Grief is a sacred journey

She’s Seven Now: When Dreams Lead the Way

Elaine at 6 or 7

Elaine

On June 3, I planned a quiet day to take stock of my life. It was the seventh anniversary of my husband Vic’s death. I wrote about the ritual aspects of the day in a previous blog, but along with exploring where I was with grief, I considered the larger landscape of my life and work.

I’m not finished supporting Leaning into Love. There will be a reading and ritual in San Francisco on July 25, and I’ll be interviewed by Justine Toms of New Dimensions Radio on July 27. There will likely be more events after that, but fewer than before. The book has a life of its own now and needs less attention. I feel an opening, potentially wonderful but also frightening, similar to when my sons left home.

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Ritual on Vic’s death anniversary

What’s next for me? Do I have the inspiration for a new book? Do I want to write less and put more into Hospice work? Do I want to spend more time gardening and traveling? Do I long for an adventure I haven’t yet imagined?

With this in mind, I created a ritual of remembrance and asked for inner guidance as part of it. The following morning I had this dream:

I’m at a writer’s conference with my book development editor, a friend who does creative work at Hospice, and a seven-year-old girl. The girl wants to get something from the editor’s room and wants me to go with her. She doesn’t know how to get there, but insists she’ll lead the way and figure it out herself. A baby sweater and baby shoes hang in a closet. They’re for the girl, but too small for a seven year old. The four of us want to leave the conference, so we begin packing to go.

google.com

google.com

google.com

google.com

Exploring the dream, I realize my dream girl was born the day Vic died. She’s my new feminine life, an independent kid who wants to be in charge. I’m struck by the four feminine characters, a hopeful symbol of wholeness in Jungian psychology.

Beginning just before Vic’s death, I dreamed a series of dream girls. The first was a starving infant. The dream girls have grown older and better tended in time. She’s seven now. At this moment, she wants to leave the writer’s conference which I associate with the business of publishing, a place where writers look for agents, learn to market a book, and talk shop with other writers. I’ve spent plenty of time in that world the last few years.

Persephone as Queen of the Underworld

Persephone as Queen of the Underworld

My inner girl and I are traveling to an unknown destination with two parts of me that developed since Vic’s death: the skills learned through working with Swenson Book Development and Hospice bereavement work.

What about those baby clothes? The girl is bigger than I imagine her to be. I need to enlarge my view of her and get her clothes that fit.

She doesn’t tell me what she needs or where we’ll go, but assures me she’ll figure it out. I imagine she wants to play and experiment. If I follow her, I’ll find out.

DSC00347Is she interested in exploring the ancient feminine myths that portray grief as initiation rather than annihilation? Does she love flowers and butterflies and want to write about Nature? How about more writing about bereavement issues? We’ll play with all these possibilities.

DSC00302I’m just getting to know her, but because her age is clearly linked to Vic’s death, she’s been a guiding force since then. She’s led me to hospice work and writing a book. She’s helped me find meaning in a new life I entered because there was no choice. She knows what she’s doing.

When I worry about whether I’ll ever write anything half as satisfying or meaningful as Leaning into Love, I turn my thoughts to this inner youthful girl. Like the Swallowtail caterpillar, she will become a butterfly.

“You’re in charge of my creative life,” I tell her. “It’s my job to trust you’ll find the way.”

***

Do your dreams introduce you to unconscious parts of yourself? I’d love to hear what you’ve learned about life from dreams or intuitions. For other posts about dreams, see When Dreams Tell Our Future or Finding Balance during Grief.

 

 

20 Comments
  1. I recognize this 7-year-old girl you describe in the woman she has become. With poetic license, she could also be named Beatrice, Dante’s divine woman who guides him through Paradise.

    The guidance/direction will come, perhaps after you take some time to savor the amazing accomplishments this past year. So proud of you, Elaine!

    I’m paying homage to Mother’s memory one year later in a blog next week. Interestingly, in another post on love and art soon, I’ll be using a butterfly motif too.

    • Thank you, Marian. I recognize her, too. I need to watch her and watch out for her, so that’s the plan. I like the Beatrice link since this girl is the one who led me back to life after touching the edge of death with Vic.

      Thank you for your kind words, Marian. I’ve worked hard this last few years and many amazing things have come out of it such as connections with new people. You, for example. I look forward to your butterflies and the homage to your beloved mom.

  2. Wow. Elaine. The full dream. Incredibly powerful stuff here on so many levels. Thank you. Thank you.

    • Thank you, Jill. The seven year old appeared in a second dream the next week, so I have more information about her. Each night I hope for more news from her, but she’s running the show and will appear when she wants to. Especially now that she has my attention.

  3. It appears as though you’ve gained a muse. How blessed to have this inner guidance. Everything comes in due time; divine timing. Certainly with all your wisdoms and spirituality you will write another book, when you’re ready.

    • I hope you’re right, Debby. My dream girl insists she’ll lead the way, so I’ll have to let her do it her way. At the moment, she and I are looking forward to a few weeks away in CA. And then back to the writing desk.

  4. Lovely Elaine, as is the young lass accompanying you. Let her help show you the way. May she continue to grow as you will too.
    You asked about dreams as guidance? Not that long ago I had a dream of waiting in a doctor’s waiting room. My fingers and hands were crossed on my lap. There was a young boy next to me. I could not undo my hands. They were literally stuck together and I could not pull them apart. I related this to something that was happening in my life to do with a highly depressed family member and I took that to mean that my hands were tied and there was nothing I could do. – at least for the time being.

