Friday, February 12, 2010

Thursday's Therapy - Ways We Grieve, Part Six - Trauma

Thursday's Therapy

Ways We Grieve

Part Six


Oh. My. The things we are learning about trauma!

How many of us have said during this terrible grief process,

I feel like I am losing my mind.

When my baby died, I feel like I died with her.

I can't do even routine things through the day without everything taking twice as long.

If I do get out to run an errand, when I leave the store, I cannot find my car.

I can't seem to make a decision about anything.

I forget to eat.

I have to tell myself to breathe.

I leave sacks of groceries in the store.

I can't seem to do anything but grieve.

Before his death, I was a conscientious housekeeper. Now, there are plants growing out of my pool...and I don't care!

Dysfunctional... "Lights are on, but nobody's home..." How can grief devastate not only our broken hearts, but also our minds, our spirits, our functioning, and our bodies?

Tommy and I just returned home from a major Trauma Conference in Atlanta, Georgia presented by the premiere trauma psychiatrist, Dr. Bessel A. van der Kolk (M.D.). Dr. van der Kolk "has been active as a clinician, researcher, and teacher in the area of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and related phenomena since the 70's. His work integrates developmental, biological, psychodynamic, and interpersonal aspects of the impact of trauma and its treatment.

"Dr. van der Kolk's book, Psychological Trauma, was the first integrative text on the subject, painting the far-ranging impact of trauma on the entire person and the range of therapeutic issues which needed to be addressed for recovery. He is professor of psychiatry at Boston University Medical School and Director of The Trauma Center at HRI Hospital in Brookline, Massachusetts." He has conducted many research trials, and has kept abreast of all the nuanced as well as major developments in the psychotherapeutic treatments of trauma.

We have much we want to share with you about what we learned. For now, I will leave you with the discovery made from new laboratory techniques such as P.E.T. scans (Positron Emission Tomography scans) which reveal the physiology behind so much of our afore-mentioned dysfunctionality!

(Positron Emission Tomography is a type of nuclear medicine, and nuclear medicine is a branch of medical imaging that uses small amounts of radioactive material to diagnose or treat a variety of diseases.)

It seems the P.E.T. scans blatantly display the actual damage done to our brains via major trauma. A severe trauma such as the death of a child, in effect, severely traumatizes our cerebellum, disabling that "primitive" part of our brain from communicating effectively with all the other parts of our brain. As a direct result, even basic daily functions are scrambled, disoriented, or blocked. Dr. van der Kolk states quite bluntly that

Yes, of course we feel like we are "losing our minds" because, quite literally, we have "taken leave of our senses"!

And no amount of "words" via our typical talk-treatment psychotherapies can, by themselves, provide the "cure" we need!

Much more to come. Stay tuned!

Information about Dr. Bessel A. van der Kolk found at


1 comment:

danielle198890 said...

The facts listed Re: Grief & Trauma fall-out brings me to tears... So True!! Love you Angie!!

"Bonded By The Battlefield of Bereavement"

Blessings, Danielle

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