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Bereavement Observations #6: "Sleep, my child, and peace attend thee...

Posted Feb 20 2009 7:22pm
...all through the night."
    Yesterday morning MPNC sent me a short, plaintive email telling me that she had dreamt of her Grandma during the night and had awakened several times crying. Responding to her wasn't easy because, although I dream of my mother, so far I remember only two, one of which I described here recently, and the other of which, while I remember no detail, I do recall as benign. At any rate, my dreams of her are not disturbing my sleep or my psyche.
    I thought about MPNC's life: She's a very busy young woman: College; two jobs, one of which is the sort of job in which she's never sure, once she arrives, when she'll be able to leave; a relatively new, still delicious love relationship; working for at least one charity project of which I know and, considering her, probably at least one more; incredibly social animal, as are her parents, which means she's tending to her acquaintanceships, friendships and familyships like a trooper. Essentially, then, she is so tightly scheduled that sleep is carved from what's left of her time and her contemplative time is either snipped from the ragged ends of minutes or pretty much regulated out of existence. As I thought about her life I realized that, grief being what it is, it will have its way with the bereaved, even if the bereaved has the kind of life which appears to disallow it.
    After mordantly joking that, considering how much her grandmother valued and savored sleep, she would be "horrified" to know that dreams of her were disturbing MPNC's sleep, I told her, "however," my guess is that her grief is disturbing her sleep because the only time she has to grieve is in her sleep; inferring, as well, that grief is a total organism won't confine itself to working out sub- or unconsciously, leaving the conscious mind blissfully alone. I admitted that I knew this perspective wouldn't necessarily make her experience any easier but I hoped it would bring some sense to her grief and make her personal grief experience easier to accept.
    After I sending my response, I thought about my own sleeping experiences since my mother's death that might be connected to working out my grief. I realized that, despite my lack of awareness of any disturbing dreams indicating soul-wrenching subterranean work was taking place, I am most vulnerable to grief in the morning when I first awaken. I always awaken with an almost impossibly heavy heart. Within seconds of opening my eyes I am shedding tears. Although I am not the type to linger in bed and this hasn't changed, it would be accurate to describe my wake-up schedule as a slow, emotionally painful drag, including the first chore, getting myself to the bathroom to empty my bladder. There have been times when I have thought that I might crumple to the floor before making it to the toilet and have imagined myself marinating in my own urine and tears for an hour or so before being able to move enough to clean up after myself. This hasn't happened but it puts me to wondering if it's happened to anyone else. My life-long preference is to shower immediately after arising. Since my mother's death, though, immersing myself in water first thing in the morning only increases my personal I put off showering until later in the day. There have been days when I've put it off until the next day.
    Even though we like to speculate that it is possible to put off or avoid grieving I now believe that no matter what we think, difficult losses always will out. In conjunction with the eccentric details of our lives, grief will be expressed. Period. It may help to allow for this, many psychological theories purport such, even threaten that we can get ourselves into trouble if we don't allow for grief. If we don't, though, grief will allow itself. I'm not even sure that we need to tell ourselves anything about what to expect of grief in order to "properly" experience it, well, except to be aware that, one way or another, we'll experience it, while grief stands stoically at our side, wipes its hands and says, "That is that."
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