The nightmares didn't start right away. They were variations on a theme though, and that theme was Colin.
We're in a crowd, he and I. It's a busy street with vendors and booths and swarms of people all around. There are gauzy panels of cloth hanging from awnings and gypsy-like women waving their arms all about, and smoke from open grills filling up narrow alleyways... things that were obstructing my view of him. He was ahead of me in the crowd, surrounded by people and partially blocked from view. He kept his face turned away, kept the ruined side from me so that I couldn't see it. He would turn to see me, showing me the good side, and beckon me along. I tried to catch up but the jostling people always kept me several paces away.
We carried on like that for miles, Colin moving rapidly ahead of me but turning and beckoning me forward impatiently; and me, chasing after him and begging him to show me where he hurt, to slow down so we could talk. I knew that if I could just get him to stop and show me I could fix it. I was really good at fixing things, and I had the overwhelming feeling that if we could fix the damage he'd done with the gun it would be okay. We would just explain it had been a mistake, but we'd patch it up and that would be that. He would stop being dead and we'd promise to never commit suicide again, and we'd be fine.
Only, I could never catch him in that ridiculous dream. We never got to patch him up and explain about the mistake with the gun. Each time I woke from one of those dreams I felt like I had been so close to understanding only to have my peace of mind cruelly snatched away. I truly believed in those days that the dreams weren't nightmares at all, but Colin's soul trying to make some kind of contact with me. If we could reach one another, we could talk and he'd explain himself. I was maddeningly close to catching up to him, and every morning when I would wake up from this fitful, unrestful sleep, I experienced his death all over again.
I attended some dream analysis workshops last year. One of the techniques I learned was less about interpreting my dream as it was about using the dreams I had to heal from traumatic circumstances. If I had known of this particular practice when Colin died I would have used it every day.
The technique I learned involved journaling these dreams -which was no problem as I can still recall with absolute clarity everything about them right down to the scent of Thai street vendors grilling skewered pig- only changing the ending. When Gabi first mentioned this, I had to fight not to laugh right out loud. It seemed a little silly, and not very subtle at all. I wondered how healing it could possibly be to simply re-write the ending of my horrible nightmares-that-represented-life when my intelligent and quite logical brain knew it was just fluff. I'm not quite that good at self-deception and I thought it was just bollocks.
I tried it though, because I like doing things that make me mad. Imagine my surprise when it worked. Not right away, and not in a big wow-I'm-totally-not-sad-about-that-dead-guy-anymore way, but it did work. It worked because it helped me change how I felt about his death. It helped me to stop focusing on questions that have no suitable answer, which is really what was happening inside those dreams. Even if I did catch up to Colin, there would be no patching up; there would be no explaining about he wasn't supposed to be dead. I think my mind focused on fairy-tale impossibilities because I wasn't ready to face being a widow.
Writing those different endings allowed me to play out both sides of what that conversation might have been like; and even though my mind knew that I was making it up, it gave me a forum for verbalizing some of the anger I had at Colin. Writing different endings to those dreams didn't give me any more answers than I started out with, but it made me a lot more comfortable with the questions.