    • Thank you for your blessing, Susan. I love the way your dream gives an image of your role in a hard situation where you likely want to do anything to help. I wonder who that young boy is. I had a second dream about the seven-year-old girl and this time she was with a three-year-old boy, the age of my book. It was another strong dream with clear images. She was very protective of the boy and again I learned I can trust her. Now to find out where she’s going–when she’s ready to let me know.

  5. Oh Elaine, I hardly know where to start. I love this post on so many levels. Blogger, author, spirit, woman in transition.

    I looked forward to reading this essay after you left a comment on my post last week which pictured my own four-year-old self in the form of a photo shared with me by a long-ago neighbor. We share an exclamation point followed by a question mark. And we wait.

    I feel myself wide open right now to little-girl guidance and equally uncertain about the next stage in life. I am going to ask for a dream. I remember so few of the ones I have, but I have had a few powerful ones.

    Thanks for becoming a friend who teaches me with your life.

    • Thank you, Shirley. I learn so much from you, too, and I’m curious about where we’ll both go. I had a second dream about this girl. She was with a three-year-old boy (my book, I think, since that’s when I got serious about moving from personal writing to creating a book). The dream made it clear I can trust this girl. I’ve written about it, but likely won’t post that piece until I return from CA at the end of the month.

      Robert Bosnak, a Jungian therapist, author, and dreamworker, suggests this for inviting dream memory: Put a notebook and pen next to your bed. Drink a glass of water before bed so you’ll have to wake up in the night, because we often catch dreams going in and out of wakeful consciousness. I add: Lie still when you wake up and don’t move an inch. Try to keep your mind in a quiet thoughtless state and see if there’s a dream image there. And write down anything you catch, even one tiny image. Our conscious mind dismisses the dream world, but sometimes a dream I think is trivial when I write it down in the night gives me interesting information. The more I pay attention to dreams, the more they show up, but they come when they want, not at my bidding.

  6. Elaine, Seven. Such a beautiful, innocent, and spirit-filled age. I, too, have a young girl appearing in my dreams. She is eight. I began having ‘lost purse’ dreams in 2007, the year before my husband Harold died. I shared the dream below…that I had back in April..in dream group this past Sunday:

    “The Young Girl Brings the Woman’s Purse Back to Her”

    I am at a public place where music is playing. I am with a group of people who I don’t know in waking life. I get up to dance, come back to our table, and start to look for my glasses. I look all around but don’t see them. Then, I realize my purse is missing too. I am on the verge of panic when a darling young girl of 8-years old, or so, comes up to me and hands the purse to me. All the contents are intact. She was keeping it for me until I returned to the table. I thanked her and asked her if there was anything I could do for her. She shook her head and said, “No, thank you. All I’ve ever wanted is spirit in my life.” (EOD)

    This is the most positive ‘lost purse’ dream I’ve had since Harold’s death. I consider it a turning point for me and am pleased to know that this inner girl child that represents the young feminine is holding that ‘spirit’ place for me and that the youthful vitality and spirit I had as a young girl has not been ‘lost’ for good.

    I do believe our inner girls are in our dreams to help us find our way.

    Hugs,

    Jenna

    • What an amazing answer to your question, Jenna. So clear and decisive. She knows what she wants.

      After Vic died, I had a few lost purse dreams but more commonly I was the one lost or the road was blocked or the car broke down or the weather was dangerous. I also lost Vic in my dreams. I’d wake up upset, but glad he was still part of my inner worlds.

      Look forward to an in person hug and an embodied meeting very soon.

  7. I hardly ever remember my dreams, but the ones I do remember are detrimental usually.

    • I’m sorry dreams feel detrimental. They aren’t everyone’s path. Detrimental could mean many things. If a dream is upsetting, I’m so interested in what it reveals about my psyche that I still consider it a gift. But I’ve never been plagued with repeated nightmares or anything like that. I hope you aren’t either. May you have healing dreams.

  8. Really beautiful, Elaine. My dreams are either cinematic events where I almost drown in underwater explosions or else they are of frustrating moments when I’m running late because I can’t find the right clothes. It would be so nice to have dreams that starred some confident, strong, relaxed person who knew what she was doing. So if dreams reflect one’s life, I’m in a tizzy.

    • I have plenty of upsetting dreams, too. I write down everything and pay attention to all of them. I find them meaningful, even if mysterious. Eventually, once in a while, there is a gift such as the seven-year-old girl. And she’s appeared a second time now, but not a third. There are endless anxiety or confusion dreams with repeated themes: being lost, losing my purse, looking for Vic, driving blind or getting stuck. I’m interested in all of them as reflections of the unconscious, but the best thing about paying attention is catching a dream like this one.

  9. Fascinating description! I see dreams as one of the ways the Eternal One speaks to us. They are not for everyone, as you point out, Elaine, but for those with whom they speak, they are trustworthy guides. Thank you for sharing this?

    • Thanks so much for your comment. When I write down a dream, I include every sensory detail, but didn’t include those in writing about it. I didn’t want to put the reader to sleep. I’m trying to learn to write about dreams in an engaging way. I’ve been recording dreams since the 1960s and have had the benefit of a teachers who were wonderful with dreams such as Marion Woodman and Robert Bosnak. Dreams guided my husband and me through his illness and they guided me through grief. When the ego can only see roadblocks, dreams show other possibilities.

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