My most disturbing dream

I’ve had a recurring dream, in which Papa somehow comes back to life some months after dying, only to die again permanently several months later. For some unclear reason, his temporary resurrection is not made public to everyone; and we are all aware and certain that it is, indeed, temporary. The details are very hazy to me, but my dream-self experiences this scenario as having been true. In other words, my dream-self perceives this as an actual memory, rather than as a fantasy.

In this dream, I try to explain to Papa and to myself why I am continuing to mourn him during that interim period between his two deaths. In other words, why did I continue reciting kaddish during the traditional Jewish year of mourning that began with his original death, and why did I continue writing every week about my mourning, while knowing that he wasn’t really dead, even though his reprieve from death was temporary?

My dream-self offers several related answers.

  1. First of all, my dream-self explains, Papa was in the USA, and I was in Israel so even though Papa magically came back to life, I never actually saw him in the flesh after his resurrection so he was still dead from my dream perspective.
  2. Secondly, since I knew that Papa’s days were numbered anyway, and since I’d already commenced with my traditional year of mourning, I had to continue going through the motions because his resurrection was supernatural anyway, and our tradition doesn’t account for such surreal circumstances.
  3. Thirdly, Papa really was dead, sort of. In my dream-memory he was somewhat ghostlike, hanging out at home all day and avoiding the outside world.
  4. Fourthly, the situation was too strange to explain to everybody who was reading about my mourning experience on a weekly basis. My dream-self reasons that it wouldn’t have made sense to my readership that Papa wasn’t dead during my year of mourning for him. My dream-self further reasons that I will tie up the loose ends later by writing an additional blog post at some point after my year of mourning has ended to explain the unusual circumstances of Papa’s supernatural resurrection and second death.
  5. Fifthly, what my dream-self doesn’t want to admit to my resurrected Papa is that my identity has become too wrapped up in my response to his death. I’d invested so much mental and emotional energy and time in writing my Skeptic’s Kaddish series that I had become the “Skeptic’s Kaddish”, and if I had publicly revealed to the world that Papa had been resurrected, it would have unraveled my entire sense of self.
  6. Lastly, my dream-self doesn’t even want to tell Papa about my Skeptic’s Kaddish series because he fears Papa’s disapproval. Papa was a very private person and probably wouldn’t have liked me writing about him, and what if he would have felt that I was just using his death to gain attention?

Whenever I wake up after having this dream, I feel that I need to write something about Papa to further expound upon my experience of losing him.

In the real world, I know that this dream is imagined, supernatural, impossible nonsense; I know that it’s nothing more than the concoction of my subconscious mind; but I’m constantly left wondering who David ben Alexander would be if Alexander had not died that day.

62 thoughts on “My most disturbing dream”

  1. It’s interesting to read about your dream from my perspective. For years after my mum died, I kept dreaming her ‘resurrected,’ but she was always in a kind of limbo and I knew she could not stay. Perhaps these kinds of dreams are a natural part of the grieving process.

      1. BEN,it may be awful to you, but helpful to others who grieve-elect. That means you have chosen a path that is forced on others and not elected. Stay with it. Along the way you will collect petals from plants and animals,as well as people. Even the rose grieves at times.

        1. Thanks, Homer, for your kind comment. I deeply appreciate it. When I first started writing about how I was dealing with my father’s death a friend asked me if I thought of my writing as something that I was doing for other mourners…

          That wasn’t my original thought, but upon reflection I recognized the truth in what he was suggesting, and I liked it. It’s not my primary motivation, but it is definitely one of my motivations today.

          Yours,
          David

        2. Hi Ben! I thought later of other notions ( oceans of them).

          I may be like others who discharge grief in some kind of way.( some unkind); one of those ways is to read the sad,expressive grief of others.
          Some cannot Express grief in writing; it’s too emotional.I read years ago, “papa comes home”,
          The author, a brethren, sure opened my chest cavity and I saw, through him, my own heart beating in silent,but expressive unison to the pain he was horribly experiencing at the sight of his father who had left long years past, seeking some ghost identity, and now his papa was home again in a pine box.
          That story made me seek out other ones
          The service you provide others by sharing is guided by God almighty, and it will, touch, tear and rend, but it will never falter off course and strike unintended by standers.
          You keep on, Ben!
          You just keep on!

  2. It is not so surprising. When you know somebody well, as we do with our parents, it is easy to ask the question “what would they do/say?” They could be in the next room, the next house, the next street, or across the ocean. That they have died is somewhat incidental, I think.
    I don’t see this blog about him, per see, but about your coping with his loss.

  3. I’m so fascinated by the dreaming mourners, especially reding about the intensity of recurring dreams. It is indeed a deeply moving chapter in the life of a dreaming mourner. God has given you sufficient stamina, For other grievers, God send the dreamers. Thank you for sharing this content, i do believe it is therapeutic to move through all your dreams especially if you are such a vivid dreamer, to retain the context and to write about it.
    Thanks for sharing ben.

