The Nightmare Visit

A sudden, high-pitched scream comes from the bedroom. It’s the middle of the night, it’s dark, and he’s having another bad dream. That’s the second one this week.

The father gets out of bed with a sense of urgency and walks awkwardly to his son’s room across the hall. He peers inside, his four-year-old son is sprawled sideways, half covered, half asleep—disordered in his bed. 

“I'm going to lay down and snuggle you,” he whispers to his son, “can you push over a bit?”

His son shows the trace of a smile in the dimly lit room and scooches over—perhaps still mostly asleep—allowing almost enough room for his dad to lay down beside him. The father gets comfortable—somewhat—against the edge of the child-sized bed. 

Whenever a nightmare came, lying in bed and cuddling, father and son, always helped. 

The father holds his son close and feels for his beating heart through the green dinosaur pyjama top. He quietly—thoughtfully, tries to synchronize the young lungs in his son’s chest with his own in their embrace. Slow, deep breathing also helped after a nightmare.

After a few minutes, the heavy breathing slows and the heartbeats of the father and son match up—quiet, resting, and peacefully rhythmic—they lay together and the father feels like the rest of the night will be okay. 

Then the son, turning back around says groggily to his father, “Daddy, is everything okay—why did you scream earlier?”

“Daddy had a bad dream,” he answers, “but everything is now okay.” And the father slept peacefully the rest of the night, arms around his son.

Using Memories to Cope in the Present

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