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Thinking About Nightmares

Last night she was lost. We were by the coast, the air was stringy with salt and sand, and I was somehow hollow and overflowing both at once.

Her father was there, in the dream. Her being lost was vaguely his fault, but he was trying to help I think, in his soul-sucking, selfish own way, blaming and shouting, and close to hurting someone in his rage. But he was at a distance to me, I paid him him little mind.

I stood there looking down at the shore, I had Hunter’s small 2-year-old hand in my own and my pre-teen Aaron was pacing to the left of me. I remember thinking so vividly that I could not go on living another second if she wasn’t found. Every atom inside of me was in motion, searching and reaching but externally I couldn’t move at all, I could only stare at the restless sea, tasting grit between my teeth. Helpless.

When I woke, she was beside me, sleeping sweetly with one foot digging sharply in my hip. I pulled her close, my daughter, and let my tears drain into the pillow. It was only a dream. Here she was, in my arms where she belonged.

But if it was only a dream, why did she feel so far away, even here skin to skin with me?

Why do I feel as though I am losing her?

The night before, she was dead. This one is a recurring nightmare that I can’t seem to shift. In this dream I am slowly and lovingly bandaging her entire broken body. Despite being dead, she is conscious and talking with me cheerfully.

I begin with her feet, lifting each limp limb and laying over the crisp bandage, wrapping it tight. We talk about where she is going and how we are going to be back together again in time, how we have a bond that is stronger than death, space, and time. I try to be upbeat because I don’t want her to go away sad even though I am shattering into a thousand tiny pieces inside at the thought of her impending departure. It takes every ounce of my self to keep going with the task of preparing her body for the grave while she asks me about heaven and if burial is going to hurt.

Thank god I wake up before I have to put her in the earth.

I am haunted by the fear of losing her. My rational mind knows she isn’t going anywhere, but there is a shadow in my subconscious that is warning me with these dreams. At first, I thought it was just torturing me. I realise now that my subconscious is trying to alert me to the danger of history repeating itself.

My daughter, Amber is about to turn seven.

I lost another daughter at age seven. This one was actually my younger sister, but she was like my own child. I was so invested in her upbringing, her day to day care. There was a time when she was my everything, she taught me how to be a mother before I had ever given birth. And when she was seven she was cruelly ripped away from me forever, and I never saw her again. As cliche as it’s about to sound, I didn’t even get to say goodbye. Nearly thirteen years ago, she was stolen away in the early hours of the morning, boarded a plane, and was gone forever.

Today, I have connected that loss with my recurring nightmares and Ambers coming birthday. I have realised what is going on in my psyche. You see, Amber reminds me so much of Melissa, not just in looks but in her wacky and wonderful personality, too.

I can’t tell you how I survived losing my beautiful little sister, not knowing where she was in the world or if she was hurting, not being able to tell her that I thought of her every single day. Her absence is the biggest pain I have ever had to carry. Somehow, I did survive her loss. I am still surviving. Having my own children helped, finding out I was pregnant with Aaron the same week that she left gave me the strength to carve out a new life for myself because there was a new little person that needed me to be okay.

It obviously left a scar on my psyche, and my only daughter approaching that same age when my sister was snatched away is triggering some intense terror inside me. That explains the dreams, anyway. And the rising anxiety that my daughter is somehow slipping away from me.

When I tuck her into her bed tonight, knowing she is going to slip into bed with me at some point in the night, I am going to tell her stories about my lost little sister. Acknowledging my loss is something I rarely ever allow myself to do, because it’s too raw still, it’s too painful, because I don’t have time to crumble in this busy life I lead.

The problem is the subconscious doesn’t care about how busy we are, or how we believe we don’t have time to sit with our pain. If we don’t acknowledge it, it haunts us in other ways, like with awful dreams.

My suggestion to anyone experiencing recurring nightmares and lingering anxiety upon waking is to think about what kind of pain you might be sitting on, what are you hiding from yourself?

The answers to your anxiety and fear are all inside your own mind, you just have to brave enough to acknowledge them.

© Emma Stead

13 responses to “Thinking About Nightmares”

  1. Thanks for stopping by Emma. This is an intriguing story and one that I can see yearns for peace. I’m going to follow and check out your other writings. My inspiration to teach comes from all over the blogosphere! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on First Steps Creative Writing Course and commented:
    “Writing (and the power of the written word) allows allows me to express who I really am.”

    To my many many WordPress followers + my FB friends/followers (few – time to join “Rent-afriend then c)

    Hi Emma

    Thanks for the/another follow(s) and/or the ‘likes’

    IF you want to go on a journey (destination unknown), you can follow me. Thanks and enjoy the trip.

    happy travelling
    “early bird (very) Sleepy-head” craig (here in “Sleepy Hollow”)
    “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”
    – Robert Louis Stevenson + my third book ‘Here, There and Everywhere’

    “Do not go where the path may lead. Go where there is no path and leave a trail”
    of CHAOS?? (at least in the “real world” and hopefully NOT cyberspace too)

    “Mr going nowhere (fast) man”


    Don’t worry about the world ending today…its already tomorrow in scenic and tranquil ‘little’ New Zealand

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I like her name – Amber.
    I honestly don’t know what to say here but I can say this: dealing with anxiety is hard especially when life itself feels like a nightmare.
    Look at the little one smile. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A powerful piece of writing. I dream of losing my children but I think it is connected to letting them go as they pass milestones and I can’t always be there. They are grown-up now but it doesn’t completely stop!
    In your story, I wonder how much you were told as a child. I work with children who are sometimes carrying traumatic events because they were not explained properly at the time – it was assumed the child would not or could not understand or it was explained in adult ways using adult language with all its euphemisms, or a child is simply told not to worry (a recipe to worry!). The event itself is traumatic and there is the additional burden of how the adults at the time dealt with. I think if we have children ourselves we rethink how we were treated – perhaps the child you wish to find (in addition to your sister) and to comfort is yourself.
    Thank you for sharing your moving story.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This post moved me so much that I had tears. I am so sorry about the loss of your sister and the nightmares of losing your dear one, especially, your kid is scarier than seeing a ghost. My heart goes out for you, dear Emma.

    Liked by 1 person

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