Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Thursday's Therapy - Self-Care in Child-Loss Grief: The Importance of Safety Amidst Trauma ~Tommy and Angie Prince ~with Judith Herman, M.D.

Thursday's Therapy

Self-Care in Child-Loss Grief:

The Importance of Safety Amidst Trauma

~Tommy and Angie Prince

~with Judith Herman, M.D.

I heard myself telling a fellow-therapist friend of mine this week how important it is in my child-loss grief to do a lot of "self-care." Then I proceeded to tell her the kinds of things I was trying to do to "care" for myself...

In Trauma and Recovery, Judith Herman talks about how important self-care is in dealing with trauma:

(Our) relationships with other people tend to oscillate between extremes as (we) attempt to establish a sense of safety. (We) may seek to surround ourselves with people at all times, or (we) may isolate (ourselves) completely.

In general, (we) should turn to others for support, but considerable care must be taken to ensure that (we) choose people whom we can trust.

Family members, ... and close friends may be of immeasurable help; they may also interfere with recovery or may themselves be dangerous.

Relatives or close friends who take on the task of participating in the survivor's safety system must expect to have their lives disrupted for a time.

{If you are going to enter our world, it's likely going to be very disruptive to your life. It is going to be uncomfortable, borderline unbearable; you can bet emotions are likely to flow if you are a "safe" person. Of course it is going to feel unbearable; it is well-understood to be the worst possible loss in the world. You cannot minister to a child-loss person from high atop your ivory-tower; you must be willing to climb down into his grief. And it will be painful, but it is human pain that can be comforted if only by being human, and being with him IN it.

Enter in only if you can be kind, compassionate, and accepting of the person where she is while loving her with a gentleness of understanding. You must always "know what you don't know" and let the griever herself tell you how painful her grief is to her. And NEVER, EVER be so arrogant as to think you can give her any kind of so-called "helpful" advice of how to "get over" such a life-long grief that has life-long repercussions of the most painful kind; such arrogance would be an affront to the bereaved, and you will quickly become a persona non grata to the griever from that point on.}

Underlying tensions in family relationships are frequently brought to the light under this sort of crisis. While intervention must focus on helping the survivor and her family to deal with the immediate trauma, sometimes the crisis forces a family to deal with issues that have previously been denied or ignored.

{Many family members refuse to get any such help, and therefore toxic family issues can go unresolved and can therefore interfere with our healing process over grieving our beloved child in the utmost safety needed. If you cannot work on your own issues, you will not have the credibility nor the courage to be with the griever in any kind of healing way.

The narcissism of certain friends or family members can no longer be tolerated. They are "takers" and want life to be all about them, and suddenly we MUST have life be all about us for us to survive.

Up until being in an emotionally vulnerable state, we could possibly tolerate these friends or family members even though we didn't like some of their traits. But now, when we ourselves are undergoing the traumatic loss of a child, and then we experience a direct "hit" from a narcissistic "taker," there is an immediate realization that this is a toxic person that we can no longer be around, and many times that our relationship with such toxic persons can never be the same again.

Energy needs to be expended in self -care and that includes constantly assessing and reassessing relationships for their level of safety or toxicity and relating accordingly. We are in survival mode; it is like being in intensive care emotionally, and therefore we must guard against, and ideally keep out, any toxic emotional "germs" of any kind. But we have to be our own "nursing staff" in developing boundaries and assertiveness to protect ourselves.

Some have compared it to the castles of days of old that were surrounded by a moat: when we assess a person is "safe," we can choose to lower the draw-bridge to let them across and be close to us; when we assess a person is "toxic," we can choose to pull the draw-bridge up and not allow accessibility of any sort as it is just too assaulting to our grief-torn hearts and souls.}

Picture: Thanks to FotoSearch
Judith Herman, M.D., Trauma and Recovery (1992), Associate Professor of Psychiatry at The Harvard Medical School and Director of Training at The Victim of Violence Program at Cambridge Hospital


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