by Beth Ann Morgan
One thing I did not expect to have after our dark season of trauma was post-traumatic stress. It came out of nowhere, manifesting in different ways at the most unexpected of times. Sleeplessness, depression, nightmares . . . it was terrible.
As we attempted to assimilate back into routine, all of the children had bouts of nightmares. Little Abby had an especially difficult week during a rather trying season, and for the life of us, we couldn’t figure it out.
For years, she had been in love with our next-door neighbors’ dog, Biscuit (she dubbed him Bo-Bo before she could pronounce his name). She would run to our back door with every bark and beg to see the handsome white terrier. We obliged her crush as much as we could, even consenting to piping Biscuit’s picture on her birthday cake.
But then early one morning, she woke, screaming. The blood-curdling kind. I raced to her room and did my best to console her but failed to find the source of her outburst. The scene repeated itself the following night and then every naptime and nighttime for an entire week, her screams often waking us several times each night.
We were beyond desperate for a solution, and finally, we got a hint as to what had happened. One afternoon while the kids played in the backyard, Biscuit bounded into his fenced-in area, barking playfully at my little Morgans through the fence. Abby screamed and raced toward the house. I hurried to her with outstretched arms. She bypassed the arms and lunged at my neck, wrapping around me like a boa constrictor, sobbing.
“Sweetheart, it’s Bo-Bo, your friend.”
“No, he’s not my friend!” Big pools welled in her eyes, confirming her devastation.
“Really? What happened?”
“Bo-Bo,” she said between sobs, “eat me . . . and my bed!”
“What?” The pieces fell into place. “Did you have a bad dream about Bo-Bo?” She nodded, tears streaming down her face. “And that’s what’s making it hard to sleep, when you hear him outside?” More nodding.
“That’s a very scary dream! I’m so sorry, Abby. But you know what? We can fix it.” I told her my plan to move her bed into another room on a different side of the house so that she could no longer hear him barking. “Let’s try it!”
We tried it, and even though the incidents improved slightly, fear followed her into her dreams and continued to torment her the following night. I was spent. I knew she was desperate to conquer this fear, but how was I supposed to help her, to reassure her, to give her something tangible to turn to?
I stared at her bookshelf, and my eyes landed on her favorite book, Jesus Is with Me by Debby Anderson. It’s a simple story that can be sung to the tune of Jingle Bells. I picked it up, and she snuggled into me as I began to sing it to her.
My eyes widened as hope filled my heart.
It was perfect.
“Abby, whenever you have a bad dream or start to feel scary thoughts, you know what you can do? Start singing this song and remind yourself that Jesus is with you . . . ‘here and there and everywhere, Jesus is with me!’ He will help you, Abby, if you ask Him.”
The thought soothed her greatly. She tried it and found great relief, so much so that the book didn’t leave her side for several weeks. We had a few bumps, but within days, Abby was back in the saddle, napping and sleeping like a rock star.
We’ve used the book on several occasions, when we are “here and there and everywhere” as the song goes, so that no matter what’s going on in Abby’s life, she knows she doesn’t have to face her fear alone. I even overheard her start singing the song to her brother, John, when he started talking about Biscuit shortly after the whole ordeal.
John smiled at her. “That’s right, Abby. Jesus is with you.”
She chuckled. “I know!”