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'Haunted' by nightmares involving deceased abusive husband

(22 Posts)
SirSugar Tue 18-Sep-12 19:09:21

He died more than 2.5 years ago, after a three weeks of illness caused by cancer we didn't know about.

He was very abusive, verbally, financially and in the months before he died, physically which he was arrested and cautioned for. Frankly it was a relief for me he suddenly passed away and I made no secret of this - except as far as DCs are concerned.

My life is very different now and I don't spend much time dwelling on him or the past, however I am suddenly having dreams about him generally with the same theme. I did have a spate of them 6 months to 1 year after where he was back from the dead and going to die soon, but I didn't know when, and I didn't know what he was going to do as he wouldn't speak to me.

The latest ones I am having centres around him trapping me in a room and attepting sexual contact with me, which I refuse and also being angry and shouting at me. In the dream I know he died and cannot understand how someone can die yet come back, and I don't know how to get away. At this point I usually wake up. they are disturbing to say the least as I have had at least 5 over the last couple of months. I wake up with a start and feel absolute relief as they are so real.

Appreciate any thoughts

CailinDana Tue 18-Sep-12 19:12:06

It sounds like your brain is keen to start processing everything you went through. It sounds like your H put you through hell and him dying was a release from that in real terms, but your mind still needs to take a look at what happened and make sense of it, as far as that's possible.

Would you consider counselling?

janelikesjam Tue 18-Sep-12 19:28:06

You may be possibly re-living some of the fears of violence, etc that you experienced at the time, OP, as if your psyche is trying to get in touch with those fears in your unconscious.

Personally, I do not think they are anything to be afraid of. If anything, its as if your unconscious is doing all this difficult work on your behalf .....

Also, if the dreams have come up now, I am wondering do you feel a little fearful in your current circumstances, as if its a way of making contact with that similar kind of primal fear?

izzyizin Tue 18-Sep-12 19:39:00

Our dreams are a means by which people can die and come back as our encounters with the deceased in the dream state can be as, if not more, 'real' as they were in life.

It seems to me that, far from his unquiet spirit taking you to task, you're haunting your dreams and I'm wondering if this may be due to you feeling some misplaced or subconscious sense of guilt at your relief when he permanently exited your life, apparently with more consideration than he showed to you while he was in it.

Is there anything or anyone in your life at present that may be causing you to be angry with yourself?

foolonthehill Tue 18-Sep-12 19:39:44

Grieving a bad and violent relationship can be more tricky than grieving a good and loving one. Maybe you jumped to relief and acceptance without going through denial, sadness etc. I think now that your life is safe and established you are being carried back to complete the grieving ...which will include grief for the loving and wonderful relationship that you wanted and never had, as well as grieving the man he could have been and the partner and father he should have been.

If you can I would look into some bereavement counselling, being glad someone is dead can be a heavy burden to carry, even if it is completely understandable and reasonable.

FiveOrangeFlowers Tue 18-Sep-12 19:53:51

excellent post foolonthehill.

SirSugar Tue 18-Sep-12 20:28:05

Thanks everyone. Interesting foolonthehill, the tears I cried when he died were tears of relief; yes his sudden illness was terrible and I remember going to the hospital one day and he had been sitting watching the clock waiting for me. I remember thinking how small and terrified he looked - a far cry from the 'terrorist' he had been to me in the past.

I was having counselling just before he died, because of the state I was in regarding our relationship. I went back twice afterwards then stopped as the counsellor at that time felt I didn't need to go though I was welcome at any time I felt I needed to go back. Might give him a call.

Am with lovely DP now, someone I have known for many many years and I do sometimes catch myself feeling I cannot quite believe how different my life is. In fact as I write this I am feeling a bit upset. I don't normally dwell on this, but because of the dreams I am feeling a bit fearful sometimes before I fall asleep, in case I have another

spookytoo Tue 18-Sep-12 20:39:10

I am reading a book 'Mind Power' by John Kehoe. It has a chapter on dreams and its says that the characters in your dreams often represent yourself. Could you be ready for a new relatioship but don't feel you should because of your dcs or something (trapped in a room). Or you regret not having a close relationship and blame your deceased partner.
(these interpretations are on the strength of one reading of 6 pages in a rather out of date book, but I thought the fact that most characters in your dream can represent yourself was interesting)

spookytoo Tue 18-Sep-12 20:40:31

xposts - I see you are in a new relationship - will have to reinterpret grin

ForeverAutumnNow Tue 18-Sep-12 21:11:03

What you are experiencing is actually not uncommon when a sudden death ends an abusive/unhappy relationship. The "normal" grieving process is turned on it`s head. You would probably benefit from some Counselling sessions. Hynotherapy can also be very helpful.

ladyWordy Tue 18-Sep-12 21:12:29

In practical terms, counselling is a good way forward.

