Friday, January 6, 2012

More About Grief & Loss: Dreams

Wow, how about this?!  Two posts in one day from Trauma Mama T.   Seriously, I didn’t think I had it in me.  But really, I struggled with whether or not to post what I’m about to write.  It’s a bit personal.  Still, I think it may be helpful for me to write it down.  Writing helps me to process things.  What I write may also be helpful for some of you, dear readers.

I’ve written about grief and loss in adoption on my blog before.  You can read that post here.  Today, though, I want to talk more about anniversaries.  You see, January is the anniversary of a significant traumatic incident in my kids’ lives – and especially in the life of my youngest son.  He’s 16 now.  He was 6.5 when this very significant trauma happened.  My son’s first father died at his own hand, and my son is the one who found his body.  This may shock some of you.  Others are no longer shockable because they know this or worse.  But this is our life.  This was my kids’ life.  It’s not something anyone “gets over.”

I have two pictures of my youngest children’s birth father (one of their birth mother).  In one photo, my kids’ first father is standing proudly, looking very Eastern European, not smiling, of course, and is behind his sister as they pose for her wedding picture.  He is young and handsome.  His hair is wavy, just like my son’s.  He looks a lot like my son.  In the other picture, his birth mother is also visible (though grainy).  My son is in this picture, as well as many of his birth father’s family.  They are standing around his father’s coffin.  The coffin lid is open and they are saying goodbye before they bury him.  His face is clearly visible.  (My daughter would have been 3.5 at the time.  She did not attend the funeral, according to my son’s paternal grandmother.)

I haven’t been sleeping well lately.  I’m stressed about several things.  Financial stuff, mainly.  It happens.  Anyway, I came out to the sofa two nights ago so I wouldn’t keep my husband awake with my tossing and turning.  At about 4 a.m., my son came out and turned on the computer.  He’s not supposed to be on the computer unsupervised.  (It’s password protected, but he keeps figuring out the password anyway.)  He’s certainly not supposed to be up at 4 a.m., wandering around the house.  He didn’t know I was in the room.  He was very focused, it seemed, on just getting to the computer. 

I asked him (sternly), “What are you doing?”  He replied, “I’m going on the computer.”  I told him to get off the computer and go back to bed.  When we got up to get ready for work/school, he told my husband he’d had a bad dream.  He didn’t remember actually going to the computer, he said.  He just remembers being told by me to get off the computer.  He said he’d had a bad dream about his biological father.  His father was chasing him and trying to hurt him, maybe even trying to kill him (we have no record of his birth father ever trying to harm him other than neglecting him when separated from his mother, though we do know one of the men his mother ran around with was very violent).  He said his father told him he had to get a paper off our computer to prove that his father was really alive.  Our son said he thinks he must have been sleepwalking.  I didn’t believe him, frankly.  I still don’t.  He’s lied so many times to cover his actions.

He didn’t seem “with it” before school and I asked him if he was okay.  He seemed almost ill.  I asked him if he wanted to stay home from school.  He did not.  So he went to school.  Later that evening, when my husband was home from work and dinner was over, the three of us sat down to process the dream.

Our son said he’d been thinking a lot about his birth father lately and sometimes he has a hard time believing the man is really dead.  I asked him if he remembers the funeral and he says he does, but that seems like it was a dream, too.  I asked him if he wanted me to show him the photograph and/or the copy of his birth father’s death certificate.  He did not want to see either.  So we talked. 

I reminded him how we’ve learned in therapy that anniversaries can trigger big feelings even when we’re not aware of them.  I reminded him that January was the anniversary of his father’s death and, just like I had a hard time last December 1st (the 10th anniversary of my mother’s death), he was likely having a hard time with the anniversary of his father’s death, too.  It was normal.  It’s what the middle part of brains do when we remember traumatic things.  We told him how sorry we were that he’d had to go through that.  We said no kid should have to go through what you went through and what you still have to go through now.  He’s a big, very strong, 16 year old boy.  But in that moment, as we talked, he was a very sad 6.5 year old again who needed to be held.  I asked him if we could hug him – something he usually resists.  We stood and he melted into my husband’s arms, my arms around the both of them.  He sobbed for a long time.  He did not let go of his Daddy.  It was pretty amazing.

I could have pushed the computer issue.  I could have challenged him and said he was lying about sleep walking.  I do believe he really did want to get on the computer and see if there was some way he could prove whether or not his birth father was alive or dead.  But this wasn't about lying or covering his tracks.  It wasn’t about using the computer at 4 a.m. without supervision.  

It was about grief.

Him.  Holding my husband.  Allowing my husband to hold him.  A.  Long.  Time. 


Again, I know this is pretty personal.  One of the reasons I blog anonymously is so that I can help others as I process big things myself.  I trust that those of you who know me (and thus already know the basics of my kids’ stories) will protect us as well.


Annie said...

I am just crying. How sad. So terribly sad. You know, as I read this it did occur to me that since a father's job is to protect his young, by killing himself, on some gut level of understanding, it could be argued he was in a way "killing" his least leaving him helpless. Animal babies often perish if the parents die. Another interpretation might be that he sees himself as his father, with the obvious meaning.

Anastasia has a HUGE issue with whether or not she is like her mother...sometimes feeling destined to be like her, other times rejecting everything about her, even everything Russian.

Paige said...
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Diana said...

Amazing post! Even more amazing experiences. And yes, I'm among the unshockable. Very little phases me anymore. I've become totally desensitized to all of it.

This is what good therapeutic parenting looks like, too! Way to go, mama T! Thanks for sharing.