August 16, 2014

On Ghosts

I don't believe in ghosts or an afterlife, but I do believe we hold Jungian constructs in our minds about what our parents and spouses and we are, have been, and should or might be. Our non-conscious mind, which is the greater part of us, then tries to settle grievances, finish unfinished business, expiate guilt, and resolve anger and frustration. Some of this we do consciously through the rituals of death. Some through dreams. Some through the distance of time. 

My mother and stepfather died some years ago, but I was able to make peace with each of them before they went, so I was untroubled by them in my dreams. My father I'd sent away to Budapest to keep him away from his daughters and wife, whom I thought he'd abused beyond forgiveness. 

The death of my wife of 40 years was quite difficult, for her and for me. She's been in my dreams a dozen times, always startling the shit out of me, so that I sometimes woke up shouting incoherently.  I believe what that meant was that I still had work to do with her. 

I have guilt over my refusal to be intimate with her for many years because she had scorned and laughed at what I consider my life's work. I thought this was cruelly unfair.  I had done everything possible to help her achieve her own ambitions, which were considerable, but she was unable to achieve them or enjoy the success she did have. I tried to help, but she refused to accept the challenges or do the work that would have made greater success possible.  

I was also her caregiver for the 10 years after the congestive heart failure and immobility, and the storm of mini-strokes in the last five years that took her mind - the fastest and sharpest I ever knew - but left her in pain and humiliation. She died sullen and resentful, in constant pain, unable to clean or toilet herself. I wheeled her to restaurants, through art walks, and arranged home hospice and caregivers for her, and finally, I helped her through Oregon's Assisted Suicide procedures.  

She died in 2008 and I haven't dreamt of her in over a year now, so maybe she and my guilt at not having been a better husband and friend have been laid to rest, too.

If you are so fortunate as to have had a strong and loving relationship with someone now gone, they may visit you at times in dreams, to remind you of that goodness you once shared, and which is now part of you.