      1. People keep diaries about grief. There are various sites for different forms of mourning, so yes it is a great art to journal for assisting and helping especially if you know how to write and express it. For example I appreciate when widows tell their stories. That’s very special to me.

        1. Yes, I can imagine. Something I noticed after Papa died is that a lot of the people who were coming to comfort me were sharing their own stories of loss no less than listening to mine – it was as though they felt that I would be able to relate to them in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to before I became a mourner.

  4. Mm, the departure or death of a parent when loved can be world-changing, To that end, kaddish — if I understand it — is the period of mourning and grievance culture(?) determined appropriate in response. Where you’d honored kaddish in a personally meaningful way, it makes sense that it might become part of who you are. I can’t say for certain.

    From an outsider’s perspective, the dream-self from the 5th & 6th points seem to be that version of your self. That is, it’s being honored in a series of dreams, much like a series of blog posts. Perhaps something deeper within is communicating change of self through mimicry of meaningful events?

    In a somewhat different line of thought & feeling, perhaps the dream is also precognitive? I’ve heard there are two deaths in Judaic faith(s); the first a physical passing from body, the second when one’s name passes lips for the last time. I’m not sure that’s accurately translated, and I haven’t found a source for it, so it may be.. a folkloristic misnomerism? Yet, still in this sense, perhaps the resurrection is — at some point in your lifetime — when his name and contributions will be remembered & honored by others, or “resurrected”? And after that point, his essence may pass on to the afterlife; quietly, privately, and peacefully.

    A lot of supposition and unknowns with attempts at cross-cultural insight, though. 🙂
    Wish you well in your healing & in your living. Much love and peace.

    1. ʃən,

      Thanks for your kind response.

      kaddish — if I understand it — is the period of mourning and grievance culture(?) determined appropriate in response.

      Kaddish is a prayer, which has various forms, the most famous of which is the mourner’s kaddish that is most often recited by close relatives for their deceased loved ones. Traditionally, Jews recite the kaddish daily for one Hebrew year when one of their parents dies.

      Where you’d honored kaddish in a personally meaningful way, it makes sense that it might become part of who you are.

      Yes, I think this is true – but it is hard to accept my changed self for some reason. I don’t want this self – I want the previous self back, along with my father. 😦

      Perhaps something deeper within is communicating change of self through mimicry of meaningful events?

      I’m not insightful enough to know… but… this is definitely in the realm of possibility.

      I’ve heard there are two deaths in Judaic faith(s); the first a physical passing from body, the second when one’s name passes lips for the last time.

      Well… according to Jewish tradition, it takes one’s soul a year to ascend to the World to Come, and the recitation of kaddish by one’s children helps to elevate one’s soul to that World to Come.

      So – there’s the point at which one dies physically, when the soul leaves the body. And then there’s a point at which one’s soul completes its ascension to the World to Come – which is theoretically one Hebrew year later. So when one’s son or daughter recites the mourner’s kaddish for the final time as a capstone to that first year of mourning, that is theoretically the final push before the soul reaches its “highest” “heights” and “nearness” to “God”.

      Thank you so much for your sensitive and insightful comment.

      -David

  5. Those we love dearly leave their love in our hearts. Love is forever. Your visitations in your dream state may be an expression of that love. I believe you are very blessed to be granted the unconscious gift. Sorry that it is disconcerting to you. Peace be with you David.❤🙏

    1. Thanks, Suzette… I do try to accept the process of grief as it churns through me… but it often remains impossible to accept as reality – it often feels insanely impossible. How could it have happened? I know it’s not rational… but I guess grief is irrational by its very nature so I try to be accepting of myself…

      -David

  6. I think dream sequence is normal, but intensity differs. I liked your last sentence, it touched my heart. God bless you David 🙏

  7. Thank you for sharing your experience. I can see how it is upsetting. Grief takes time and. I don’t think it ever really follows a time frame, It really does take many twists and turns. My genuine care is with you. 🤍

    1. Thanks so much LaDonna 😦

      I feel bad being such a bummer, but this is really where I’m at, and I can’t say that it’s easy or pleasant.

      Sincerely and appreciatively,
      David

  8. David, the last paragraph of this post struck me as so familiar. I was sitting in my husband’s two-hour memorial service and the realization came to me that, not only would my life not be the same without him, I would never be the same person again! That proved to be very true.

    I am sorry that you are having disturbing dreams. Your writing is not taking anything away from your father. In my opinion, you have written with pure intentions to honor your father, not to get attention. If you have developed your talent for writing and made some new friends, those are positive things that I am pretty sure your father would have found gratifying.

