Violence and Trauma Mark a Soul

I first shared this a few years ago when there was a string of suicides linked to previous school shootings.

It made me think about all the ways violence and trauma (even without overt violence) marks a soul. But it’s hardly limited to school shootings.

Truth is, there are people all around us every. single. day. who have experienced some sort of trauma and we rarely realize it. They are doing the best they can to get on with life, to fit in with society, to fulfill whatever roles they have to play.

And often they do it so well that it’s not until they absolutely can’t take it anymore we realize what a heavy burden they’ve been carrying all along.

We need to normalize asking for help.

Witnessing or experiencing horror scars a heart.  And society rarely does a good job making room for the kind of work it takes for that heart to even begin to heal.

Feel-good news stories about activism, heroism and turning tragedy into triumph send a signal that if you can’t “get over it“, “overcome” or “become stronger” in the wake of the most awful day of your life, you aren’t trying hard enough.

But the truth is that most people DO try. 

They try and try and try but trying isn’t enough.  Tragedy and trauma change a person and no matter how much they may want to go back to the “old” them, they just can’t. 

And that is OK. 

Read the rest here: Aftermath Of Violence: Trauma Marks a Soul

“Acceptance” Isn’t a Stage. It’s a Lifetime.

In all fairness, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross had no idea her research would be taken out of context and plastered across professional literature and media outlets as a definitive explanation for the grief experience.

But she didn’t mind the notoriety.

And ever since, counselors, pastors, laypersons and the general public have come to expect folks to politely follow the five (sometimes described as six) stages of grief up and out of brokenness like a ladder to success.

It doesn’t work that way.

Sometimes those that walk alongside the bereaved are biding time, waiting for that “final” stage of grief: Acceptance.

And some therapists, counselors and armchair psychiatrists are certain that if the grieving mother or father can simply accept the death of a child, he or she can move on–they can get back to a more “normal” life.

But this notion is as ridiculous as imagining that welcoming a new baby into a household doesn’t change everything.

And new parents have months to prepare.

Read the rest here: Loving well: Understanding “Acceptance”

Should I Cry Around My Young Children?

This was not my experience-all my children were adults when Dominic ran ahead to Heaven-but so many grieving parents want to know:  Should I let my younger children see me cry?

How much is too much for them to witness, process and hear?

Do I need to shield them from the awful truth of how much this hurts?  CAN I shield them?

It depends.

Read the rest here: Should I Let My Young Children See Me Cry?

The Battle For My Mind: Thoughts Matter

So much of this battle has been fought in my mind.

Really, even more than in my heart.

Because you can’t argue with sad or shock or missing or disappointment.

But you can absolutely argue with hopelessness (there is nothing to live for), apathy (there is nothing to do) and distrust (there is no one who can help me).

Read the rest here: Thoughts Matter

Time, Child Loss and Major Life Changes

I remember thinking in the first days and weeks after Dominic’s accident that the world really needed to just STOP!

Sunrise, sunset, sunrise again felt like an abomination when my son was never coming home again. Shouldn’t the universe take notice that something was terribly, terribly wrong?

But it didn’t.

So life (even for me and my family) carried on.

Some days lingered like that last bit of honey in the jar-slipping slowly, ever so slowly into nights when my brain betrayed me by replaying all the ifs, whys and should haves as I tried in vain to get some sleep.

Others flew by and I found myself months further into a new year unable to remember how I got there and what I’d done for all that time.

My adult children married, moved, graduated, changed careers, and had their own child (another on the way!).

My mother joined Dominic in Heaven.

I got older.

We’ve celebrated birthdays, anniversaries and holidays.

Daily life isn’t as difficult (most days) as it was in the beginning but my husband’s retirement has forced me to figure things out once again.

I can’t blame it all on the fact we’ve buried a child. I’m pretty sure most couples struggle to find a new normal when one or both give up long term employment for staying home.

Suddenly my little house kingdom has been overtaken by my husband’s love of music in the background (I’m a work in silence kind of gal), his tendency to leave a trail of breadcrumbs (paper, gum wrappers, tools) wherever he goes and a completely different wake/sleep/work cycle than my own.

I have a plan for the next day the night before. He treats every morning as a blank slate and takes a few hours to decide what he will do. By the time he gets going, I’ve nearly finished my list.

Trying hard to accommodate these changes has laid bare one of the main ways I’ve managed my grief for almost eight years.

I can’t make time stop but I work hard to control it. I schedule and plan and execute the plan in an attempt to reorder life so I don’t feel as vulnerable to its vagaries.

It’s a vain attempt.

My husband’s sense of time is challenging my coping mechanism. Once again I need to figure out how to navigate a changing world, how to carry grief and carry on.

I’m working on it.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Sleep and Grief

It’s something I hear often from bereaved parents-sleep is elusive.

Falling asleep was nearly impossible in the first days and weeks after Dominic’s accident. I would lie down utterly exhausted but simply not be able to close my eyes because behind the lids scrolled the awful truth that my son was never coming home again.

Eventually my body overcame my mind and I would drift off for an hour or two but couldn’t stay asleep.

It was years before I finally developed something that resembled a “normal” sleep pattern. Even now I wake at four practically every morning-the time when the deputy’s knock sounded on my door.

Sleep is important. I can’t do the work grief requires if I go too long without it.

I have used (and still use!) various tips and tricks to help me fall asleep and stay asleep. Here are a few of them.

Boy, do I envy my cats’ ability to fall asleep any place, any time.

I’ve lived with chronic physical pain for over a decade and there are nights when it is hard to go to sleep-when it is impossible to ignore the pain.  But I have never thought of myself as having trouble sleeping.

Until now.

Read the rest here: grief and sleep

Healthy Grieving: You Can’t Fake it Forever

There’s a common bit of advice in grief circles:  Fake it until you make it.

It’s not bad as far as it goes and can be pretty useful-especially just after the initial loss and activity surrounding it.

Like when I met the acquaintance in the grocery store a month after burying Dominic and she grabbed me with a giant smile on her face, “How ARE you?!!! It’s SO good to see you out!!!”

I just smiled and stood there as if I appreciated her interest, a deer caught in headlights, silently praying she’d live up to her talkative past and soon move on to another target.

Faked it.

Boom!

BUT there comes a time when faking it is not helpful.  In fact, it’s downright dangerous.

Read the rest here: Can’t Fake It Forever

The Necessity of Setting Healthy Boundaries in Grief

As a people-pleasing first born who hates conflict, giving in has always been  easy for me. It’s only later that I wish I hadn’t.  

So for most of my life, setting personal boundaries has been challenging.

But in the aftermath of child loss, healthy boundaries are no longer optionalthey are necessary for survival.  

So what are healthy boundaries?

Read the rest here: Healthy Boundaries in Grief

Solitude? Isolation? Is There a Difference?

Since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, I find I need even more alone time than before.

That quiet place is where I do my most effective grief work, undisturbed by interruptions and distractions.

But I need to be careful that solitude doesn’t shift into isolation. 

Read the rest here: Solitude or Isolation? Which is it?

Is It Possible to H.A.L.T. a Grief Spiral?

If you’ve ever been in any kind of counseling or recovery group , you have probably seen or heard this acronym and advice: HALT  before you speak.

It’s a great reminder that I should take a moment to consider my frame of mind before I blurt out something that might damage a relationship or wound someone else’s heart.

I had never thought about it until recently, but it is also a great reminder to us who grieve that what we interpret solely as grief (which we cannot control) might be compounded greatly by other things  (some of which we can control).

So I am learning to apply the HALT acronym to a grief spiral in my own life.

Read the rest here: HALTing a Grief Spiral

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