December 21, 2021

Winter Dreams of Love and Loss

Elaine and Vic 1994

I dream I’m searching for healthy food in a large cafeteria, but can’t find nutritious food or even green tea and feel confused and lost. I turn around and my dead husband Vic stands facing me, masked as he would be during covid times. His brown eyes are sweet and tender. I’m surprised and relieved to see him even though I know he’s dead.  As we gaze at each other, tears spill down my cheeks and fill my heart with love. 


I miss Vic most in winter—the time of long nights, bitter wind, and cold days. He died in early June, so you’d think that would be my grieving time, but June is a season of Bluebird eggs, Robin songs, yellow Trout Lilies, and purple Lupines in the fields. When I walk the greening trails and find a bee on a spring flower, I’m filled with hope.

Near Winter Solstice, I walk in cold dampness with my dogs. I keep old Willow close when she’d rather go uphill and scavenge in the National Forest. She’s lured by the scent of venison.

“Willow, you can’t eat at the Deer Guts Café. You’ll make yourself sick.” I laugh despite myself. That was Vic’s name for hunting season leftovers.

Willow meeting Disco, October 2019

“Vic, you never met Willow. She arrived over a year after you died and brought my first surge of joy. She’s almost 13 now and usually stays close when we walk, but that smell must be irresistible.”  I put Willow on a leash as she looks up at me with disappointed eyes.

Willow surrenders and walks alongside me. Frisky Disco would rather be with her tribe than eat out so she circles us and sniffs the air.


“As I promised you, beloved Vic, I’m doing fine despite life’s challenges. After all these years, I still miss the way you held me and made me laugh. I miss sharing dreams and Solstice rituals. I miss your love of winter storms and snowshoe hikes. This covid time is heart-breaking, but when I walk to your cairn, my world is peaceful. I remember your tender eyes and patient kindness. I watch the setting sun and fill my hungry heart with love.

“The dark Underworld feels close at Winter Solstice, but so are your loving eyes. Dreaming of you in the dark season connects me with grief and living love.”


Who do you miss during the dark days of Winter? Do you have ways of contacting them, perhaps with music or by visiting places where you feel them close?

For a post about creating a grief ritual at the time of year Vic died, see Creating a Grief Ritual: Love, Loss, and Continuing Bonds. For a blog about how my dogs helped me find joy and love again, see I Rescued a Puppy and She Rescued Me.


  1. January 6, 2022 at 1:00 pm



    Dear Elaine,

    What a beautiful and reassuring dream you were given during this time of dark days and long nights!

    The time since you posted this entry has felt a bit dreamlike with all the winter storms we have been having and accompanying power outages (which also put our well pump, phone, and internet out of service). We now have 25 inches of snow on the ground and are wondering if today the precipitation will fall as snow or rain. (You probably have much more snow.)

    Dreams have so many layers of meaning, but if it were my dream, I would react to the fact that my beloved is “masked as he would be during covid times” as though the dream is bringing him into this present time with me.

    Your post brought me from tears to laughter, the latter with what Vic used to say to Willow: “you can’t eat at the Deer Guts Café. You’ll make yourself sick.” We’ve yet to have a dog that has learned that, but at least I now know what to say to my dog as a warning 🙂 I also smiled as I imagined you and your son with 5 dogs and Disco at the center of the action.

    May your new year be filled with many blessings! love, anne

    P.S. In January, I always think about New Year’s resolutions and how much I don’t like making them. However, I came across this passage by Dr. Kristin Neff, which feels just right:

    “As the year winds down and you set your resolutions for the new year, in addition to thinking about all the things you’d like to do better, you might consider making a resolution that you can actually keep: becoming a compassionate mess!
    This means that instead of focusing on getting it right, we focus on opening our hearts. Even though it’s important to try to alleviate our suffering by making needed changes in our lives, the truth is we’ll surely fail over and over again. This is what it means to be human.
    The most important thing is, can we be compassionate to ourselves in the midst of our failures and disappointments? Can we embrace the mess with warmth, understanding, support and kindness? If so, we will have achieved our goal.
    We will never find lasting happiness in the circumstances of our lives. Even when we do manage to get it right for a while, things inevitably change.
    So instead of thinking of success in terms of what happens, we can start to think of success in terms of how we relate to what happens. Are we being compassionate or not?
    Our happiness is most reliably rooted in the loving quality that we bring to each moment of awareness, rather than whether or not we like what is happening at that moment.”

    1. January 6, 2022 at 6:44 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      Oh, Anne! It’s hard to live with 25 inches of snow and no electric power. You must have power again now because your internet works–or maybe you have a generator. We have about 1/2 inch of snow on the ground since it all went east and south of us. People who love to ski are sad, but it’s so nice to walk on trails without snowshoes.

