Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wednesday's Woe - Grief and Trauma's Toll ~Tommy and Angie Prince

Wednesday's Woe 

Grief and Trauma's Toll

~Tommy and Angie Prince

(Tommy) Once our child's death happens, notice the impact it has on you… physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, etc. Something that happened in an instant is going to affect us years from now.

For Angie, how long did it take her to get her digestive system straightened out? About 5 1/2 years…

6 1/2 years into it, we are still working out our sleep disturbance. For us, a good night's sleep is the exception rather than the norm.

Emotionally, how long does it take to re-enter society? You are rehabilitating everything: your emotional life, your physical life, your brain, your spiritual life. And the cause for this need for "rehab" is nothing you did to yourself; it was done to you, yet you still feel responsible for it!

In other words, you are hit with the same dynamics of someone who is into self-destructive behaviors: not eating right, not sleeping right, "holing up" away from society; yet you are doing nothing wrong!

(Angie) People seem to think they can "tell" you what you should be doing, but it simply doesn't work that way. In my seminar last week the speaker said to a room full of health-care therapists,

How many of you in this room know that it is healthy to 

  • Eat proper nutrients.
  • Get 8 hours of sleep at night.
  • Exercise 4-6 days/week.
  • Meditate daily.

Everyone in the room raised their hand. 

Now, how many of you can say then, that you do these things regularly?  

NO ONE raised their hand! 

(Bereaved parents can barely raise their head, much less their hand. I myself had had only 2 1/2 hours of sleep the night before this seminar!) 

The speaker's point is this: we don't need advice on what to do!  

We all know what to do, but somehow, we don't seem to be doing it. 

She suggested that what we need instead is a reframing of what we want in our life so that we can take ownership of what we want (to accomplish, achieve, etc.), and then we can help ourselves to take the necessary steps to become more resilient.

Let's consider now the life of a bereaved parent.

This week, I had a grieving mother write to me that she is up in the middle of the night, "seeing" her dead daughter who died in her crib with SIDS. Now, who in the world of otherwise "normal" people is having to deal with that trauma? We are not taking only weeks or months to deal with that problem; we are talking years that it takes to deal with such an assault on our being. This problem is all the result of being traumatized over a little one who means more than life itself to us! This requires understanding on the part of people around us, not condemnation because they only see the symptoms that are wreaking havoc in our lives. (They can't seem to "fix" us, and they feel helpless, so they start demanding superficial fixes for our symptoms!) Rather, we need them to attempt to 
"climb into" our reality, and love us in the midst of such debilitating pain, but who in our worlds are going to do that?!

So it starts with us, ourselves. Can we at least learn to have patience with ourselves and our complex grieving process? Can we begin to recognize and accept that it takes one little baby step at a time just to walk through each and every day? Can we have compassion on ourselves and give ourselves the support we need to walk through this incredible journey into which we have been unwittingly thrown?

For instance, Will we ever laugh again? What can you do to make that happen? Nothing! It's just that one day laughter does come back again! 

"Will I ever have a song going through my head again?" Tommy wondered.  

"I couldn't even listen to music, much less have a song going through my head at that time of my traumatized state!" he says. 

"There was nothing I could 'do' about that. It's just one day, it came back again!"

Could I (Angie) do anything about my digestive system straightening out? It's just one day, it seemed the time was right, so then my left brain was able to implement the normal steps toward stabilization, and it worked! But my emotions had to be at a place of better stabilization before any proper steps could be effective, or it would have all been dismantled again anyway!

All of this complexity is going on inside of us, but of course, no one can see that complexity working its way through our system.  

Something happened to all us that we didn't ask for, and it feels like it's going to take an eternity to walk through it all…

The speaker at the seminar ended her talk with this poem that encourages acceptance for some of this overwhelming complexity in our life:

The Guest House 
~Rumi, (born 1207 A.D.)

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Picture, thanks to Huffington Post

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