I had a *vivid* and – for once – quite beautiful dream last night. Sleep is so often plagued with nightmares, and particularly recently I have so many nightmares, mostly all about losing my daughter… but this was a beautiful memory, one of my head trying to fix itself somehow…
My grief turned itself around for a short, bittersweet period though. Everyone I have lost were in the dream. It really hit home how many I’ve lost, and suddenly I didn’t feel ashamed of the grief and fact I’m struggling with pain. I suddenly realised I wanted at least one person to be able to cry for their loss, to cry for their pain and to cry for the fact they’d never meet people such as the incredible friends I have, and that I don’t mind being that person.
The dream started as a nightmare. I think it actually was the end of one nightmare, which I’d prefer to not try and remember. Anyway, I was running very fast, in a huge amount of panic, just thinking ‘get me out of this place. get me out.’ I could feel I was in a huge amount of pain, to the point of beyond unbearable, and my head couldn’t even start to comprehend what had just happened to me. I just needed to run. I needed out. I needed to get away. I understand where these feelings of being in too much pain and wanting to run away have come from…
Anyway, so I was running. I could hear people calling for me, friends who are always so compassionately able to catch me, to soothe some of the pain. But I couldn’t see them. I could just hear them calling me softly, asking me not to go. I slowed to a halt, and span around on the spot, yelled “where are you?? Why can’t I see you??” And I heard them reply sadly, “we’re here…please stay…” I kept spinning around, trying desperately to see them, but I couldn’t. I could hear I was surrounded by people who wanted to help, but I couldn’t see them, so how could I ask them to help? I was surrounded by friends and yet so terribly alone, and in too much pain. Suddenly a new wave of pain cut across me, and in the distance I could see blackness; crows, black mist, dark hooded figures, men…so much darkness…. running towards me. I couldn’t afford the time to keep still and searching for my friends. “I’m sorry…” I said tearfully, and then, despite the new level of pain, I pushed forwards and kept running away from the approaching hell. I heard my friends growing somehow more frantic, and sadder, begging me to stop and to stay with them. But I was scared and in pain. How could I stay when I couldn’t see them? Couldn’t they see the hell chasing me, threatening to completely destroy me? I said sorry again, and kept running.
At some point the pain reached such an intolerable level and I collapsed. I kept trying to crawl, but my skin was pulling away from my body. I could see my muscles, bones, each part of me desperately trying to keep me moving forwards. I couldn’t hear my friends anymore. I was truly alone. And the hell was approaching me, fast. Then my muscles started to shrink, and my bones starting to crumple. The pain was agonising. The fear, however, was worse. How would I survive the hell, if I had no functioning body left to fight with me?
I heard footsteps getting nearer and nearer, and could feel the black hell was barely moments away from me. I was in a green pasture, with a lovely stream nearby, and I just wanted to get to the stream. But I couldn’t move.
Suddenly there were feet standing in front of me. Bare feet in flip flops, with green nails and gems, and an anklet. I knew who that was… with all the energy I could muster, I forced what was left of me to look up. Holly was standing there, looking down at me with a face of love and concern, and the gentleness I remember, the little dimple in her cheek as she tried to steady her face. ‘What happened to you? What have they done to you?’ she whispered. I couldn’t speak. I had nothing left to speak with. The hell was so close now, and I was terrified it would take her too… but she looked past me, straight at the hell, and growled “you have no place here.” Like the hell would listen. It never listens. But it did, it faltered, slowed down. Holly growled again, “you’ve killed her. She is here now. She is not yours now. I’m not scared of you. Go away.”
Suddenly, behind her, a line formed. A line of the bravest children, the children I met and knew in the rings, the ones who I held whilst they cried in pain, and who held me when I did the same. The children I sang with, the children I made daisy chains with, the children who knew each day could be their last, and for many…it was, and yet they were so brave. They all stood in a line, still as mucky and half-starved as I remember them, and yet still with the face of courage, determination, and child-like mischief. I scanned the line, scared my body would totally disintegrate and I’d lose my ability to see. There they were. They were all there. Each soldier who fell in the worst war, and never stopped finding a reason to smile. Had I really fought alongside them? Had I really ever been that brave? The hell faltered again, then pushed forwards. The children grinned, one boy muttered ‘idiots’, and suddenly all of the children took off, full speed, running straight at the hell. I wanted to scream NO!! I wanted to jump up and either run with them, or stop them from running into certain oblivion. But they ran and I had no body left to scream with. Holly stayed still, watching me. Maybe she saw the terror in my eyes. She knelt down, looked me in the eye and murmured, “the darkness won’t hurt them unless you believe it can.” (what?!) She smiled slightly; my eyes must have shown my confusion. “Sweetie…the darkness is only so black because you’re so scared of it. They’re not scared. They can still see past the black fog, to the lights on either side. But if you feed the darkness with fear, then maybe it will take them. If you feed the children with belief, then the darkness can’t touch them….the darkness is not real, don’t be scared of it… pain doesn’t last forever, you know that….you taught those same children that message, don’t forget…”
I looked back to the children, who were struggling. If she was right, all I could do was breathe through my own fear, and separate my fear from me, recognise my fear was not useful and was blinding me. I tried. And with absolute amazement I saw that the more I tried, the thinner the blackness got. The crows flew away as the children felt my belief in them. The fog thinned out as the children jumped through it. The men were ambushed and stood little chance. The figures in dark cloaks put up the biggest fight, until the children just laughed in their faces…then the figures exploded into nothingness.