    Your writings are delightfully witty and insightful and brighten the existence of your fellow bloggers. Enjoy using your talents. Enjoy your family and your life. Focus on the promise of your children’s futures. Hopefully, in time, your dreams will be peaceful and happy ones. ❤

      1. I completely agree with Cheryl. Your posts are a bliss to read. Your father would’ve been very proud❤️

    1. Thanks, Yuvi… It’s funny – I would say the same thing to other people who are mourning, but it’s hard to accept it for myself.

      -David

  9. Dreams are fascinating. Thank you for sharing yours. It seems we can learn a great deal about ourselves, life, death, problems, questions, etc., through our dream life. I found your dream analysis interesting; hopefully, reflecting and writing about your recurring dream has been helpful for your healing. The fifth detail on your list was most intriguing.

    1. Michele – yeah – #5 disturbs me 😟

      I do think that writing about such things is helpful for me… and hopefully healing in the long run.

      Yours,
      David

      1. David, sorry to read your dream has left you feeling disturbed. Dreams can do that. Especially when they might lead to a feeling of unraveling self. Your feelings are understandable and relatable. It does appear that part of your writing journey is a healing path (for you and others) and I hope it continues to be for you (and those, like me, who are following/walking with you). 🌼

  10. That was an intriguing account. Dreams are such pure entities, that vary according to the person. I don’t know what yours could mean but the reasons your dream self mentioned are all worth pondering.
    And I don’t think your writing comes across as someone seeking attention. Rather, they are quite educational and poignant, as grief is an ever present element of life we all will have to experience one day.

  11. [Still haven’t quite deleted my blog yet but my new website is waiting in the wings.] Just felt to comment David and to say that my blog ‘A Divine Unraveling’, came about after my mother’s death. There was so much stuff that needed unraveling, it helped to write. They say time heals but what I have found is that time reveals. Reveals things that require paying attention to, such as unfounded guilt, remorse that I could have done better, sorrow for years wasted trying to be the pleasing child, etc etc. My Divine Unraveling has come to a sweet end and now I find myself in a better space in my head with acceptance, forgiveness, and hope all contributing to this. All the grave clothes that bound me after my mother’s death have finally fallen away. It took four years. I might add that Yeshua [Jesus] has helped me through all this, gently taking my hand and walking with me. My faith in Him has been my mainstay. Shalom David…

    1. I try to look at it positively the way you suggest, Cindy… but sometimes it feels like I’m just… well… Sisyphus, pushing my fingers across the keyboard only to watch them slip off again… like I’ll never reach that peak of comfort.

      I know it gets better – and I would give people the very same kind and wise advice… but, irrationally, it’s hard for me to accept.

      Thank you so much for your kindness.

      -David

      1. Oh I do understand. My heart holds yours and the phyche gets played out in dreams so hold rest in that.. i love how you described that! ❤️ you’re welcome.

  12. Hi David,
    Dreams like that are so hard. I lost a baby girl, Josephine, in labour 6 years ago, and used to have dreams like that, too….where instead of being stillborn, she was born alive, but I still had to plan her funeral because I knew she was going to die soon. It’s incredibly intense, and seemed so real at the time even thought it’s bizarre. You don’t know how to feel and it’s confusing.
    It’s amazing what we human beings can survive going through.
    Best wishes for gentle healing for your heart.
    Anna

    1. Oh, Anna… …

      You know I have to confess – during my [Jewish traditional] year of mourning when I was processing the experience through my “kaddish” writing-praying project, I came across a father who had lost his son and embarked upon his own kaddish journey.

      I shared that father’s mourning experience, and wrote the following:

      Some concepts are hard to wrap my mind around and harder still to put words to, but the story of Steven’s grief over [his son] Jared’s death brought up a dreadful question: what if it had been somebody other than Papa? Somebody other than a parent of mine?

      Thank you so much for sharing, Anna.

      Yours,
      David

      1. It’s nice to connect, and good to know we are not alone in our experience of grief, even if each loss is unique. Blessings, David, and I think it’s great to process grief by writing. Keep sharing!

        1. Yeah, there’s a reason my blog is called Crazy Land! 🤣
          My kids range from 14- almost 3 years old, but we are actually expecting our 9th, a little boy we are planning to name Robert, after my Dad. We were able to tell him that after the halfway ultrasound just 4 days before he died. He was so happy.

  13. I think it’s wonderful that you have dreams about your dad. The sages say that sleep is 1/60 th of death, so when we sleep our souls actually go up to heaven for awhile. Sometimes we merit seeing our loved ones who have passed on like you did. Unfortunately, most of the time, the dreams make no sense. But it’s still a way that our love ones connect to us.

  14. Thanks for sharing not only the dream but also the vulnerable interpretations. I dream quite religiously. Reading this post, I feel the point of those dreams is to increase your awareness of self. Sometimes we do want attention. Sometimes we started something and think we need to finish it lest people talk about us. Sometimes we think that if we contradict ourselves we’ll metaphorically perish. Sometimes we worry that our loved ones will get mad if we tell their secrets. These are all of our truths, as some point or another. I’m sorry for your loss. 🤎

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