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George Estevez is David Mayer's partner for 57 years, and then he's gone, throwing David into a tailspin. Grief has made old abandonment issues surface and a new fear of being alone is all consuming. There is constant talk about joining George in heaven. In the course of his one-to-one counseling with social work intern Frank Wilberding at Rainbow Hospice, I am brought in to support Wilberdings's work at incorporating more "ritual" into David's life to commemorate his life with George. We agreed that I would visualize a preferred story of David's which consisted of a dream he shared of George leading a choir - that included David - at the prestigious Llangollen International Festival in Wales.
In his own words, David describes his Dreamscape for the first time:
"It sort of embodies everything: his love, his feelings towards me. George is conducting but I am happy. I'm smiling because he's right behind me there. It's very comforting. He's cupping my head, almost like a caress, as tender as you can get. I'm part of the singers. I'm smiling more than singing... George is saying: "David come home - to heaven. But everything's ok. I don't want to come yet ..."
On the third anniversary of George's death, David was relishing the fact that of all the people in his bereavement group -with some coming to the group for 4-5 years - he was now the one that seemed to have the most positive attitude! He spoke of dreaming a lot of "happy dreams," and George is in his dreams; that they talk, and that George is in good health. He even comments: "See, I'm not ready to go now." He identifies the Dreamscape as a transitional object that honors the relationship he had with George. In the emerging theory of grief by Bob Neimeyer - caregiving through a transitional object has a great deal to do with taking that representation forward.
Four years later, David spoke with me again about how his Dreamscape was still working for him:
"The Dreamscape - I am looking right it now. Every time visitors come I tell them about it. A month ago, my Scottish family said get over here next year, you have to come. The only thing that will happen, when we go to Scotland, is that we'll go down to Wales. Going back over -- it's part of the requirements to fulfill this. Those were some of the happiest times when George and I were there. I'll go up to my favorite place in the world, this castle where you stand and get a 360 degree view."