A dream can tint my entire day. I’ve never had trouble remembering them either, and if I have time, I write them down. But, before this week, I rarely dreamt of Todd–maybe once a month. So many nights, I have fallen asleep asking him to come see me in my dreams, willing it to happen, and on the rare occasion that he did show up, I’m hurt, even crying, upon waking because we are separated somehow in the dream.

Dreams come up as discussion topics fairly often in online widows’ groups. I’m not alone in asking my love to come see me in my dreams, nor am I alone among widows who don’t always have positive dreams. 

Articles on dreams of the grieving aren’t very helpful to me as I’ve tried to decipher my own. The ones I’ve found from psychology magazines sugar-coat reality and perpetuate societal myths, describing grievers’ dreams as positive and healing: the loved one visits or brings a message or reassures us of their love. Until recently, none of my dreams were positive, and Todd has never appeared as an ethereal vision reassuring me of his eternal love.

In fact, I didn’t see Todd in my dreams for three months after he died. Then, suddenly, there he was–wearing the clothes we buried him in, cold, gray, and confused, but trying to help fix a fence on the farm. For two years after that jarring dream, all of my dreams involved separation: he’s leaving me or can’t come home; he’s on the phone, but the call drops; he’s found someone else.

One of my favorite dreams came about six months after he died. It’s the only one that has left me a little shaken but also darkly amused. In it, Todd was packing a cooler in the bed of our truck, getting ready to go to a wedding reception with his friends, but I wasn’t allowed to come along and I didn’t understand why. As Todd was driving away with all of his buddies, I yelled after him, “You’ve become a real ass since you died!” 

As funny as that dream seems, until this week, Todd has not been alive or has been somehow separated from me in every single one of my dreams.

Through online discussions with other widows, I have finally figured out that my brain has been making sense of the pain of loss by matching it with other painful events that I have experienced, like a break up or separation. Of course, these hurts are entirely different in their depth and scope, but at least my subconscious is trying to understand and heal from the trauma of losing him. 

Yay brain. How about a dream that makes me happy when I wake up instead of in tears?

In December, I dreamt that Todd left without telling me that he was going to go play disc golf. It was sunny and mild, the grass was deep green, and it smelled like spring. I called Todd’s cell, and he answered and I begged him to let me come play with him. He asked if I wanted to go to a Red Wings game, said that he had tickets good for January through March, would I want to go? Sure, that would be fun, but what about playing disc golf today? I have two new discs that just came in the mail and I can’t wait to throw them, and I’ve been practicing since August, since it was too hot to breathe on the course, and I think I’m good enough to go with the guys now, to practice anyways. Please, let me meet you there, but his voice filled with static, and the call dropped.

And, I thought in my dream-mind that hey, we’re still married, so that should mean that he’ll come home now, that I’m still his wife, and he still loves me because he made plans with me to go to a Red Wings game. In other words, through my dream, I was resolving doubts that he loved me. 

Hooray for healing, but when I woke, it was raining, I was crying, and he wasn’t coming home to take me to a hockey game.

Finally, my dreams are shifting. The other morning, I woke in the middle of a pretty awesome dream, one in which Todd was kissing me, sort of in a silly way, and we tumbled down into the grass next to a creek. I was holding his head up so we could kiss, not passionately, just playing. I woke up mid-dream, happy. This is the first dream of him that I’ve had in 27 months from which I woke up happy. I could feel his kiss on my lips as I woke up.

27 months! This week, he kissed me. The next night, he wrote me a love note folded over and over into a small square and tied with twine. I don’t know what it said exactly, but that’s what he told me it was. Last night, he helped me find my two favorite discs that I had lost in a barn (I haven’t lost them in real life, so this was not a prophetic dream).

I don’t expect my dreams will always be this positive, but I’ll take what I can get. After all the tearful awakenings, I’m due some smiles.



Sue Leathers is an English teacher and mother. She had a huge crush on her husband Todd Kleffman, a journalist, when she was in high school, and she'd save his columns and stories. Decades later, she and Todd found each other through Facebook. He was the love of her life, her high school crush, and she was his biggest fan. She lost Todd in October 2017 to a heart attack. She has found solace in Hope for Widows and in writing of her own journey, and hopes to help other widows by sharing her experiences here.

Sue can be found on Instagram: @susanjanie