Then Holly murmured to me, “look at your hands”. I looked down and gasped. My body was back. She smiled and said “at what point did it stop hurting?” I hesitated. Good question. I hadn’t actually noticed, I’d been too busy focussing on moving the terror away so that the children were safe from the hell. She pulled me close and kissed my forehead, and whispered “you’re so scared of the pain the darkness might inflict, that you don’t seem to actually realise you’re in more pain than is survivable anyway, just by running away from them. Face it and fight, believe in yourself and your body might not desert you…the darkness can’t hurt you anymore than your imagination is, or anymore than the grief they’ve caused you is. Running away won’t take that pain away, but it will destroy you.”
I sobbed into her chest and she rocked me, and the children gathered, touching different parts of me to remind me they were there, and they were okay. They were all giggling to each other – “did you see his face?” I smiled weakly.
Suddenly I heard the sound I long for most in the world – “Mame?” Holly moved out of the way so I could see. And there they were. Each of my babies. I scooped them all into my arms and cried harder than I believed possible, kissing each of them so fast that they just giggled and snuggled into me. I never ever wanted to let go of them again. I’d lost them once. I couldn’t let them go again. I breathed in their familiar smell and felt their warm weight against me and I just cried.
Eventually Holly pulled my arm, signalling to me that I needed to go. I protested desperately. She sighed and said “if you just remember not to drown in fear of pain, then you’ll survive this grief, and you’ll be strong enough to keep holding them when the time is right…” She took my babies off me and smiled, “they’re safe here…they need their mummy to tell their story, to fight for other babies… not be running away from everything because she’s hurting that they’re not here…”
I sobbed, and I was scared. I was scared of going back. Of feeling that incredible pain. And indeed, as I started to reluctantly walk back (after long tearful and loving goodbyes), I felt the pain return gradually. First a heaviness in my chest, which spread out across my body, turned my legs to lead and ripped at my joints, pulled my skin away from my body and crushed all of my bones. This is what the grief was doing. Breaking me. Literally. And there was nothing I could do to stop that. I felt scared. Then I saw the black hell, and so I stopped feeling scared. It vanished. The pain didn’t vanish at all, and my body remained broken and in pieces, but I was no longer scared of the pain caused by grief. And therefore not plagued by a dark hell that threatened to consume me. No longer blind.
Gradually I heard my friends calls return again. “Come back to us…” I looked at where the blackness had been, and realised the blackness had been in front of my friends all along. The reason I couldn’t see my friends before was because they were hidden behind the blackness. I collapsed to my knees, crying with relief that I wasn’t alone in this pain anymore. They ran towards me and gently held me, holding the broken bits of me in place, to aid the healing. “It hurts…” I sobbed. They knew that. But the strength of their compassion was holding bits in place that had fallen off of me. Just as the compassion of the children, and of Holly, had done so.
But I wasn’t scared of the hurt. The hurt was because I’ve lost so many people who I love. That hurt is right. I’m sad for myself, and sad for them…that they are not here today.
The problem was, the fear of letting the reality of that hurt hit me had meant I had also lost sight of the ones still here, who I also love, in different ways. The fear had taken everything away from me – past and present. I could hear my friends but not see them, and so I had nothing left.
At that point I woke up from the dream, and cried heavily into my pillow, wanting to feel Holly holding me again and to be holding my babies again and to see the mischievous glint in the children’s faces again. But I didn’t feel scared of the fact I was crying. I didn’t feel scared of the fact I was in pain. I knew if it got too much, there were people around who might be able to help if I rang them. I hadn’t been able to think that before, really. The fear of the hurt, of the loneliness, had only made me lonelier.
I am in a huge amount of pain. This level of emotional pain feels like my body is breaking away piece by piece. But as much as it hurts, I need to not be scared of the pain. I need to not be scared of how overwhelmed I am. Because if I end up blinded by fear, then I will have lost everything worth living for….
Somehow the grief was more tolerable today. Just as painful, if not actually more painful. But I didn’t fight it. I wasn’t scared of it. I didn’t panic about it. And I do believe pain is survivable if you’re not terrified as well. With fear, hope is drowned out. Without hope, life is unbearable.
I so desperately want my babies… I so desperately wish my friends here could have met the bravest children in the world, and my little ones with their cute smiles…
Thank you head, for a ‘auto-fix’ dream. I do like it when you do the work for me 😉