The emotional bonds to my family had always been convoluted. Strands of affection, anger, joy, love, rebellion, untold concern, and knots of pure, seething frustration had piled up over the years like heaps of tangled rope from an unfinished project—in such a mess that I had stopped trying to sort them out.
The night after Daddy shot himself, I had a dream that all my family were cave-explorers. We were linked together with nylon ropes and walked cautiously into a cavern that went deep within the earth. On a plateau which only feet away dropped-off into a dark abyss, we pitched our camp for the night. In my dream, I awoke to see Daddy standing close to the plateau’s edge. He turned to look at me for a moment and smiled sadly. Then he jumped. His still-attached ropes nearly pulled us down with him. I dreamt that I frantically secured my sister and mother to a rock so that we wouldn’t be carried over the edge, too. I awoke wadded-up in bedding, struggling, screaming out instructions, trying desperately to get him back—trying urgently to secure everyone else.
The rest of the year after my father’s death, I lived that dream. When my mind wasn’t muddling over Daddy’s suicide, I worried over family members. I was afraid of my mother and sister’s grief and tried to ignore my own. I called, daily; giving out advice to adults capable of living their own lives, and never believed them when they assured me that they were ok.
“…overprotectiveness in relationships is one of the possible consequences of trauma-related guilt.”
Trust After Trauma,
Aphrodite Matsakis, Ph.D