Nightmares After Divorce

Divorce Can Be a Real Nightmare

I never truly realized how much healing I still have to do from my eleven years of matrimony. Unsettling nightmares after divorce, are tell-tale signs that there’s still much work to do. Usually, it becomes apparent to me when I interact with friends dealing with the same issues. Other times, something triggers a reaction within me that takes me back in time. Moreover, I am a pillar of strength for those around me, but when I get back in my quiet place, I am painfully aware that I am not there yet.

I know I’m still dealing with it when things arise that should result in communication between the two of us but it just doesn’t happen. I suppose the wounds we’ve inflicted on each other are still GUSHING with blood like a severed artery. By this time though, I had hoped that we could have at least found some kind of resolve. However, after a train-wreck marriage, a violent separation, messy custody battle, and a difficult equitable distribution hearing later, it seems that it will never happen.

Are Nightmares a Part of Divorce Healing?

nightmares divorceWhat’s most troubling for me right now is that I have very disturbing nightmares still, and in those dreams, I always fear for my life. They always go the same way: We’re somewhere talking, we start to argue, and I say something wrong, and like a switch has been flipped, he never says another word for the remainder of the dream. Now, he’s chasing me.

The anxiety is choking me while I sleep, and I feel that I can barely breathe. I toss and I turn while I’m running in these dreams. He never catches me, but I feel hunted like wild game. If you’ve ever read the short story, The Most Dangerous Game, that’s what it’s like.

In the story, Richard Connell tells the story of a big game hunter named Rainsford, who falls overboard from his ship and swims to a nearby island (after realizing that he cannot make it back to the ship). He has two choices upon meeting the antagonist: play the game or die. He must tango with General Zaroft, or be whipped to death by his deaf-mute servant, Ivan. He spends most of the story running for survival, narrowly escaping the traps Zaroft has set for him around the island.

These nightmares always make me think of Connell’s story. I wake up each time feeling extremely bothered and uneasy, and unfortunately, drenched with sweat. Far too often, I’ll change my night-clothes, eventually go back to sleep, and the dreams pick right back up from where I left off. Are you kidding me right now?

Finding Strength in Friendships

// for being my friends! 

While searching for answers, I finally decided to share what has been happening with a group of friends. One of them wrote back to me,

Joan I believe PTSD, trauma and the way it affects us shows up in fear. You may not be walking around day-to-day scared but inside the fear you felt in your home was real. Fear of how he may react, what he may say or do when under the influence of […….] kept you ready for a fight..that fear is still there and your subconscious is letting you know. That’s the control that it still has. Maybe you should start writing down when these dreams come and what you were thinking about or dealing with that day…I’m sure you will start to see an association or some type of trigger that made these feelings come up.. I think you have done an awesome job getting over that relationship but its only been 3 years and you were in that cycle of abuse much longer.. So it may take more time to purge all those remnants out of your spirit/soul..the same way those spirits of depression tried to get you last week. Don’t think the devil stops working just because we’re sleeping. But the thing about it is, God has not given us a spirit of fear. So this too, shall and will faith you bind up that spirit of fear in the name of Jesus before you go to sleep…doesn’t mean you will never have another, but telling God you recognize it for what it is and even in your sleep, you are availing yourself to him. So if it does happen you can wake up in peace love and a sound mind.

To Avoid Divorce, Do Not Overlook the Red Flags

I will note I do not fear for my life consciously. I do think my friend summed up the root of my subconscious feelings perfectly. I’ve learned that the aftereffects of divorce is nothing like ending a friendship or a romantic relationship.

Reflecting Upon My Divorce 

I have been abundantly blessed since we split. However, there’s a gaping hole in my life’s journey that spans from my late 20’s and most of my 30’s. A deep hole that we both share because we ignored the red flags. We were disobedient to God:
  • We weren’t equally yoked, neither in our expectations, our life’s goals, our experiences in life, nor in our upbringings.
  • We didn’t cleave to each other.
  • We didn’t fight fair, and we underestimated the vicious power of the tongue.
  • We fought each other harder than we fought for US.
  • We involved too many outsiders into our problems instead of working through them together, by faith.

Healing Will Happen Over Time

No one from the National Divorce Council is going to drop by my house with a plaque that reads:

THE SISTA GIRL AWARD is Presented to

Joan Sharpe McCullough for her excellence in

Divorcing Like A BOSS!

You’d better know it too. God will, however heal us both when he is ready. I’ll trust in Him and wait patiently for complete resolution. Meanwhile, the nightmares must be byproducts of the healing process. It’s a good thing I’m in tip-top shape in my dreams!

I’d love to hear your story. Leave a comment below if you want to share!

13 thoughts on “Nightmares After Divorce

  1. Please do more of these posts! This is so interesting. I don’t usually dream of being chased, but I do have a recurring dream of choking, especially when I’ve taken on too much responsibility and feel overwhelmed.
    Look at the bright side. You are fortunate because he never catches you, which means that you still have time to conquer “whatever” you are running from.


  2. Thank you so much for sharing. I have to believe in this fight it is all in HIS time. I wish you blessings on your healing journey as I do myself…


  3. Really appreciated your candor. May you have a sense of God’s presence throughout each day- when you feel Him close and when it feels there is a distance: He is still near:)


  4. Your story really relieves me. Knowing that I am a male in a devastating toxic divorce, I am not ashamed that I am also facing these nightmares. It is very emotionally disturbing. I can relate to the waking up anxiously and sweating. I do and will seek help. I am just struggling in not having flashbacks everywhere I go.


  5. I just went thru a divorce from a 28 year marriage. I argue or fight with him in my sleep. I’ve fought more with him in dreams than I ever did during our marriage. I learned things about him after the separation than I ever knew. I walked in inn him with a junkie and later found out he was a junkie. In my dreams I get vey violent and I’m not a violent person. How can I make this stop? I’m so tired when i wake up that I have no energy. He caused me to lose everything including the home my dad left me. That’s just the beginning of the horrible things he did to me. The list is too long to write. Please, any advise would be greatly appreciated.


    1. I think you should seek cognitive behavioral therapy as soon as possible. I am sorry I am late responding. However, if you have not already, seek the counseling. A simple prescription for a sleep aid ended my nightmares, so hopefully the same will be true for you.


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