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Burying Our Dead

A woman brings a dream in which there are dead bodies strewn throughout her backyard.  She is in the kitchen and can see the bodies through the window.  Somehow she is able to forget their presence and go on about her business.  But periodically she remembers what is outside and is horrified.

This dream has the feel of a zombie nightmare.  Something awful has occurred but the dreamer is unable to focus on the situation.   A killer has entered this woman’s world and left its gruesome trail.   We do not know what actually took place in that backyard—but the horrible image alerts us to the presence of trauma and pain. 

Like so many of us—this woman has suffered wounding in her life.   Parts of her have come under attack–perhaps in the form of her dreams and longings for herself, perhaps in her love for those who were supposed to have cared for her, perhaps in her ability to live life fully and with passion and hope.

Whatever the harm done, something remains unresolved in this woman’s psyche.  She has not buried her dead.  To live with dead bodies in the backyard—or in the unconscious—is to have wounds and losses that have not been adequately grieved.   Carried to an extreme, these corpses will rot and stink and clog up the life so that it cannot move forward.

Small wonder that she would like to forget what’s in her backyard.

Perhaps the bodies behind her house are better off dead.  Sometimes we carry hopes and wishes long past their expiration date.  We do not recognize when it is time to let go.  They become a burden to us—cluttering our minds with images of a future that is no longer available to us—we wish an alcoholic parent would stop drinking and provide us love, we hope that if we just work harder the self centered people in our lives will sit up and notice, and on and on.

Whatever the case, the dead bodies are a grim reminder to the dreamer that there is work to be done.  The dream acts like a nightmarish wake up call.  Rather than turning away, she is being asked to turn towards—towards the wounding, towards the grief, towards the pain and sorrow.  Only by naming the dead—acknowledging the trauma and loss—can she begin the task of digging deep in the earth and marking their graves so that she can remember and honor her experience.

Our pains and sufferings mark us.  They are part of who we become.  When we do not attend to and mourn our dead, we disconnect from our own hearts.  We cannot feel fully and freely because we are too busy pretending that everything is fine.  But the dead bodies pile up.  We become toxic to ourselves and are in danger of zoning out and becoming like the “living dead.”

It takes courage and steady nerves to deal with corpses.  But “where there is grief there is holy ground,” as Oscar Wilde once said.  To touch down into the raw pain of loss and sorrow enlarges the soul.  When we make time to mourn our dead, when we allow ourselves to truly grieve our losses and wounds, we find the pulse of our own heart.  We can feel again.  Rather than being clogged and stuck, our energy begins to flow.

One Response to “Burying Our Dead”

  1. michael cooper says:

    Great insights regarding a fascinating dream image,

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