      I agree about the masked Vic (and talked about the dream with my therapist). He is so much in the present time with me as all of us go through another period of isolation and stay-at-home, but the lasting image for me is his loving gaze. I wonder if there’s also something about silence as I struggle to write about Monarchs and feel like I’m in the middle of a jigsaw puzzle too complex for me to solve. His eyes said, “Just love them and it will happen. Just love everything.” His silence made me think of love as the starting point with the Monarchs, so I’m returning to years of photos and feeling the joy they bring.

      (Disco doesn’t get to be the center of the action. The Chihuahua Lil’Bit is the 5-6 lb boss of all the other dogs–and one of David’s dogs weighs over 80 lbs. Disco rules with his voice if he doesn’t like Disco hassling him.

      I love the goal of being a “compassionate mess.” It’s within reach! I need to embrace the confusion I feel about life, my hearing, my project and let the tension go. My dreams are supportive. I’m impatient. I love the practice of focusing on bringing compassion to whatever is happening. I’ve been able to do that at time of my life–and Vic’s loving gaze reminds me I know how. Much love to you, warmer weather, and a huge melt!!

  2. December 24, 2021 at 9:06 pm



    For the first time since my daughter died I am celebrating the holidays. Now I am alone in the house but when it was filled with kids and pets and overnight guests we used to light candles, cook and bake, dress a tree, exchange gifts … the whole nine yards for whatever holidays we could think of. It is strange doing these things from out of my past all alone now but there is also something comforting and empowering about reclaiming the holidays. Today I took the time to simply sit gazing at the decorated tree. I noticed that being outdoors, even in the cold, makes me feel more alive. There’s something special about the quiet during this holiday alone. And lighting battery-operated candles in every corner. – just for myself – feels deliciously decadent.

    1. December 25, 2021 at 11:38 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      I’m glad, Robin. I remember the house filled with people, parties, and candles. Now, mid winter holidays are a time to rest, read, remember, and ritualize grief–light candles, put up a few lights and decorations (only a few favorites), and wish for an easier 2022. I hiked with my North Carolina son who was here 3 nights and sent him off this morning with lots of food. We have a total of 5 dogs,3 of them old with Disco always trying to get some action going. After a morning walk in the rain and Christmas breakfast, my dogs crashed by the wood stove. I won’t hear from them until late this afternoon. So, I’m back to my natural state which is alone with my 2 dogs and, although I loved being with my son, I also relish the silence and clearing skies in the west. Blessings to you.

  3. December 22, 2021 at 6:16 am

    Aladin Fazel


    You know better, for sure, that I miss my brother Al, not only in the dark and cold time, like now, but in every act, we have done together through over fifty years of our everyday life. I know and understand you well, my dear Elaine. But I think our memories will help us to get through these challenging times; as you dream of Vic with the mask, it shows how he is present in your life. I wish you a blessing time and your heart full of love.

    1. December 22, 2021 at 12:27 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      We miss them always, Aladin–and we don’t get over it or even want to. I wish Vic hadn’t died, but there was no choice. We did everything right and a rare cancer with no known cause won. I love Vic’s dream visitations and sweet memories. I also know I developed in ways I might not have if he were still physically here. I look forward to talking to my Jungian dream therapist about the masked animus. Wishing you and your family a joyful New Year and warm days. This is a good time of year to have grandchildren.

  4. December 22, 2021 at 3:49 am

    susan scott


    So tender Elaine and loving as always. Food in dreams is always interesting, whether an abundance of it or lack of it. Kitchens and cafeterias also suggest a meeting place where people fund sustenance and nurturance. Love is food for the soul which you still receive whether from the living or those who no longer have physical form.

    As you know, we’re in the midpoint of summer. At Christmas we always lovingly acknowledge those not with us. It seems the right time to do so. Always a tender few moments.

    A blessed Christmas to you Elaine. Will your sons be with you? Love, Susan

    1. December 22, 2021 at 12:21 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      Blessed Summer Solstice, Susan. Thanks for your reflections. There was lots of food in that cafeteria, but nothing I wanted to eat (which isn’t unusual in waking life because I like healthy food). Once the love showed up, food didn’t matter. I still find it surprising that Vic is such a common visitor in my dream animus after all these years. I don’t find it problematic but always supportive–but still surprising. My son from North Carolina arrives tonight and we’ll remember all who aren’t here. There will be 5 dogs, all easy together and peaceful. Disco will have a young playmate and the 3 old dogs will sleep. My son who lives locally is traveling on the west coast. He’s vaccinated and boosted and avoided social gatherings before flying–and his flights are no-stop so he doesn’t have to spend time in airports. He’s doing the best he can, but he needs old friends and to play his music in San Francisco (where everyone is carded for vaccination and covid test status). Blessings on that growing baby. How exciting the arrival will be for your family!

