Upon the sudden death of Mark Twain’s 24 year old daughter from meningitis, he wrote, “It is one of the mysteries of our nature that a man, all unprepared, can receive a thunder-stroke like that and live”.
So often when we work with our dreams…when we as dreamers do the difficult and challenging work of getting under conditioning…under story…under fear and anger…we arrive at something so profound it can catch our breath…we feel grief…and unprepared for grief…as Twain says…we are hit as with a thunder-stroke.
Grief is a sensory tsunami. When we are in it we are overwhelmed, awash in feeling and there is no room for anything else.
In my experience of working with my own dreams and those of my clients I am learning that what we call dreamwork could also be called grief work.
Other emotions and reactions can and will rise but when we are in the well of grief it can feel bottomless. Grief is so potent a feeling that in that moment story collapses around it and we are in the depths…of loss…of sadness…of sorrow…of grief…grief stricken.
When we explore our dreams we find that in so very many of them there is grief…grief at the death of a loved one…grief at the loss of a relationship…grief for a relationship that never was…so much loss…all the ways that we have been separated from connection to ourselves, each other and the divine.
Dream – (age four) “I am standing at the top of our stairs in my childhood home. I feel a movement in my upper stomach, lift up and float down the stairs to the bottom landing. What fun! I climb back up and do it again…and again.”
I remember this dream vividly and I remember how I felt the next morning. I was confused and sad…there was a way I knew myself that was no longer accessible to me. Over sixty years later, on my way to work with a grief group and their dreams, the meaning and the feeling of this dream rose in me…a profound feeling of loss of connection that I couldn’t articulate at age 4…I felt grief.
And to be with the dream of someone who is grief stricken…we don’t try to fix them…to make it better. We know we are in the presence of grief…felt or unfelt…and to be gentle in this place. If we know that many dreams will ultimately reveal grief it softens how we approach them. Tender companions even as we honor the often difficult and challenging message of the dream.
All the five stages of grief that Elizabeth Kübler-Ross writes about (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) are also evident in our dreams as well.
Working with dreams has taught me that there is yet another dimension beyond the fifth stage, Acceptance, and that is of Repair.
When we trust our dreams we take the healing medicine in them, the time-released medicine that heals through blind spots, conditioning, reactions, willfulness and fear. This medicine helps us return to feeling and through the grieving process of having been separated from our connection to soul. This medicine can repair the connection, return us to trust, to the experience of being loved and supported, to wholeness and relationship with our inner and outer worlds.
Mary Jo Heyen is a Natural Dreamwork Practitioner working with clients throughout the country and abroad in person, phone or Skype. Learn more about her work with dreams at www.maryjoheyen.com.
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