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Having Nightmares

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Hey, guys. Sorry I haven't been on here in a while. Sometimes it's hard to talk about, and I want to distract myself from it, but today I really need help. I have been having nightmares ever since I lost my sister. We had several losses back to back and several people who we found out had cancer or other sicknesses, some of them I knew and some I didn't. On New Year's Day, my great uncle passed away. I didn't really know him that well because he lived out of state, and I didn't see him that often, but he had asked me for years to sing and play the piano at his funeral, so I went. It was major flashback city because of losing my sister. Before that, we lost my grandpa six months ago today.

Anyway, ever since she passed, I have been having nightmares about finding out that another family member has passed away. I just don't think I can handle it again. This morning before I got out of bed, I had a dream that my Meemaw passed away. For those of you who don't know, Meemaw is a word for Grandma. She's the closest person to me on this earth other than God, and I don't know what I will do when that day comes. My Granny, who is her mom, does not have very long to live, and all she talks about is going to heaven. I'm afraid every time I hear the phone ring or check facebook that I'm going to get some more bad news. I just needed to vent because I've been messed up all day from this flippin' dream. The worst part is that I think my cat dropped my cell phone, and I can't find it, so I can't call her until I find the stupid thing.

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Hey, I think its a thing that happens when you lose someone you're scared it'll happen again soon. I have some nightmares sometimes last night I was ill and it was weird like my dad was still here but I don't remember the actual dream but I woke up and was gonna ring him so was weird. And when stuff happens I always think something bad has happened, once my mum went out and left her phone at home and I saw a police bike coming towards my house and thought she had died in a car accident and had a weird panic attack but couldn't tell anyone because it was only my little brother at home. Worst thing is I can't even say that im worrying unnecessarily because when someone told me my dad was 'ill' and my friend was like dont worry its gonna be nothing it wasnt nothing he was dead. All I can say is just try and not worry so much that you will lose someone else because the dreams we have is what is in our minds, so if you try and spend lots of time with them and try and worry less about that it may help?

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I am so sorry you are in that difficult place where every phone call you receive is almost expected to be the one with the bad news. I went through that for quite a while with my mother before I did get the phone call that she passed on. It is just a time of so much anxiety. I never had bad dreams or nightmares, but I felt so distracted and nervous with constant anxiety, looking back. I really have no answers, but I just wanted to acknowledge what you have said and say I understand how difficult this is.

Maybe you really "know" something is going to happen soon, like I did. Maybe it is a time to really think about whether you have said everything you have always wanted to say to grandma and just be a loving support to her. And, get things in order. For me, it meant being ready to drop everything to be there and having paperwork in order. This may mean something totally different to you or someone else.

This is really time to take care of yourself, whatever that means to yo. as well. Take care.

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I appreciate all of your comments. I guess that usually I try not to think about it, but it's really hard. During the day, I can usually escape in my work and my hobbies, but in my dreams I can't get away. I describe my grief as a monster that I try to keep in a cage. Sometimes I can keep it there for even a couple of days, but sometimes it breaks out of the cage and pounces.

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I have nightmares constantly and I can’t stand it!!! I’m so sick of having dreams crazy, vivid, scary, or PTSD style… I am sick of waking up with palpitations, and erratic breathing… I feel like it has been a good little while since it was constant, but that is because I got some good old xanex to knock my butt out at bedtime. I hate that I need a clutch but man, I need it.

In addition, I am having dreams that this whole thing was a joke and that my grandma really is alive, and then I spend the dream trying to protect her to make sure she does not die again. However, I have also had horrid dreams where people are trying to murder my grandparents or take them for all they have, and I try to protect them.

Background lost my grandma in June 2010, my grandma was like my mother and the person in the world I loved most, and the only person who always showed me unconditional love. My grandfather and I were left, my birth mother died in 2002. Grandpa is legally blind, so lucky for him he did not have to see the horrors I saw in the hospital. Where my grandmother was taken off pain meds in order to wake her up to pull the ventilator so she could breathe on her own. I saw my grandmothers mouth and face, eyes, covered in blood and scabs, I saw her muscles clench in pain over and over again. I saw them contract without her control in a manner that I know from experience is painful. I held her when she suffocated and her heart stopped beating. I watched her lucid for a moment and crying from what I later realized was because she couldn’t hear any of us because he hearing aid batteries were out, and the doctors at the hospital took them out, and she’s as good as deaf without them. So my grandma probably could have made decisions, but since she wasn’t allotted her right to hear she had no idea what was going on. She must have felt so alone and so helpless. My darling grandmother!

I am a fuckin wreck, I work mental health, and I am currently taking time off, until they can accommodate a schedule that allows me to go to grad school, care for my grandfather, and care for myself. I miss my patients but I sure don’t miss the constant borage of drama and stress.. I used to thrive of stress it actually made me perform better, but it peaked, and I started to go downhill.

I am going to write another post about my grandfather and I being at each other’s throats, but that is currently my biggest stressor.

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Dear Ones, I'm going to reprint here an article I wrote for the Open to Hope Foundation last summer, in hopes that it will offer you some helpful information that you can use:

Persistent Dreams in Grief

Question from a reader: It's now been six months since my mother died. In many ways it seems like worlds and eons since then, but in some ways not at all. I really miss her and talking to her every few days, as was our old routine. The problem I'm having is that I dream about her almost every night. It's never the same scenario, except that she's always sick, like she was toward the end. Sometimes I wake up crying. This has been going on for pretty much the entire time since she died. Is this normal??? I think of her from time to time during the day, but not obsessively so. I'm able to function pretty well. So I'm wondering if this is normal and how much other people have a similar experience.

