would kill her”. She never knew of any troubles I had. Ha! We were so wrong! She knows…and she’s not tainted. She was a stronger woman than we gave her credit for. She was looking at me, though those tears, knowing…and smiling. And I get it now. I’m a stronger woman than I gave myself credit for. Now, I can look at myself, through my tears, knowing….and smiling.