I keep dreaming that my aunt Sylvia, who died last September after a long bout with cancer, comes back to life. I can’t figure out in the dream how she could possibly be alive since her ashes are resting in a container on my mantle. As she did when she was dying, Sylvia is in a strong state of denial in my dream.
We all go through stages of denial about one thing or another in our lives. We know we shouldn’t stay with a man, but we stay, hoping we’ll change him. We smoked when we knew it was bad for us, ignoring the potential consequences. We want so much for something to turn out well that we ignore all the signs that it probably won’t.
When we deny what’s happening to us, we rob ourselves of the ability to be in control and help make the outcome more pleasant. I’m not talking about the situations over which we have no control (e.g. acts of God, war) but about those we can change.
It’s often hard to face facts. My aunt Sylvia was emotionally unable to accept the fact she was dying. Many parents refuse to believe their children are abusing drugs. The wife of a physically abusive husband often blames herself.
I once begged my aunt to tell me to leave Edgar. I knew I was allowing myself to be emotionally abused by him, but couldn’t keep away and it made me miserable. I’ll never forget what she said to me: “I can’t do that. You’ll leave him when you’re ready.”
Sylvia wasn’t ready to die. Maybe that’s why she keeps reappearing in my dreams.