Nightmares & Grief: Losing Her Again & Again

January 21, 2022

The nightmares have come back. Each night this week she’s dying over and over again and I can’t save her. In most of them I can’t even get to her. She’s out of reach and running out of time. I do everything in my power to change things but I can’t. I wake up only to fall back asleep and have the torture continue right where it left off. At this point I’m terrified of falling asleep because each time it means losing her again and watching her final moments on repeat. 

I wake up and tears stream down my face. I take a deep breath, knowing reality hasn’t been changed though it feels as if it has. She has been gone for years now and this nightmare can’t and didn’t change that fact. I didn’t lose her again. I couldn’t and didn’t save her because it’s impossible to change the outcome of an imagination. It’s impossible to change the circumstances and the truths of life as it is right now, though these nightmares are master manipulators and always make me feel wrecked with new regret and powerlessness. 

I sit here staring at the wall, feeling crazy. I am smart enough to know this was only a dream and not reality. I’m smart enough to know things are just as they were when I went to bed. I’m smart enough to distinguish between fiction and fact but these nightmares have made me doubt things in a way that makes me wonder about my emotional stability. I don’t want to be angry or upset or conflicted, but I am. The trauma of a simple night’s sleep is clear. It’s caused my grief to be intensified and my ability to run from the pain impossible. 

I take big breaths in between the jerks of dramatic cries and longing. I look around to ground myself as I begin to state simple truths. I start whispering solid truths to bring myself back from the hell I’ve woken up to, both the nightmare and the reality.

My mother passed away years ago. 

I couldn’t save her because I’m not a doctor and even they couldn’t save her.

I was with her in her last moments. I was right beside her. She was not alone.

I have been surviving grief for a long time and I will continue to survive it.

This nightmare isn’t real though pieces of it hold accuracies and truth. 

I will not let the darkness of my subconscious dim the light of my heart, the light I’ve worked so hard to continuously hold hope and reminiscence in the midst of pain.

I am stronger than this destructive fantasy. My mother raised me to be.

It’s complicated when the reality isn’t far off from the nightmare. It’s harsh when the truth of my mother’s death is accurate in both. But there is a difference between these recurring terrors and my experiences. The distinction between my truth and these nightmares is tiny but significant. Those distinctions, no matter how small, are what I need to focus on. 

The hope is found in the healing that’s happened since the day she died. The peace is found in the way my mother taught me to be strong and hold faith, especially in difficult times. The comfort is found in knowing how she’s continually shown up for me from eternity and how she’s loved me beautifully even from heaven. The reassurance is found in how I’ve been crafting her legacy and her memory. 

While I cannot control when these bad dreams will stop, I will keep reminding myself of the simple truths… 

This nightmare isn’t real though pieces of it hold accuracies and truth. 

I will not let the darkness of my subconscious dim the light of my heart, the light I’ve worked so hard to hold hope and reminiscence in the midst of pain.

I am stronger than this destructive fantasy. My mother raised me to be.

I’m stronger than these manipulative terrors and you are too. Afterall, we are our mother’s children. 

xox, Chels

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Chelsea Ohlemiller

Chelsea Ohlemiller

A thirty-something wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.

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