Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Photo Album

I am fascinated by the powers of the mind.  The mysteries and capabilities of it astound me.  The unconscious is just one of the incredible aspects of the mind that we don’t understand.  The unconscious holds all the secrets.  It teaches, confuses, and nurtures me.  
               It is easy to overlook the unconscious.  Other than paying attention to a weird dream, many people ignore it.  Yet, paying attention to my unconscious helped me survive after my mother's death.  It was rather odd circumstances, but my grieving was an odd experience.  My unconscious gave me just what I needed, when I needed it.  
We were not permitted to view my mother after she died.  I suppose if we had insisted, they would have let us.  But the funeral parlor was vehement that we “remember her as she was.”  We didn’t know better.  Certainly, there was a part of us that did not want to see her dead.    
Not having seen her dead ate at me over the weeks.  Denial works in funny ways.  Not seeing my mother dead, made it harder to believe.  She had been the constant rock in my life.  How could she be gone in an instant?  There was a little part of me that thought maybe she wasn't dead.  Maybe this was all a big lie.  Maybe she was imprisoned somewhere and needed help.  None of this makes sense, but the heart doesn’t have to make sense.  I was a boy longing for his mother.  I held on to the idea that she might not be dead.  
This stalled my mourning.  Rather than dealing with the pain, I held on to the idea that maybe she wasn’t dead.  It gave me an excuse to avoid the grief.  On some level I knew it was a stretch, but my heart wanted it.  Then my unconscious solved the problem for me.  It gave me a dream that answered my heart.   
I had a dream that I was talking to the police detective in charge of my mother’s murder case.  In the dream we were talking about death, when he asked me if I had ever seen pictures of dead babies.  I had not.  He held out his hand.  In it was a stack of polaroid pictures.  When he handed them to me, I accidentally dropped them.  The pictures fell to the ground and spread out like pick-up-sticks.  On the top of the pile was a picture of my mother.  She was dead.  I could see her as clearly as if someone had handed me a real picture.   I could see her injuries.  The image seared into my mind.  For the rest of my life, when I think of my mother being dead, I will see that image. 
I woke up in horror.  Seeing her dead was gruesome and painful.  It seemed cruel to have to face it.  Only over time did I realize what an incredible gift this was to my grieving.  It was one more step in putting her to rest and allowing me to let go.  My unconscious gave me a picture of my mother, allowing me to move forward with my healing.    

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Do you Believe in the Unconscious?

               Do you believe in the unconscious?  Do you dream?  Do you believe in things bigger than yourself?  I do.  I’ve seen evidence of this too many times.  I am repeatedly awed by the power of my unconscious.  Therefore, I am writing the next few posts about my unconscious and the lessons it has provided me.  
     I came across something that I found incredible, several months after my mother was killed.  I was doing my best to withstand the hurt. The grief was intolerable. I didn’t have the resources to get therapy, so I did therapy on myself.  Some of it was just allowing myself to feel the pain and cry.  There was also deeper work.  I had to work through issues of anger, guilt, blame and revenge.  Some of it made no sense, but the feelings were there just the same.  Who could I blame for losing my mother?  
     One at a time, I would face the cast of characters.   Obviously I was angry at the person who killed her.  But I was never 100% sure who that was.  I was angry at the police for being useless.  What about my father?  If he had been there, she wouldn’t be dead.  I was angry at him for having his heart attacks, dying and leaving us.  Then there was God.  What kind of a God would have let this happen?  God certainly dropped the ball.  There was the anger at my mother.  She got herself killed.  She left me.  Finally, I had to face myself.  She wanted me to move home. She had asked me to move home, only a month before she was killed.   If I had been there, could I have saved her?  Would I have ended up dead too?  
     I needed questions answered. I knew just enough therapy to be dangerous.  I used my skills to help me mourn.  Sometimes I would talk to this cast of characters in the empty chair, ala Fritz Perls.  I would pretend that my mother was in the chair and I would confront her.  I asked her why she died and left me.  Then I would switch seats and talk for her.  “I didn’t want to leave you.  I didn’t choose to die.  I love you and I wanted to be with you.”  Then after a while I had my father join us.  I would confront him on his smoking and the end result, his heart attacks.  I used this dialogue technique to help me work through my issues.  I had few  people to talk to.  So I wrote in a journal.  I had started the journal the year before when I was an intern.  Then it was a learning exercise.  After my mom’s death it became a lifeline.  I could talk to it, and express any issue.  I came to cherish journaling. 
     Several months after my mom died, something made me turn to read the entrees in the journal from before her death.  At first it seemed the calm before the storm.  Then I found a dream I had recorded, the night before she died.  The dream was like a slap in the face when I read it.  
     In the dream, I was driving the car.  My mother was in the passenger seat and my father (who was deceased) was sitting in the backseat.  As we drove along, my mother told me to pull over.  I stopped next to a dirt road, leading up into a woods.  My mother got out and started walking up the path by herself.  I protested.  My father stopped me and told me to proceed.  He told me that she had to take this walk by herself.  We had to go on without her.  We left my mother there and drove on.  That was the end of my dream.  
     Some people would say this was a coincidence.  I don’t believe in coincidence.  This was a premonition that I did not recognize.  It was a warning of what was to come.  I can remember the fear I had for my mother during the dream.  Here was my father telling me to accept it.  This dream helped me accept losing her.  Mysteries like this make me believe that the universe functions on many, many levels.  Sometimes, just sometimes, the universe will bend enough to let you know that the world is bigger than our own single existence.  Because of the power of what was going to happen, my unconscious tuned into a future event.  I can’t begin to explain it.  But I certainly recognize it for what it was.