On Speaking to a Men’s Bereavement Group About Visitation Dreams
My heart was racing last night as I approached the boardroom where I was to give a two-hour talk on “The Role of Dreams in Grieving Well.” It is not the subject that frightens me. ‘Grieving Well’ is a concept I’ve been developing for the past year, and I’m feeling moved now to explore it with others. What frightens me is anticipation of my audience: a long-running suicide-bereaved men’s group.
I’ve journeyed professionally alongside suicide survivors for the past year. When working with, or experiencing, loss by suicide, we are always piercingly out of our depths. But I love this work, and I don’t shy away from grief’s landscapes. My heart is steady on that count.
It’s not the grief, and it’s not the realities of suicide. What frightens me, I confess to the facilitator, is speaking about dreams to a room of men. I’ve never been invited into a men’s group before. I’ve been told they’ve had only one other female presenter in many years. And in all those years, they’ve never spoken about their dreams.
How real can I be with these men? How real can they be with me? How do I get them talking openly about their dreams, so tender and intangible? How do we get comfortable in this mutually foreign territory? I feel different to them; an outsider. How do I build safety for all of us in such foreign territory?
“It’s going to be great, more than great…”, the facilitator says.
I walk in. With each ‘hello’ I feel better, and sadder, and grateful to the dreams I know are hidden in this room. The men are kind, welcoming, and unflustered. They have lost sons, brothers, and a father. I let it sink in. They have lost sons, brothers, and a father.
“You don’t walk on”, one tells me. “You just go on.”
I let it sink it. “You don’t walk on. You just go on.” I feel at the edge of all experience. We are all there, there is nowhere to go.
I am in my body now. There’s no pretence. There’s no show. We’re just breathing together, humans. I let my notes go. I just want to sit with them a while. But I’m there for a reason. I begin to share what I believe in… Everyone here is trying to reconcile with the irreconcilable… It is an impossible task… But the heart breaks… open. And as long as we can help the heart to break *open*, we are on the healing path… Dreams are your ally, they are bound to your heart… Dreams are a natural part of our response to grief; they are part of our natural healing mechanism… Grief is complex and creative; we all get stuck without knowing why, sometimes for years… Your dreams are always pointing to where you’re stuck, and what’s available to you right now… Dreams are the only place where we really, really, really tell the truth.
One man’s eyes are like glasses of water against a brown sky. He tells us that he recently hugged his fallen son in his dream. “We don’t usually hug,” he whispers, but through the dream he feels his son’s warm body, his puffy hand. His son cries on his shoulder, and he comforts his son. “Until this moment, I have never told anyone about my dreams. Not even my wife. She wouldn’t want to know.”
Another man shares that he’s been a spiritual sceptic his whole life. But now his son occasionally comes to him in his dreams, and gives him advice on day to day things, sometimes delivering premonitions. “I don’t know, I don’t know… it just feels so good to feel his affirmation.” He pulls his hat lower, clasps his hands over his mouth.
A man who lost his father says that he denied feeling any blame, until a dream forced him to acknowledge his feelings of guilt and regret. He says he was trying to be strong for his mother and brother. He didn’t want them to blame themselves, so he set an example… “but in the dream, I keep wishing I had found the gun. I realise now, these feelings are normal. They’re just part of it. I can let myself have them.” (His father’s death did not involve a gun, but this was the metaphor used in the dream).
As we closed our evening, one of the more seasoned men calls out to the man who had dreamed of hugging his son: “I haven’t seen you here in a long time, over a year I think. I’m glad you came back.” The man replies: “I saw the subject was dreams. So I came. I never told my dreams before.”
None of these men had spoken about their dreams before. One said that he’d learned that it was okay to talk about his dreams, and to encourage others to talk about them. Others felt they would still keep their dreams secret, but felt they could now speak about them in the men’s group or to their counsellors.
As I drove home last night, I felt immensely honoured, and emotional. Honoured that I get to witness the deep healing touch of dreams on our wounded but striving selves. Emotional that the love we are capable of struggles so profoundly to find its way to others, and to our own selves.
Dreams are a great connector. They reveal our essential humanity, and when we feel the humanity of another, we naturally feel connected to them. I would like to think that at least some of these men experienced a deeper level of connection with each other last night. After two hours, I can honestly say I cared for and felt connected to the men in that group, particularly those who had let us look through the window of their dreams, and feel the humanity inside, just waiting to be touched.
Do you have dreams you have never spoken with anyone about? Have you had visitation dreams, where those who have died come to visit you, to touch you again, to deliver messages, or receive messages from you?
Please share your dreams here, as you are not alone, and we have only to allow ourselves to let our dreams heal.
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