Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thusday's Therapy Violent Death: Restorative Re-Telling Part Two

Thusday's Therapy

Violent Death: Restorative Re-Telling

Part Two

My story of her dying began with a wailing protest. In those early moments, I could not allow her dying to be happening.

~Edward K. Rynearson

How do you process the unacceptable? How do you process the death of your child? Accept the unacceptable? Live within Death? Accept the Death of the one to whom you gave Life? How can that be done? And yet it is "healthy" to "accept" the death of your child? Well, then how do you "accept" the unacceptable? We will look at some of the process...

Let's back up a minute....

We have talked about the neurophysiological aspects of grief's trauma being lodged in, or stuck in. our brain's cerebellum, and how the brain basically has to be "re-wired" to help complicated grief's trauma travel into the other parts of the brain to be effectively reprocessed.

We have talked about how right-brain activities help to reach that trauma through a "back-door" to the traumatized brain as the "front door" has been bolted shut. For example,

Journaling what happened just after Merry Katherine was killed was not working for me. I was too traumatized, and such writing was too graphic, so just writing the horrid facts was actually re-traumatizing me.
So the Lord laid it on my heart to write poetry, which, (looking back on it) was essentially an endeavor that uses both the left brain AND the right brain...which we now know is an essential factor for healing trauma...

And we have talked about the importance of learning to "float" amidst death's "riptide" that abruptly devastates our lives. Continually "fighting" the riptide becomes unproductive and thus an ineffective way to survive trauma. "Floating" is a way to allow oneself to have reprieves from grief when necessary to process more effectively the violent horror that has been thrown into our lives.

So how do we begin the grief process of the "Restorative Retelling" of the violent death of our child...

Giving Myself a Voice Amidst Her Death

To keep death from defining you and therefore staying "stuck" in the trauma of your child's death, you must reprocess the death in a way that defines who you are in relationship to the death.

When I had to first speak Merry Katherine's death to loved ones who did not yet know of her death, that moment was when her death first became real to me.

Before that, her death was conceptI could not conceive of her not being hereyet speaking, telling my sister for the first time, made it "real" to me, and at that point all of the sorrow began to flow...

I was not a part of Merry Katherine's actual dying, yet her death "happened" to me--therefore, I am now a part of the story, so her story will become my story in that it will be told from my perspective.

So I must formulate "my" story, or I will stay stuck in the trauma of death's horrid ending to her precious life.

Similar to Rynearson's "wailing protest" in the early moments of being told of his wife's death as he "could not allow her dying to be happening," early on I too "heard" myself talking to Merry Katherine with protests soon after I was told of her death:

"I knew this would happen!"

"I couldn't get through to you!"

"Why couldn't you hear me?!"

~almost a still begging of her to listen to my warnings so that her death wouldn't have had to happen, and if she could just hear me, she could be alive, and all would be okay again.

I remember when God led me to journal within the first month after her death, I wrote, in effect,

I do not want to write this because I do not want it to be "real."

Yet telling the story of her death is what began to make it real for me so that I could begin to process through it. Like-it-or-not, it was here and it was real, so I had to feel it, and walk it through with God's help, one-minute-at-a-time.

How does Rynearson approach a restorative direction in telling and retelling his story?

I cannot change the ending of her story. The best I can hope for is that I change myself as I retell it. The realization that I need to find a role for myself in her dying story has been the key to restoring myself.

That insight changes my perspective from helpless witness to include who I was before--a husband and friend who did all I could do to help her. This is not the sort of change that magically erases or reverses what happened. The terror and incoherence of Julie's dying isn't dispelled. I will always feel that.

It is in this realignment of myself, from "her dying" to "our living," that allows a restorative direction to my retelling.

So how does my telling and retelling the story become restorative for me?

Continuing to tell the story ultimately helps me to process it and weave it into the fabric of my current life.

And as I tell and retell the story, I begin to conceive what this "new" life will be like not living without herbut living with her as she is now, in spirit, made new, made whole.

Excerpts are from the book, Retelling Violent Death by Dr. Edward K. Rynerson, pp. xii - xiv


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