Marty Tousley, CNS-BC, FT, DCC, responds: Yes, my dear, this is normal, especially now, when you are around six months into your grief. This is the time when all the initial shock and denial have fallen away, and you are confronted with the brutal and painful reality that your mother really and truly is dead and not coming back – at least not in the ways you've always known her.

You say that during the day you think of your mom "from time to time but not obsessively so," but you're still dreaming of her at night, when she always appears to be very sick. It seems to me that during the day your conscious mind is preoccupied with all that goes on during a normal day, but at night your unconscious mind is free to process whatever is "on your mind" – and that is a very necessary part of the mourning process.

You need time to come to terms with the awful reality that your precious mother is no longer physically present in your life, and dreaming serves an important function in that process. Each time you "see" your mother so sick and dying in your dreams, you are confronted once again with the reality of her terminal illness and the undeniable fact that she has died. Your mind is struggling to accept that brutal reality, and in a very normal way, your dreams are helping you to do that – gradually and indirectly enough that you are able to take it in and tolerate it, in more manageable doses over time.

Many of us don't even remember our dreams, but at a certain point in the sleep cycle we all still dream, and it is one of nature's ways of helping us confront and work through whatever is troubling us. Take comfort in knowing that as you move forward in your grief, the content of your dreams will likely change over time, and you can expect that one day you'll find yourself dreaming of your mother in a healthier, happier state.

If you're so troubled by nightmares or recurring disturbing dreams that your ability to function during the day is affected, it's important to know that effective treatment is available. One method, known as Imagery Rehearsal Therapy, was developed by Dr. Barry Krakow of the Maimonides International Nightmare Treatment Center. The treatment involves learning some basic guided imagery techniques, recalling the bad dream, consciously imagining and deliberately rewriting the script of the dream, and then rehearsing the altered version of the dream several times during the day.

The technique of image rehearsal is simple enough and safe enough for you to try on your own, if you are so inclined. Instead of picturing your mother on her deathbed, for example, you might think of her in happier, healthier days, capturing one of your most pleasant memories of a special time you had together. Write down that memory and read it over several times throughout the day, and once more before you go to bed at night. Looking at photographs of your mother when she was in a healthier state is another thing you can try. (You can learn more about guided imagery in the article, Guided Imagery or Visualization, and more about Imagery Rehearsal Therapy in this New York Times article, Rewriting Your Nightmares. See also Getting Rid of Repeating Nightmares: A Simple, Potent, New Recipe, Following a Script to Escape a Nightmare, and Guiding Your Sleep While You're Awake .) Other resources you may find helpful include Healthful Sleep: Guided Imagery with Belleruth Naparstek, Coping with Sleeplessness in Grief, and Looking for Sleep in All the Wrong Places.

If you want to explore ways you actually can work with your dreams, you may wish to read the book, Grief Dreams: How They Help Heal Us after the Death of a Loved One, by T.J. Wray and Ann Back Price. (T.J. Wray is an assistant professor at Salve Regina University, a bereaved sibling and creator of the Web site for Adult Sibling Loss, at www.adultsiblinggrief.com; her colleague is a Jungian psychoanalyst on the faculty at Brown Medical School in Providence, Rhode Island.) The authors assert that, "Because grief dreams are a fairly universal phenomenon among the bereaved, they offer the opportunity, when affirmed as important and properly understood, for healing." They guide readers in ways to understand and value their dreams, how to keep a grief dream journal, and how to use dreams as tools for healing. They explain that most grief dreams fall into four rather broad categories (visitation dreams, message dreams, reassurance dreams and trauma dreams), although there are other grief dream types such as prophetic dreams and dream series. The book offers real-life examples of each type, including their symbols and other important features. Wray and Price show how dreams can be affirming, consoling, enlightening, and inspiring. Grief dreams, they say on page 37, "offer a way through pain to memory and meaning." Grief dreams act as shock-absorbers, help us sort out our emotions, enable us to continue our inner relationship with the deceased, and make a creative bridge to our future: "Grief dreams often bear meaningful images of a hopeful new life for the mourner [p. 181]."

The authors offer step-by-step guidance for understanding and valuing the various messages from grief dreams – even the nightmarish and shock-absorbing ones. They even give examples of how we can ask for a dream to help us, and suggest a method to use as a possible technique for inducing a reassurance dream. Following each dream story is a "Toolbox" designed to assist the reader to gain the confidence necessary to interpret his or her own dreams. "This confidence is enhanced by the easy-to-learn methods of interpretation that center on the concept that you, the dreamer, are in the best position to accurately interpret your own dreams. After all, your dreams are as unique as you are [p. 6]."

Another way to learn more about recalling, interpreting, and working with your dreams is to take an online e-mail course, such as the one offered by Self-Healing Expressions, entitled Dreams for Healing: Using Dreams as a Pathway to the Soul.

© 2010 by Marty Tousley, CNS-BC, FT, DCC

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I am so sorry for your frustration and loss. Here is a place to call to find your cell phone if it is in the house...


You put the number into the site and it calls your phone....helps you find it.


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  • 8 years later...

Hello, I stumbled upon this page, while researching why I’m having nightmares of always running for my life, and someone trying to kill me after my little sisters death. She died unexpectedly almost a year ago. It will be a year on Jan 31st. She got caught up with bad people and overdosed but did not have a drug use addiction. My dreams always contain of me either keeping my family safe from bad guys with guns or drug dealers. Last night I had a dream of being in a drug dealers how and someone trying to rape me, but I was super strong and held the guy down. 😆Sometimes I wake up in sweats or will hear someone say my name real loud and wake up. It’s been definitely the hardest year of my life. I’d just like to feel a tad bit normal or at least have normal dreams. 

Thanks for reading. 

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I know there are people who can interpret dreams and even help you learn to enter good dreams but I don't know who/where to access them.  Anyone?

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