I would have traded places with anyone raised on love,
but how would anyone raised on love bear this death?
Sharon Olds, from “Wonder”
I’ve been working on a piece that I call “Writing about Writing”, an excavation process that I am using to uncover my truths and dreams of being or becoming a writer. From this discovery process, while reading what other authors shared, I realized in the middle of the night last night that I was oftentimes writing for others instead of myself. With the grieving process, I found myself crafting all of the pretty words to try to convince others, and perhaps myself, that it was all going to be okay some day. Many times, I admit I was saying what I thought others needed to hear in order to instill “hope” instead of just writing my authentic truth.
The truth is that grieving isn’t a lateral process, at least not for me. It isn’t a neat little contained package tied with a bow. It’s messy and unpredictable. I feel ashamed when I regress. Others don’t understand. I don’t understand. I’ve been to the classes, I’ve felt the pain, I’ve felt the love and I’ve felt spirit. Why do I have to return to pain again? Will it ever be over? The following is about my dream last night. I’ve decided to share because there just may be one person out there that needs to hear my authentic truth. It might just be me.
In the Darkness
Far away in your consciousness, you hear a soft plop and then another plop on your pillow. “What is that?” It sounds like rain and you are confused. “Where am I?” You slowly realize it isn’t rain because you feel it, warm and salty against your skin. Another tear squeezes its way from the corner of your tightly closed eyelid, and traces a trail down the side of your face. As your mind shakes itself awake, you realize you must have been dreaming. What were you dreaming? Another instant passes and the realization comes flooding back in pieces and sizzles like a hot branding iron to your chest. You are thankful it was just a bad dream until you realize that your reality is the real nightmare. You shriek, “My God, the dream isn’t true. Chad really didn’t come back. He is dead. He’s really dead!”
The dreams are reoccurring but less frequent now. You know it’s just your subconscious trying to work out a solution to a reality that your consciousness can’t accept. Maybe it never will. Sometimes the dreams are of a younger Chad and you somehow know, and even seem to accept in that dream state, the fact that he won’t survive his childhood. The happy dream version is when he finds you after you thought he was dead. He drives up or walks in the door and you are so ecstatic that he is alive after all; that is until you wake up. That is the cruelest dream of all because awaking plunges you back into the full primal emotion of a hell that at least, overtime, had become blurry around the edges.
You lay in the darkness in shock, feeling helpless. There is no way to run from it, nowhere to hide in the darkness. You feel the pain swelling in your heart and your heart naturally begins to contract in order to save you; just like it always has before. You tell it not to this time; to stay open. By now, drowning in your tears with snot dripping from your nose, you get out of bed to get a Kleenex. You coach yourself to just let it go. “No one is in the house”, you tell yourself. “No one will hear. So many times you’re not in a place to let it all out. This is your chance. Open your heart, and let it weep.” You let out a wail that would wake the neighbors if you had close neighbors. You bawl like any mother or animal that has just lost her baby. You wonder how many more times you will have to suffer the loss.
Tears run down your cheeks and you can’t breathe as your mind paints you a picture of hell, dragging your heart with it as hostage, kicking and screaming. Your heart recoils from an altered universe that only the Ego knows. You see imagery of your son fighting for his life at the end of a rope; all alone, no one there to help him or to hear the echoes of his cries. It’s all wrong! It pries your heart wide open and you cry so hard the muscles in your face begin to cramp; and then you cry some more. You tell your mind to stop. No more pictures, they’re just lies it made up. You weren’t there. You don’t know. But, you do know.
Alone in the dark, you hear the whisper of Spirit. You reach for a pen and paper; it’s your connection, your lifeline. Writing is how you extract the poisonous arrows from your heart. Your mind isn’t evil; it just needs to be heard, to warn you and keep you safe. You learned this while you were very young, when it was never safe to live in your heart space. You learned how to quickly close your heart; how to rationalize your feelings so you didn’t bleed to death. Once the words are on paper, your mind relaxes; its job done.
You think of your son the day he was born and how happy, proud and relieved you were when he belted out his first cry, filling his lungs with a gulp of air. You were with him when he took his first breath and you should have been there when he drew his last. It all felt so wrong. How could a mother even bear to witness her child dying; yet so many do. You wonder if somehow you knew. Did you pause in that exact instant when his spirit flew from his body? Did a shiver run down your spine?
Human life can be unfathomably cruel. You no longer cry for Chad but grieve a beautiful life lost. You grieve the life that you lost. You cry for the little girl who finally felt love as a young woman only to have it stolen from her. You’re grateful for the opportunity to have known and loved your son and you pray that it’s all true; that you’ll be together again one day. You whisper into the darkness, “so long, Chad, I’ll be seeing you.”