Just Frances

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Widow dreams

This entry was posted on Saturday, July 30th, 2011 by Frances Ryan.
Tags: widowhood, swirls, sad, paul, dreams, drawings, crazy, confession

For more than two years now, my nights have been haunted with horrible dreams. I call them ‘widow dreams’ and I understand from other widow(er)s that they are very common.

It started the first time I finally slept after Paul died. That first dream was a re-enactment of the horrors of watching him die whist I desperately performed CPR. For the next couple of weeks, every time I closed my eyes I would witness Paul dying all over again. Not always in exactly the same way, but always with me trying to help him—or with me trying to scream for help but I’d lost my voice.

After a while, those dreams changed. I would dream that we’d just learned his head was loose and we needed to be careful it didn’t fall off killing him instantly. I would dream that he had cancer or that if he ate broccoli he’d have a heart attack and die on the spot. Or I would dream of a million other things that meant we needed to be careful because one wrong move and Paul would die.

In between the dying dreams were the abandonment dreams. Those are the awful dreams where we would be sitting on the couch all lovey-dovey and out of the blue he’d tell me he wanted a divorce. Or I’d come home early and he’d be with another woman. Or we’d be in the grocery store and his girlfriend would show up and he’d tell me he was leaving me for her. Or a million other similar dreams that all ended in Paul leaving me for another woman. (These dreams are extremely common with widow(er)s I guess. I hate them most of all!)

Then there are the dreams where Paul comes back. Yep, he just waltzes in and acts like nothing happened and I’m so excited but also so angry with him. Those are the dreams I have been having more and more often of late. In fact, since leaving the home we shared together and moving in with my parents in preparation for my move to Scotland, I’ve been having them non-stop. And let me just say that Paul is not happy that he went home and saw it cleared out! Sometimes, I dream that I arrive in Scotland and he’s there to pick me up because he didn’t die; he’d just forgotten to tell me he was moving over ahead of me to get our home ready (much to my anger and delight).

And sometimes, the dreams are just plain old dreams. No dying, no abandonment, no coming back. Paul’s just there and we’re together doing normal things. And sometimes the kids we were meant to adopt are with us too. I like those dreams because for that brief time my dreams aren’t shattered and my life is so happy. But those dreams are also the ones that cause me to roll over and snuggle with Paul when I wake up. Only he’s not there to be snuggled.

The worst thing about these dreams is that some of them haunt me for hours after I wake up. Some of them are just so real and so vivid that I can’t shake them. Mostly, the ones I can’t shake are the bad/sad ones, but sometimes it’s the happy family ones that haunt me.

I don’t know how long these dreams will be with me, but I expect them to come and go as my life changes and as I hit major turning points in my journey. In the mean time, I suppose that I should be happy that I can still see Paul in my dreams, since I can’t see him in my waking hours.

[This post is illustrated with my most recent swirls-in-progress drawing—something I like to work on to take my mind off the dreams.]


Much love and hugs!!! Thank you for letting me part of your therapy. You are (still) in my prayers for continued healing, safe travels and awesome adventures ahead.

by Helen at 1:15pm (GMT) on August 2nd, 2011

Thanks for writing this.  It helps me as a widow.

by kristen at 6:48pm (GMT) on January 21st, 2019

Hi, Kristen. Thanks for your note. I am pleased to hear that my words have helped, and I hope that you are finding your way through the sadness of widowhood. All my best to you, Frances

by Just Frances at 10:43am (GMT) on February 17th, 2019

Hi, I know this was posted a few years back - but thanks for sharing.

I lost my husband in a motorbike accident 5 years ago. (We were both 28 at the time). I was called to the accident site but he was already pronounced on my arrival.

My dreams are so similar. The first dreams (1-3 months) were exactly like yours… we are talking randomly in a group and I suddenly realize he’s died.

The next set of dreams (4-6 months) was my most difficult as a widow and when my depression was at its highest. I call these “the cold dreams”. We would be in bed together or in the bath together sharing a romantic moment and then he would just go stiff and cold and I would try to shake him awake but can’t. These were very traumatizing.

For the last 3 years my dreams are recurring and consistent with the same theme, pretty much a combination of your abandonment and “not actually dead” dreams. I still get these probably twice a week and had one last night which made me google what this means:
He has always come back from the dead , but in my dream that’s normal (kindof like Days of Lives situation) but then he does not want to get back together with me when he’s back. This is always so painful because I try to make him understand how him dying has impacted me and that I still love him so much but he doesn’t seem to care. He is usually very cruel and distant in these. (In real life he was amazing and we loved each other very much).

If anyone has more phycological insight on this dream please share… these are horrible and I want to stop them.

Then one more dream is what I call the “Visitation” dream. These are very rare (maybe once a year) and are just so special when they happen. I am completely lucid - and it’s so vivid as if I’m awake. We meet up and talk. I tell him about what is happening in my life, he tells me he can’t share about life after death but that he is ok. He tells me he loves me and we embrace (sometimes make love). He told me before that it took a lot of energy for him to visit which is why he can’t do it often. I’m not very religious and I don’t really care if these dreams are true visitations or just dreams - the point is they are wonderful. :) Not sure if anyone else gets these?

Again thanks so much for sharing. It’s nice to not feel so alone.

by Tanya at 7:16am (GMT) on March 13th, 2019

Hi, Tanya. I am so sorry for the delayed reply. Life has been a bit manic these past few months.

Ah, the visitation dreams. I do get those on occasion and I quite like them. They make me feel like my Paul is still here with me. They can leave me a bit wistful and emotional in the hours and days to follow, but I still like them very much.

As for the dreams of our loved ones returning “not dead”, I don’t know if they ever fully go away but I know that they come less often for me now than they did in the early years. (It has been 10 years for me now.) I also know that when I *do* have those dreams now, it tends to be off the back of a real-life stress that I am under. It makes it a bit easier when I am able to connect the dream to something happening in my life.

I hope that you have more positive dreams than negative ones!!

All my best to you,

by Just Frances at 11:29am (GMT) on July 1st, 2019

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