home page

Great gifts, great cause, shop our store to support widows.


“The Making of Wandering Still”, A Video Exploring the Dreams of the Bereaved
by Kate Pourshariarti

           What happened was this: I lost my family, best friend, and childhood all at one time; I lost my mother.

           First of all, there was the accident- a meeting of two cars on one plane, at two speeds, in one dimension, by chance. Then there was the loss, and the terrible darkness. Then there was a need to wallow, to lick wounds that didn’t seem able to close. There was also fear- the peculiar fear that day by day, time was dividing us, as if I were on a plane flying away from her in time, and the farther we flew apart, the less we had in common, the less there was left of us.

           And then came the dreams. At first the were vicious and viscous too, full of rot and decomposition, some sort of reckoning of where the body goes, in fast motion. My dreams revisited the trauma of seeing my mother as a person, being turned into a thing, again and again. Then came the separation dreams- the ones where she and I were in the same building, but divided by glass walls. Perhaps worse than not being able to get to where she was, was seeing the look of resignation and disaffection in her expression- as if she wasn’t really there anyway. I would awaken bereft.

          Little by little, sprinkled in, came the magic dreams. In one, I found myself hanging out with her, laughing and goofing as we always did, out on a drive. We pulled up in front of our house and I got ready to shout out to the neighbors, “Hey guys- look who’s here! It was all a mistake! Mom’s back!” But before a word leaves me, she says “Shhh… you see, you are the only one here who can see me. I am invisible to everyone else. Don’t tell them or they might think you are crazy.” I hear her, and feel lucky, but slowly feel the horrible pull back to consciousness. What she has said begins to make me realize it is a dream, and so I begin to awaken, while struggling to stay in that place where we are still together.

         Well, who knows how it happened, in the end? Night by night, dream by dream, my mother and I got back to our normal lives together. I started to notice that we were doing very ordinary, almost banal things together, always having a ball, catching up on things, just being happy together. Not only that, but I learned to be happy for the dreams, instead of regretting their end. I knew that another one would come, and we would be back together again for a visit.

          A metaphysical question had raised itself. I wondered at the metaphor between dreaming and after-life. Could it be that dream times were an opportunity for two worlds to interface? Perhaps in our rational waking states, we closed a door firmly between “here” and “there”, but in our sleep, the door swung open of it’s own accord. I wondered if dreams such as mine were common amongst the bereaved. Then I thought, wow, that might make a really interesting documentary. I wonder if anyone would want to be in it?

           I saw an ad in the City Paper, one of those free newspapers that most cities have, that said that you could run a free ad for a non-profit project, and so I ran an ad as follows: “Have you had dreams about someone close to you that has died? If so, do you want to be in a documentary about it? Call Kate at . . .”

           Strangely enough, over 35 people responded to my ad just in the first weekend. Thus began one of the most healing and exciting adventures of my life.

            I decided to ask people to meet me in their favorite place, wearing their favorite clothes. I only asked one or two questions to make sure that they we were talking about the same thing- I had gotten a few calls from the ESP crowd, and had to weed them out. I met an amazing cross section of people. Almost right away, I felt like we were in the same family- we had both been through the same horror, and dreams had somehow helped us get through. There was the lady with the stillborn baby, who came to her in dreams as a bigger kid, and showed her how it all worked out OK. There was a middle aged man whose beloved housekeeper/nanny had died, and he saw that she had ended up in her beloved Hawaii, which was her vision of paradise. There were also some more gruesome dreams, like my earlier ones, where perhaps the dreamer needed some more forceful way of separating from their person who died.

             The one universal thing was, not only did the camera end up bringing us closer together, but all of the people I interviewed told me that they felt better, in fact felt relieved to be able to tell their story out loud. It was also a balm to my soul, my grief slowly took on a different, more bearable tone. I took my time working on the video project, not wanting it to end. It was a thrill calling a complete stranger and becoming friends in the course of working together for a few hours. I was overwhelmed by the kindness shown to me, the generosity of people willing to meet up with me, a total stranger, and share a deep part of themselves, without material compensation. I felt like a tree that had reached out its branches to the world, and been rewarded by meeting with sunshine.

Kate Pourshariati has a degree in fine arts from Cooper Union for  the Advancement of Science and Art, and in filmmaking from the City College of New York . She lives in  Philadelphia, where she teaches, and creates radio and video productions.  Kate and her family are planning a trip to  India where Kate will be researching a radio piece about traveling in  India with kids, as well as interviewing women pilots for another production, in the coming year.

Kate Pourshariati’s video, Wandering Still, is available for $75.00. Please visit our store or send an e-mail request for the video to: info@griefandrenewal.com


return to top
return to personal experiences & essays
return to articles main page