  5. December 21, 2021 at 11:24 pm

    Gretchen Staebler


    This is so poignant, Elaine. I’m so glad I stopped to read. Thirteen years is such a short time, I’m coming to find out. Blessed Solstice to you.

    1. December 22, 2021 at 11:13 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      Thank you for reading and commenting, Gretchen. Although others close to me have died (parents, brother, close friends), I didn’t imagine my relationship with my husband would continue for so long as an intense inner support or that he would keep showing up in dreams as a loving masculine presence. At this point, I suspect this will continue as long as I’m alive. Fortunately, I feel strengthened by love.

  6. December 21, 2021 at 8:42 pm

    Marian Beaman


    I thought this post would make me feel sad for you, and it does. Yet, I know you are getting through because though “tears spill down [your] cheeks” your heart is filled with living love. Notice I said “getting through” not “getting over,” because grief is not something one ever gets over. Perhaps you wouldn’t even want it to be so. It makes sense that you would miss Vic most in the winter when there are no blue bird songs, or robins, or purple lupines to distract you with their glory.

    How wonderful to have the love of someone who willingly gave you his “patient kindness.” Rich blessings to you on this day of Winter Solstice. And sweet dreams too! ;-D

    1. December 22, 2021 at 10:50 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      Marian, I felt forlorn before the dream, but dream visits from Vic almost always bring me hope and gratitude. It’s hard to explain how I can miss his physical presence and still feel supported by continuing love. I make no effort to get over my love for Vic since it’s the best Christmas gift ever. He proposed on Christmas Eve. It makes me happy to see you and Cliff with your family. The love beams through (a play on your name). Blessed Christmas and may we have a gentle New Year.

      1. December 22, 2021 at 3:13 pm

        Marian Beaman


        How interesting! Cliff proposed during Christmas week, and perhaps it was on Christmas Eve. I join you with wishes for a gentle New Year, the perfect prescription.

        1. December 24, 2021 at 10:47 am

          Elaine Mansfield


          We both got lasting Christmas gifts from our beaus.

  7. December 21, 2021 at 10:23 am

    Deborah Gregory


    Wow, believe me when I say I’m doing a happy little dance for you Elaine! I mean, what a truly beautiful, nourishing dream to receive around the Winter Solstice! I just love how your inner search for nutrition at this time led you to the sweetest of all gifts from your psyche that you ever could imagine or hope for, your beloved Vic … love incarnate himself! What a beautiful, loving couple you remain, above and below, within and without, as the universe, so the soul.

    And I’m super impressed that your dream café is a large alchemical space where the magic of transformation takes place. Much like your Monarchs I’m thinking! Sweet and tender, Vic’s eyes meet yours, and although he’s wearing a face mask, you read his expression easily because you know those loving eyes so well. I’m sure it’ll be interesting to explore why he was wearing a mask but I wonder if Vic, as Animus and creative spirit, was saying, I’m here and I’m with you always.

    For some reason this tender poet’s heart of mine is contemplating those who are unable to hold on to the Tree of Life and take their own life. An old but young female client comes to mind and I feel terribly sad about her death today and all those who struggle at this time of year … but know I have to put my own oxygen mask on first, so am quietly taking a break from social media till January. Patience, kindness, rest and winter walks with Lin are very much the order of my days.

    So, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year. Sending you much love, light and laughter across the oaks and oceans between us, Deborah.

    Ps. Before I forget, “Winter Dreams of Love and Loss” is such a beautiful title! xx

    1. December 22, 2021 at 10:45 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      Deborah, I love dream visits from Vic because they change my perspective remind me of all the good things in my inner and outer worlds. The healthy food I need is love–and I have it. I look forward to exploring his masked face with my dream therapist. (Masks are a challenge for me because I can’t read masked lips.) I don’t think anyone else in the dream was wearing a mask. I have some thoughts, but I’ll save them. The dreams keep coming.

      Suicide rates are horrifying and you deal with the tragedy in your work. Our culture doesn’t know how to support the young in these hard times. I’ve never had to face this personally with myself, my sons, or Vic. I’m glad you have Lin to walk beside you as you grieve for your client and take care of yourself. We all have so much to grieve in the last few years.

      Bring on the Light, the Blessed Oaks (and holly and ivy) and a Blessed New yearu. My son from North Carolina arrives tonight and I put a few lights up last night. Today I’ll put new candles out and hang ornaments from the windows. (I’m not a fan of cutting a live tree.) Thank you for your loving support. Sometimes I dip down for a visit in the Underworld, but then I rise. It was so kind of my psyche to send a dream to remind me of the eternal constancy of love.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *