Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Thursday's Therapy - It's Not Just About Losing Your Child ~ It's Also Very Much About Coping with a Traumatized Self and Your Inability to Function

Thursday's Therapy

It's Not Just About Losing Your Child ~

It's Also Very Much About Coping with a Traumatized Self and Your Inability to Function

People hear the words "Child-Loss Grief" and think that such grief is just about losing and missing your child. Well, losing and missing your child is indeed a large enough component to knock us off our feet for a long, long time. But what people DON'T GET is that Child-Loss Grief is also about TRAUMA and what that does to minds, bodies, and psyche's that ALSO turns us upside down and changes our lives forever.

In our observations and own experience, we find that after about two years of contending with child-loss, the wear-and-tear that the stress hormones (e.g., cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine) have had on your body and psyche sets you up for Post-Traumatic Stress, which compounds your ability to walk through your grief, adding a traumatized self to the mix.

For example, over time, you will find that any prior unresolved trauma issues, prior attachment issues (e.g., fears of abandonment, etc.), and prior resolved trauma issues even can get retriggered, or even triggered for the first time. And because our brains have been damaged through being traumatized, we are essentially stuck many times in the fight-flight-or-freeze state which emanates from the part of the brain that is primitive, and provides only for our self-protection which will override logic and reasoning because it perceives that there is an imminent threat for the body to prepare for. Then we find ourselves in such a reactionary mode to where sometimes even we don't recognize ourselves.

Child-Loss Trauma then throws us into a domino-effect of losses upon losses that complicate our lives to the point of feeling almost, if not completely, dysfunctional.

Some of the Components of Child-Loss Trauma are as follows:


Look at what happens physiologically to the brain from the severe trauma of losing our child. Such trauma essentially results in literal brain damage, as they can now measure through neuroimaging (if they have a "before" and "after" scan) how the hippocampus of the brain (which controls memory) even shrinks.

  • Memory is impaired. Our procedural memory (habits or procedures we normally do such as grooming, brushing teeth, locking doors, how we get to stores to run errands, how we find our cars in the parking lots once we're done shopping, etc.) is impaired so that we find our daily functioning is greatly impaired. Thus it feels like we are trudging through molasses to do something we used to do without even thinking about it.
  • Concentration is impaired. We may be unable to watch a movie or read a book for awhile once our child is gone. Another child of ours may tell us some important detail in their lives, and we may not register what they say even though we heard them say it.
  • Judgment is impaired.
  • Hypervigilance occurs.
  • Hyperstartle response occurs.
  • Hyperarousal occurs (where we stay in a startle-state mode).
  • Neural pathways that were there before the death of our child have been disrupted and thus you must help your brain find new ways to re-route critical information to the different parts of the brain (such as the medial pre-frontal cortex) to be reprocessed and resolved. In effect, you are stuck in fight-flight-or -freeze state until you can help your brain move that sensory data or information to the appropriate places in the brain for it to be processed and resolved.


  • Besides missing our child, we have lost the future with our child.
  • We have lost the family "nest" of the intact-family-unit we always had, and thought we always would have.
  • We have lost the celebrations of birthdays, holidays, and other family or community rituals that brought us much happiness.
  • Relationships with others whether friends, church members, or even family members are often lost as the chasm between us widens when they cannot understand, respect, or appreciate the devastation that comes with our immense loss.


  • We have lost many assumptive beliefs, such as the belief that the world is a predictable place.
  • We have lost the assumptive belief that the world is a safe place.
  • We have lost a sense of security.
  • We must now live through the rest of our lives knowing with a surety that death can happen to anyone we love in just a moment's time.


  • Many of us have lost trust in God who did not protect us or our child at a critical time in our lives.
  • Most of us have to re-examine our faith to embrace the truths, and throw out the falsehoods that inadvertently crept in and tainted our view of God.
  • Many have difficulty returning to places of worship when there are so many volatile emotions, or confused feelings about God, or angst over trite sayings that wound instead of comfort.
  • Some of us have experienced abandonment from the very people we would have thought would stick by us through thick-and-thin because of their purported life-values, which leads to painful secondary injuries we must add on to our traumatic grief to work through and heal from.


  • We may find that we cannot automatically perform the very work we had done all our adult-lives before our child's death.
  • We may find we have lost the confidence we once had to perform our job.
  • We may find we do not have the emotional stamina to do the work we once did.
  • We may find that we have a fatalistic attitude that impairs us doing our work, e.g., if we couldn't keep our child from danger who was the center of our attention, why should we think we will have success with anything else?
  • We may find that we are impaired in our work due to emotional triggering that interferes with our functioning normally.


  • Immune systems can become compromised.
  • Our bodies can succumb to diseases they once easily fought off, e.g. diseases such as cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
  • There is a much higher incidence of developing addictions or of triggering old addictions to illegal substances, alcohol, prescription medicines, sex, eating disorders, etc.
  • There is a much higher incidence of being accident prone.
  • There is a high incidence of insomnia and/or nightmares.

We find that we are not only left in this life to grieve our child, but it's almost as if everything is up for grabs, and there is a need for redefining everything including self, others, and God. So Child-Loss Grief is not just about losing our child; it is also very much about coping with a traumatized self and an inability to function.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Wednesday's Woe - The Domino Effect of Child- Loss

Wednesday's Woe

The Domino Effect of Child- Loss

To the general public, grief comes in stages, but here's what we know...

The general public wants to think that grief has predictable stages to walk through, and then we're done. But this has not been our experience with Child-Loss Grief. Grief, the word itself, sounds like a singular emotion, but, as one griever brilliantly put it, in Traumatic Grief (like Child-Loss) it is more like a Tangle of Emotions. And to help herself grieve, she had to sort out the tangles, she had to sort out each individual emotion. I would add, we have to sort out each individual loss. Our Child-Loss seems to breed other losses, almost like a domino effect.

Take one example. We not only have lost our child; we have lost the "nest" of the sweet, intact family that we always assumed would be a part of our lives until we die; even should we lose all others around us, our little intact family would remain with us. The constant reminder of that stark loss comes around every day really, but is even more accentuated with every birthday, every holiday, even every public ritual we would normally attend.

In tomorrow's Thursday's Therapy, we hope to talk more about the accumulation of losses that seems to come, part and parcel, with Child-Loss Grief.

Picture, thanks to Google Images

Monday, February 27, 2012

Tuesday's Trust - Time for Some Major Weed Killing… - Agitation Amidst Grief's Identity Crisis

Tuesday's Trust

Time for Some Major Weed Killing…

Agitation Amidst Grief's Identity Crisis

Yes, it's time for some major weed killing… not only in my gardens, but Sunday morning revealed to me the horrific need for some major weed killing… in my heart. I am so ANGRY!!! (Is anyone else angry in their grief? Aaaagh!)

First of all, I don't know who I am these days...

Who am I physically?

With all the grief, I don't even know what size clothes I wear! It's hard to buy clothes when you don't know who you are physically any more. I have dwindled down to almost nothing, and have to make sure I even remember to eat. (For example, today is Sunday, it is right now 4:39 in the afternoon, and I have eaten NOTHING so far! I forget to eat!!!) And I have to work out daily with aerobic exercise to help my poor brain that is trying to overcome this intensive trauma we've all experienced…

Who am I spiritually?

Grief has sent me into plumbing the depths of The Person of God, so I feel that I am much deeper spiritually as Child-Loss Grief really requires a deeper faith and trust. But how does God put up with me on a day like today when I've just about thrown everything out the window that He has diligently taught me? He is so loving and so patient, and I am so unworthy, but as He said, He doesn't come to call the righteous, but to call sinners unto Him… (Thank You God for Your undying love and grace!!!)

Who am I emotionally?

And what is my life's work now that I have been severely traumatized?

I am spent emotionally. My heart is just broken. I am easily triggered. I am easily offended (grief does a great job of exposing who our genuine friends and loved ones are, because we CANNOT tolerate hard hearts around us… AT ALL! If you're mean-spirited, in the least, SCRAM!).

And what is my life's work? What work can I actually do? I am a psychotherapist, specially trained in intensive trauma cases, THE most difficult to treat, THE most dangerous to treat, THE most harrowing to treat, THE most arduous to treat. Have you ever heard of the diagnostic term, "Borderline Personality Disorder" (BPD)? Severe trauma cases include this disorder, and the diagnosis itself causes most therapists, even the kindest of souls, to REFUSE to render treatment to such individuals; these clients will test you and try you and manipulate you and lie to you and threaten you, even worse-- threaten to harm themselves if they're upset with you, etc. etc. etc. (Actually, it makes perfect sense for them to test their therapist so adamantly, as life has treated them horribly, so why should they expect to be able to trust a therapist? Why should they take the risk to let anyone else get close to them? Why should they think the therapist will be any different from all of the abusers in their life? But still…) It is treacherous territory for the therapist, and I have to ask myself, do I really have the emotional stamina for this any more? Who knows?

But I have called around, and all of the other Christian psychotherapists in this city REFUSE to take on another borderline, ever. I even called a psychiatrist this week who very graciously taught me to work with such cases many many years ago, (he admitted to me at the time that no graduate schools teach us how to do this work because they think it is so rare (it actually is NOT), so for those of us who dare to walk the arduous journey with these hurting clients, we all have had to learn to do this work by 'on-the-job' training). But then the psychiatrist admitted to me when I tracked him down this week,

"Angie, I gave up on these people a long time ago; they just seemed to get worse and worse, and there is no medication to 'fix' the disorder."

(Of course there isn't, he agreed; it is only treatable with psychotherapy, and psychiatrists don't do psychotherapy!) But he does at least does try to treat some of their symptoms, and I'll take that. It was just majorly disappointing that the one mental health professional I have found in this town who understands these precious souls better than any others, really, has given up on them!!! (I feel like the Annie Sullivan (Macy) who worked so closely with Helen Keller when things often felt impossible; the disorder is as volatile a situation as that, but more!) So BPD is my specialty as well as its counterpart DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) - picture Sybil… Very heavy duty emotional work, but now I am trying to do it as a Grieving Mother???? Can that even be done???

And then, I have to tangle with the insurance companies who really don't like the idea of intensive treatment for anyone, and IF they will allow the intensive treatment (which is certainly what these disorders require), they will barely pay you anything for it… Aaagh. (And as you know, it is hard enough for us to make a living these days with our own grief forcing us to pound out a different way of working than before the death of our child.)

{After writing the rough draft of this post yesterday -- and before posting it publicly -- today my client's insurance company graciously rose to the challenge they see that is involved in this young woman's life, and are assisting me in a much more gracious manner. God does move mountains when we submit to Him! (He had quite a few things to point out to me yesterday to get me off my "high horse" before I called the insurance company today to see if we could negotiate a more equitable arrangement...) And then, it seems to me, HE moved a mighty big mountain on mine and my client's behalf!!! (Thank You, God!!!)}

Well, back to yesterday, at the height of my angst, I totally took all of this pent-up frustration out on the one person who would take it from me… which happens to be the same person who least deserves to catch it from me, and that is… my loving husband. Wow. Ain't grief fun? Let's just dump this animosity on another grieving parent - way to go, Ang! Fortunately he loves me, and we are making our way through it, but ouch. What is this antagonizing anger that is overtaking my heart??? Time to find the weed kill spray! And quick!

Pictures, thanks to "Grandma's Laughs and Tid Bits" on Facebook, and for grieving mother, M. H. for sharing them with me :0)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Monday's Mourning Ministry - In the Lowest Valley and Through the Valley ~The Isaacs / Walking Through the Valley Today

Monday's Mourning Ministry

In the Lowest Valley
Through the Valley

~The Isaacs


Walking Through the Valley Today

~Angie Bennett Prince, 2/27/2012

Walking through the valley today, my heart in the pits,

near despair, surrounded by shattered hopes and dreams,

One loss leads to another and another, or so it seems...

Barely navigating through this horrid valley of the Shadow of Death,

Taking it out on all around me, it seems.

Lord, I only hold on by a thread;

Without Your help, I am left, filled with dread.

Lift my spirits, keep my eyes on You,

Without Your help, Lord, I'll never make it through…

But You promise, though loss looms larger than me,

You have conquered Death;

From all this fear and dread of loss upon loss, I can be free…

Though I am winded, out of breath,

With Your presence, I can say,

"Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death,

I will fear no evil…for THOU art with me…"

O Lord, please hover near me…

Ever attend to me, hear your wounded child's plea.

The Lowest Valley

~The Isaacs

Lord, I don't want to do one thing on my own

Put me where You want me Lord, where I belong

And give me the strength, Lord, to do Thy perfect will

So when I'm in the lowest valley, I can climb the highest hill

Lord I want to be what You want me to be

Lord I want to do the things You want me to do

Lord help me stay in the center of Thy will

So when I'm in the lowest valley,

I can climb the highest hill.

This world, it gets more wicked every day

People's hearts have grown so cold,

forgotten how to pray!

But if I live to be a hundred

I'll keep falling to Your hand

Until You come and take me Home

To that Promised Land.

Lord I want to be what You want me to be

Lord I want to do the things You want me to do

Lord, help me stay in the center of Thy will

And when I'm in the lowest valley,

I can climb the highest hill.

And when I'm in the lowest valley,

I can climb the highest hill.


Through the Valley

~The Isaacs

So you're lookin' for a way to quench your thirst

to ease your mind, to cool the burn.

It's hard to face the road you're going down

And you're tempted to turn around.

Don't give up, just put one foot in front of the other

And just keep walkin'

Through the valley

Up the mountain

Toward the river,

Sweet redemption.

It's a measure of strength,

a shadow of grace,

a matter of faith

That'll keep you goin'

Just gotta keep on,

Gotta keep on, keep on movin'

Through the valley

Love is waiting on the other Side

It calls your name

Don't break your stride

Freedom's gonna taste twice as sweet

when you get to where you need to be

Don't lose hope;

Just hold on with all of your heart

And just keep prayin'

Through the valley

Up the mountain

Toward the river,

Sweet redemption

It's a measure of strength,

a shadow of grace,

a matter of faith

that'll keep you goin'

you just gotta keep on, gotta keep on,

keep on movin'

Through the valley, yeah

It's a measure of strength,

a shadow of grace,

a matter of faith

that'll keep you goin'

you just gotta keep on, gotta keep on,

gotta keep on, gotta keep on,

keep on movin'

Through the valley

Through the valley

You just gotta keep on,

gotta keep on, keep on movin'

Through the valley

Through the valley

Friday, February 24, 2012

Saturday's Sayings - Love is Eternal

Saturday's Sayings

Love is Eternal


The Rose Beyond the Wall

A rose once grew
where all could see,
sheltered beside
a garden wall,
And as the days passed
swiftly by,
it spread its branches, straight and tall....

One day, a beam of light
shone through
a crevice that had
opened wide ~
The rose bent gently
toward its warmth
then passed beyond
to the other side

Now, you who deeply
feel its loss,
be comforted ~ the rose blooms there ~
Its beauty even greater now,
nurtured by
God's own loving care.

Author Unknown

Lovingly shared by grieving mother, A. A.


No Fear in Heaven
© 2009, Ferna Lary Mills

There are so many things in life that we can't understand,
like why a tragedy like this can happen in this land.
One moment life is perfect and the next it falls apart,
leaving us with nothing but an eternally aching heart.

Our souls cry out in agony amidst the suffering and despair.
We feel the pain and tear our clothes and scream "It isn't fair!".
Spirits are now shattered. Hearts will never be the same.
We grasp at straws and seek to find the one who is to blame.

Horrific as our life now seems, one thing remains quite true.
Our little ones have now been freed to do things angels do.
They can't recall the horrors of those last days they were here.
They remember not the terror, the hurt, nor the fear.

There is no fear in Heaven. No more sorrow. Only Joy.
It's filled with joyous laughter from each little girl and boy.
We can only try to imagine, in spite of all earthly wrongs,
our little angels are learning the words to the Angel's songs.

Amidst the children's laughter and their Heavenly play,
there's also more important work going on there today.
Jesus is building mansions, never taking time to sleep,
for Reunions are being planned, yes, even as we weep.

The children gather around Him and listen to Him speak,
for He has all the answers that they curiously seek.
He tells them for a time, in Heaven, they must wait,
and then they can meet us at Heaven's pearly gate.

~via grieving mother, J. C.


‎"Be thankful for your trials. If you're being tested, you're being perfected. Which means you have a divine purpose & reason to rejoice!"


shared by grieving mother, D. M.


I said a prayer for you today
That God would take your fear away,
And that you would no longer dread
When lights are out and you're in bed.
I prayed God's light to shine right there
To soothe your soul with loving care,
And take away the painful part
Of memories from that little girl
Who was harmed by the evil in this world.
For sister-love is very strong,
And fights real hard to right a wrong.
God's our Father now, you know,
And to His arms we all may go.
He'll take the hurt and ease the pain
So you can live your life again.
You wonder how I know it's true?
Because I lived that life with you.
And nightly angels came to stay
To watch and take my fear away.
God made us sisters for a reason,
And we have weathered many seasons.
Through many more I'll walk with you.

I'll listen and will talk with you.
And if you need me, I'll be there,
And rest assured I'll always care
About your future, present, and past
For our sister-love was meant to last.
I said a prayer for you today,
And God will take your fear away.
And you'll no longer have to dread,
Because Light shines eternal around your bed.

~by Kathi Thornhill

12/20/94 ©


‎"To the people who love you, you are Beautiful already.

This is not because they’re blind to your shortcomings;

But because they so clearly see your soul.

Your shortcomings then dim by comparison.

The people who care about you are willing to let you be imperfect and beautiful!"

- Kelly Turcotte Lloyd

via Back Towards Light

Pictures, thanks to Grieving Mothers

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Friday's Faith - "My Father's Love" ~by Grieving Mother, Wendy

Friday's Faith

"My Father's Love"

~by Grieving Mother, Wendy

Wendy, another grieving mother, lovingly agreed for me to share one of her recent blog posts with you all! Wendy lost her precious daughter Ashley in July of 2009 in a tragic boating accident; little Ashley had just turned eleven years old the week before... In her post from her own grief blog, "Flowers for Momma," posted near Valentine's Day, Wendy provides a great example of a grieving mother catching a glimpse of our Heavenly Father's heart breaking for us as He watches us, His children, amidst our own angst as we grieve our child.


My Father's Love

Valentine's Day is two days away. I remember the way Ashley prepared for this day, carefully designing cards for the one's she loved, wording and rewording until she said it just right, cutting and pasting, trying her hardest to capture the vastness of her love and squish it onto a single card. She paged through magazines and browsed the card racks at stores trying to get ideas for the perfect cards. She would often beg me to let her buy a card from the store (she thought they did a better job), but mommy never relented, a card must be homemade, those were the best a little girl could give. As the day approached, Ashley was disgusted that this day did not deserve "a day off" status, like other holidays! Valentine's Day was a favorite for Ashley. It was the designated day for proclaiming our love for others! For Ashley, every day was valentine's day. She told me every day how much she loved me...that she loved me sooooo much, that in all the world, she would only pick me to be her mommy. Love. Ashley understood Love. She didn't just say how much she loved others, she showed them, every day!

Every year, I also spend an afternoon cutting and pasting as I make valentines for my children. I reflect on my love for each one of them as I make their cards. Although I begin with blank paper, I am amazed that I end up with a unique card designed with love for each one. Today, as I cut and paste, I can't help but to reflect on the lesson of love that my heavenly father has given given me a glimpse of this year.

Dear Ashley,

You taught me so much about love. Before you, I knew what it was like to be loved by my parents. I knew what it was like to love and be loved by my friends, my siblings, my family. I knew the love of my husband, and I knew that God loved me. When you came into my life, I began to know the love that pours from my soul, from the depths of my heart into the tiny life of my child, my flesh and blood. I never knew a love like this until you were born. I wondered how it was possible to love someone so much! What is more, you loved me back even more than I could fathom. Even though I was filled with flaws, you loved me anyway. I thanked God that He would give you a love for me despite who I am.

I loved you more and more. How could it be possible that the love I had for you the day you were born could possibly grow bigger, deeper, wider? As I loved you, I was showing you God's love. You loved God. As you grew, you loved Him more. The more you knew Him, the more you loved him. You would always tell me how much you loved me, and then you would say "but I love God the most." You pointed me back to God.

My heart and soul bleed as I ache for you. I so desperately want to hear those words again. I want to tell you how much I love you. You are gone. But, God remains. I can't always feel him. In the darkness I have wondered about His love. I could not understand. When I held you, in my joy, I knew God's love. How then, do I know God's love in my pain? God can't reveal to me the fullness of his love at first glance. His love grows bigger and deeper and wider as I walk with him.

A few weeks ago my heart was torn as I faced a very large mountain. God gave me the strength I needed to make it that day. Then, when I was fully poured out, I saw that I had only climbed the foothill to the mountain. For the first time in over two years, one of your siblings began to wail for you. The screams of death resounded from this house once again. I had no energy to face this mountain that day. There was no acceptance of my comfort. As I was forced to sit still and helplessly wait, I began to understand a glimpse of another aspect of love. God's love, in pain. My heart bled in agony as I listened. I longed to fix the pain. I wanted to take it far away, to wrap my child in my arms and remove the storm. But, as the storm violently surrounded me, patience filled my soul. I waited. I knew that my child needed to walk through it. I knew that my child would be stronger on the other side. I knew that although it was horrible, my child needed this in order to heal. I had to wait. I would walk my child through.

My eyes began to open and my heart wept as I felt my Father's love for me. I knew that his heart hurts when I am in pain. I knew that he patiently waits for me to walk through the storms, because he knows where I will be when I come through them. He knows that I need to face them, to endure them. He knows that each storm I walk through is making me stronger. He loves me in my pain. He understands.

God chose to show us love through the simple relationship between a parent and a child. I am also his child. He loves me the way He loves his son. God has given me the chance to understand the love a mother has for her children as I hold them in my arms. He as given me the chance to love my child through the searing pain of death, and he is showing me a glimpse of what it is like to love my child in pain and suffering.

God's love is deep, and wide, and high....and I will not see it fully until I am with him. Although I knew that God does not delight in our suffering, it was not until I loved my child through their suffering that I could even remotely understand that He is love even in the storm.

Happy Valentine's Day, my sweet girl!

Thank you Wendy for sharing your heart, and the Father's heart, with us all...