Struggling with parts of grief I thought I had gotten over brought back an old feeling: Helplessness.
The first weeks after my dad died, I struggled to find sleep. When I eventually did, all I could dream about was Dad: driving to his house, sitting with him, and his time in the hospital. Everything was about him.
In those dreams, Dad was often dying or a shell of his former self. The person in front of me looked like him, but it never was. After waking up, I’d feel relief. Thank goodness, it wasn’t real. For a moment, everything would be okay. I’d remember quickly, though, and fall apart when realizing that reality was so much worse than what I had dreamed.
I’d go downstairs, feeling cold, shaky, and like I couldn’t breathe. I’d look in the kitchen, on the staircase, or at the driveway, where he had been standing just minutes before in my dreams. He was never actually there.
Those dreams took a lot out of me. I missed almost two weeks of mornings at school because I was so exhausted. Sleep had once been my escape from bad times, but then it was as painful as reality.
As time passed, I began to learn how to cope with my dreams. They soon went from being nightly to weekly, at most. I finally got to sleep.
About a week ago, I had a dream about my dad. That was normal, so I thought nothing of it. Instead of just being a one night thing, though, I’ve dreamed about him every day since.
Waking up daily, I have the familiar feeling of being cold, shaky, and unable to breathe. On top of that, I also felt something that I hadn't felt since the beginning of my grief: Helpless.
When Dad died, I felt helpless. My whole life was crumbling in front of my eyes, and all I could do was watch. Figuring out how to cope with dreams was the first time I felt like I was getting control back. I was proud of myself, and it gave me hope. I didn’t feel helpless anymore.
So, seeing myself struggle with them again has been painful.
Every time I wake up after dreaming about my dad, I feel like I lost all of the progress I made. That I’m helpless, and out of control of my life again.
That's the strange part because, besides dreams, I'm not helpless. The dreams were worst at the beginning of my grief, when I did feel helpless. I think I've subconsciously connected bad dreams to feeling like I'm not in control of my life, which is me feel that way now.
I also think that knowing I got past my bad dreams gave me hope. Dreams were the first part of grief that I learned to cope with, and once I got past them I got a sense of hope, that things would be okay. Even though I've learned to cope with many things since, knowing I got past bad dreams was something that I relied on more than I realized.
It’s difficult, but easier when I remember what I've told myself a thousand times: Grief isn’t all uphill. Grief has many highs and lows, and sometimes those lows repeat themselves. Struggling with something again doesn’t mean that I’ve lost all of the progress that I’ve made, or that I’m not in control - it just means that I’m grieving.
I also know more than I did the first time I struggled with dreams. I know what’s helped me cope in the past. I know what cheers me up. I also know that I will get past them and that the dreams won’t last forever. It’s still hard, but having these things in mind helps.
Struggling with things you thought you got over is normal. It doesn’t erase the progress you’ve made or mean that you’re doing something wrong. It's normal.
Like I said before, grief has many highs and many lows. Right now, I just happen to be going through one of the lows, and that's okay. I’ll get through it, and whenever you go through a low point, you will as well.
Written by Natalie Adams, the creator of Teenage Grief Sucks.