I'm also wondering if your physical health is OK, if you've a new medication regime, or if you have changed your diet (no need to answer that - it's private to you, and I'm just offering a few thoughts.) Some of these factors can cause vivid dreams and nightmares.

In terms of your mind, and the restless state which is preventing peaceful sleep, I have a simple meditation technique which might help (not too 'woo'!). Here it is:

- Take a few quiet moments before sleep, and breathe gently. Focus only on your breathing. When your mind is quieter, imagine yourself breathing out a golden light. The golden light gradually forms a bubble, all around you.

Mentally harden the bubble, in a way that feels comfortable to you. Imagine that nothing harmful can reach you through the bubble, because it's so strong.

You will probably drop off to sleep while doing this.

Just the breathing part will calm you: you needn't read anything into the technique, unless you choose to..Keep practising! With luck, you will eventually enjoy more peaceful sleep.

You can also use the technique during the day, if you need a few moments of calmness. It can be surprisingly effective. Hope that helps.

HipHopOpotomus Tue 18-Sep-12 21:25:02

I think now you are in a safe place, your mind is now processing all that crap from years ago.

When I was 21, my flatmate caused a dreadful fire in the house we were renting from my parents (who had moved town). I nearly died from smoke inhalation. The damage to the house and my possessions was incredible.

It took 6 months to repair the house - most of them over the summer and rather than find another flat, I lived in a caravan in the back garden (I had pets I didn't want to move). I felt a bit 'exposed' in the caravan on my own and I was burgled twice while I lived there. Otherwise it was OK.

When the house was fixed and I moved back in and was feeling secure and safe again I started to have incredibly intense dreams and nightmares. I woke up most mornings feeling like I'd been hit over the head with a bottle. It was exhausting! I think there was so much going on in my mind with the fire, living alone in a caravan, being burgled etc, but I held it all together until I was in a 'safe' place. And then my sub-conscious started to unravel it all - every single night for about 6 months! Suddenly it simply stopped & it was all over.

Sorry that was long - but thought my experience might resonate with you.

HissyByName Tue 18-Sep-12 21:26:38

SirSugar (((((HUGS)))))

you know how much I love and admire you right? I saw this thread and knew it was you and I am so sad to hear that you are suffering in any way after all that you have been through at the hands of that dreadful man and his family IIRC.

I agree with fool, and state this categorically for you and for anyone else that is reading this for whatever reason:

If you do not work through the issues/undergo counselling/talk it out in the company of others that are trained/understand/have been there this stuff will NEVER go away

Sure it will fade, you will be able to put one foot in front of the other, you will be able to step around elephants, tiptoe over potholes, but they will still be there. Waiting.

I know of a woman who had to go to a DV support group more than 22 years after leaving her abusive ex, because the issues were raising up again and she didn't know why/what to do.

If we don't deal with the stages as fool mentioned, they will, as you have so literally demonstrated, come back to haunt us.

NOW is the time for you to go back into counselling, to talk the whole thing through, and to work out what the experience has GIVEN you (yeah, you heard me) and what you have learned that makes you a stronger person than you were back then. You are ready now, you have nothing to fear, you have us, you have your DP the lucky fellow that he is!) and you have the benefit of freedom, wisdom and your overwhelmingly kind and giving heart.

There are MANY positives to be found in someone that has been through experiences such as ours, and they literally outweigh the bad, but you have to give them the space to shine.

Charbon Wed 19-Sep-12 01:44:47

Is there anything about your current partner and his past or present behaviour about which you're trying to suppress a bit of unease - an irritating but persistent inner voice that's questioning that script you've got running about how lovely he is? Does he have any traits in common with your husband e.g. dishonesty in relationships (emotional or financial) or aggression?

Sometimes dreams about the past are a way for our subconscious to alert us to threats about the present and future, that cognitively we won't acknowledge.

dobalina Wed 19-Sep-12 06:11:52

It sounds very traumatic. Perhaps you feel a bit of guilt for the relief, even though there is no reason to.

