My father passed away fourteen years ago. At the time, I was living in Virginia, had recently started a new job, and was three months pregnant with our first child. Between the job, the distance, and life, I didn’t make it home to Texas very often to see my dad. My last “conversation” with him was over the phone, where I sat in my cubicle at work and listened to the rhythmic sound of his breathing machine. For my part, I’m quite certain I did a poor job, as I barely managed to sputter out some semblance of a good-bye. Although he didn’t say a word, I’m positive he knew it was me, his Dumpling, on the other end of the line.
Facing Guilt-Ridden Dreams
I dream about my father every now and then. There is an eerie sameness in these dreams that is so much stronger than in other dreams I have:
First, the feeling of REALNESS in my dad-dreams is incredible. So real, that every time I’ve woken up from one, I’ve had to relive a piece of mourning, so convinced that he’s alive. I start off by reaching for the phone, ready to dial his number, heavy with feelings of guilt that it’s been so long since I’ve called or visited. Then, the realization begins to sink in; he’s no longer here on this earth, and I can’t call him. I grieve a bit each and every time I receive that dull blow to the stomach.
Along with momentarily believing he’s still alive, as I mentioned, I feel enormous guilt. The feelings of guilt start long before I wake up. Yes, they begin while I’m still asleep. There’s a point in the dream when I begin to feel ashamed – – ashamed that I’ve somehow abandoned him. And I wonder, will he forgive me? Will he welcome me, although I very seldom call or visit? What kind of person does this…. especially when her father is clearly so ill?
The other constant is that at some point in these dad-dreams, I’ve made that call or made that trip to see him, only to find out that he’s been cured. The cancer has inexplicably left his body and he’s back to being completely healthy! Somehow, I’ve missed the beauty of his recovery. And I’m sad I wasn’t there for it. I silently vow to become the dutiful daughter that I was not, and I will now call and visit him all the time; I’ve been given a second chance to make things right. But before that thought has completely gelled in my dreaming mind, I know it’s a lie. I’ll call him immediately (which I try to do when I wake up), but I already know I won’t keep it up long-term. And the flood of guilt and sadness wash over me again.
What Haunts You, Hunts You
There is guilt and sadness at every turn. Guilt that I haven’t called. Sadness that I missed witnessing and celebrating his remarkable recovery. Guilt that I know as good as my intentions are, I will allow life to get in the way again. Sadness when I wake up and realize he’s not alive. Guilt that I didn’t pray more. Sadness because I miss him.
Guilt. Sadness. ….Oscillating back and forth like a fan stuck in the ‘On’ position, without an ‘Off’ switch or plug to yank out of the wall.
This clearly feels like a haunting. And the nature of how all of the same elements and themes of the dreams repeat themselves, that, feels like a hunting.
Quieting the Guilt-Ridden State
They tend to show up once or twice a year, when least expected. What might surprise you, is my bittersweet-happy-state when they present themselves. See, I’ll gladly take the guilt and sadness, to have the brief feeling of believing that my father is still alive. During these dreams, I can feel his radiant presence. If only for a few moments, I feel him — a man who led a life filled with equal parts goodness and pernicious. In my dream state, I only feel the goodness.
Do you know what that tells me about our ability to Feel What We Believe?
What We Believe Has POWERFUL STRENGTH.
No doubt, what we believe does have powerful strength. Here I sit, sharing a story from my life I’ve never shared before, and in doing so, admitting to you, that I would choose to relive the guilt, the sadness, even a small bit of the mourning process just to feel my father’s presence in a way that my mind believes he is still alive, albeit brief.
What guilt-ridden dreams are you living? How are you choosing to face them? My hope for you is that you are choosing a way that serves you well. That you’re able to move through whatever guilt and sadness exist, and apply what you’ve learned, to live your most fulfilling life possible.
This is a heavy post. True. And I realize I don’t give you the answer to how you should go about facing your guilt-ridden dreams. I believe that your answer lies firmly within and between the lines above, as well as within you.
I dedicate today’s writing to LG. I don’t really know you or the particulars of what happened – – nor do I need to. What I do know is that you’re grieving. Your loss was very different than mine; no two are the same. Perhaps though, similar to me, what haunts you, hunts you. We have the answers to bring us restful, inner peace, whether we’re awake or asleep. That I know for sure. Trust yourself, as I trust myself — the answers all lie within.
~ from one LG to another