My mom died by suicide 26 years ago and in those 26 years, I have had exactly one dream in which she appeared. One dream. That’s it. I hear people, all the time, mentioning the dreams their loved ones have been in and how comforted they were after seeing them. That has not been my experience.
The one dream I did have in which my mom appeared was anything but comforting. If our dreams are comprised of the thoughts and feelings our brains and hearts are wrestling with, my dream speaks volumes. The dream occurred about two years after she passed. In the dream, I saw my mom and we stood about ten feet away from each other. I told her we had all just purchased Christmas gifts for her even though she was no longer alive. I think, in my dream, I was seeking her approval or love. I was just seeking something. Anything. Her response? “Oh, that was so kind of Randy (our neighbor) to buy me a gift.” That was it. She didn’t care I bought her gifts. She didn’t care I was standing right in front of her. She didn’t care she had put me through the most traumatic life experience when I found her lifeless body. She didn’t care about any of that. She didn’t care about me. She just thought it was nice our neighbor had purchased her a gift.
In my heart of hearts, that is exactly what I felt when she took her life. Worthless. No value. I didn’t matter. She didn’t care about me, her ten-year-old daughter. And here I was, in my dream, having that very same powerful and overwhelming feeling. I rarely remember any details of any dream and yet, I can remember all the specifics of that dream that took place about 24 years ago. I remember it because it was a bit traumatic. I remember it because it felt like truth. I remember it so well because my heart was already telling me that same message. She didn’t care.
If I think about the suicide today, perhaps she did care. Perhaps she cared more than her actions displayed. Maybe she cared so much and felt that leaving permanently was actually better for us all. Who knows? Not me. Only her. What I do know is it doesn’t matter. If she cared or if she didn’t, the results are still the same. Was she selfish or was she selfless? Again, it doesn’t matter. She is gone and we are still here. 26 years later. We are still here.
Here is what I know. I graduated 8th grade, and then high school, college, and grad school. I traveled the world, got married, had kids, and wrote a book. All without my mom. She missed all of that. Every single moment. Early on, I missed her presence for every event but as the years passed, I haven’t always thought of her because she has been gone far longer than I ever knew her. I was barely ten when she died and I am now approaching 40. Most of my life has been without her. Mostly, I miss the idea of having a mom, not necessarily her, because I truly don’t remember much about her.
At the end of the day, her suicide planted an incredibly painful belief into my mind and heart. “I don’t matter.” If I am honest, that belief is still present all these years later. Sometimes it is a faint whisper and other times it seems to be the lens through which I see life. My dream all those years ago knew my internal battle with worth and value and clearly displayed it for me. The truth though is this: her suicide says more about her and her own struggles than it says about me or my lack of value. Some days I know and accept this with every ounce of my being. Other days. though, I struggle to not give into that old familiar lie that I do not matter. On those days, I have to choose to believe that I matter despite my mom’s actions. Her actions do not define me. They never did. They never will.
If I ever have another dream with my mom, I hope I can introduce her to my husband and kids. I could tell her that I am doing just fine. In the dream, maybe she would be proud of me. Maybe she wouldn’t. Either way, it doesn’t matter. I am proud of myself.