I still dream, every few months, that I am still with my partner of 20 years ago. It was a bad relationship although I didn't realise until I was out of it. I learnt an awful lot though. The relief I feel when I wake up almost makes the dream worth it. But I've no idea why I still have these dreams after so long. I suspect there are things I haven't put to rest yet.

swallowedAfly Wed 19-Sep-12 07:20:30

hey sirsugar - it could be that something in your life now is causing you some fear and anxiety and that's the 'image' your brain has for fear and anxiety - him - so it expresses it through him as the symbol.

the weird one is that the cause of the anxiety may not be something going wrong. it may actually be that things are going well and that you are feeling good but that part of you cannot quite trust that and is being made anxious by the very fact that you are relaxing and going off guard and relaxing into your new life. does that make sense?

it would be a bit like part of you saying musn't get too comfortable, musn't get completely off guard, here's a reminder of how bad things can get.

i personally wouldn't be in a rush to go back to the counsellor. all in all it sounds like you've processed things really well and this could just be the final stage in truly moving on.

is it safe to feel safe? are you really ok now? can you really put it to rest? etc. not sure you need to dredge it all up again with a counsellor. some time to yourself reflecting and putting things to rest and even maybe some kind of ritual - getting rid of anything of his or that reminds you of the you you were when that was going on, tying up any loose ends.

SirSugar Wed 19-Sep-12 09:36:47

Waves at Hissy. Thankyou again, some very interesting stuff.

SwallowedAFly, things are going well and in a one of the dreams ( I was having a great holiday with DP and DCs when I dream't this ) he was screaming at me ' where the fuck do you think you are going?'. I do need to tie loose ends though, the house is still in his name, though mortgage company are aware and as executor of his estate I have been paying mortgage. The house I have partially redecorated and thrown out loads of dust gathering junk. I will sell this house or rent it in the next two years.

I am in two minds as to whether to give the counselor a call, on the one hand I don't wish to go back yet on the other it's possible that I need to as Hissy suggested.

I have known my DP for 26 years, there are no insecurties there.

swallowedAfly Wed 19-Sep-12 09:55:49

seems to all make sense sugar.

mull on it, see what comes up and trust your instincts on what to do x

WaitingForMe Wed 19-Sep-12 10:03:09

Your last post makes it sound like you're really moving on and these dreams are the last bit of him that needs clearing out.

It's been over four years since I left my abusive ex and things are great, perfect really. DH is being made redundant but we are a team and I'm seeing it as a challenge to embrace and bring positive life changes. Our baby is due in eight weeks. But suddenly I've been hearing my ex's voice again making me doubt myself. I think it's just that final step in him finally disappearing for good. I'm pushing on with the happy things (ok so baby has his own momentum but I'm also focusing on business plans) and he's fading.

So I say crack on with clearing out an sorting the house and physically exorcise him from your subconscious.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 19-Sep-12 10:07:28

I'm going for a much simpler explanation which is 'stress'. Even if you don't feel stressed, normal life often throws up pressure points. Cleaning out, redecorating and planning to sell your home are less obviously stressful things but, by getting rid of the last traces of your late husband's presence, it's a big bridge you're burning. Stress dreams where the subject feels threatened are very common indeed and there's often a 'Boggart' (think Harry Potter) that personifies the attacker, representing what frightens us most. In my stress dreams, it's a fictional Anne Frank/Schindlers List scenario ... hiding in a cupboard while stormtroopers search the house. <Brr> In your case you've got a real-life baddie to refer back to.

If there's an answer I think it will be to find ways to relax, unwind, feel more secure and deal with any loose-ends in your life as promptly as possible. Good luck

QueenofWhatever Wed 19-Sep-12 12:18:38

I would suggest that you could be suffering from complex PTSD, nightmares are a recognised symptom (see p.8 of the first link). I was diagnosed with this after I left my abusive ex (totally recognise your relief/joy at him dying, it used to be one of my fantasies).

The first link is the NICE guidance for PTSD. I would read it and then take it with you when you go and see a supportive GP for referral and ADs if appropriate. PTSD is still poorly understood. The second link is the NICE recommendation that for PTSD general counselling and relaxation etc. are not helpful, you need specialist treatment.

I had therapy with EMDR (recommended in the guidance) which was unbelievably helpful. I was lucky that I could afford to pay to see a therapist privately, best money I've ever spent. Feel free to PM me.

DeedeeZ1 Sat 09-Jan-16 17:04:53

I am now in a loving marriage after 20 years of hell from my deceased previous husband he physical and mentally abused me and also sexually abused my daughters I sent them to ho and live with there Father as he said if I left him he would shoot mw and all my family and believe you me he would of the police said they couldn't prove what he had done to my daughters and they didn't want to appear in court I am now having nightmares about him following me everywhere I go and I'm getting to the stage I don't want to sleep any ideas what this all means.

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