Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘grieving’

This week, I have been talking about the need to remember enough of the trauma to “let go.” I have also been sharing some personal examples of how this process has worked for me. You can catch up here and here.

I don’t want anyone to think that there is something “wrong” with them if they don’t experience the same results that I did in “letting go” of my most traumatizing memory in about three weeks’ time. Healing is not a race or a competition.

I don’t think it is possible to “let go” of trauma in three weeks without a significant amount of practice and experience in working through trauma. When I first started on my healing journey, I recovered memories of the mother-daughter sexual abuse. My “breakthrough crisis” lasted for six weeks – every single minute of six weeks. I then got a four-hour reprieve where I realized there was actually life after this horrifying experience. When the four hours ended, I was right back where I was before – drowning in emotional pain – but this time I had the **hope** of a future that was not consumed by pain.

My therapist assured me that the healing process would move me toward shorter difficult periods (from six weeks to hours or days) and that the easier periods would grow longer (from four hours to weeks or even months!). Of course, I had a hard time believing this in the moment, but it gave me hope.

Healing from child abuse is a process of remembering what happened and finding a way to accept it as part of who you are. The way you get from A to B is going to vary from person to person. For me, yoga and meditation were a huge part of this process. For Michael, yoga is just about the last thing he would do, but art has been very helpful. Art is not my thing (unless you classify writing as “art”), so many of the tools he shares are not tools that I have used. However, we are both moving from A to B one trauma at a time.

The more experience I have in healing from trauma, the better prepared I am to navigate through new memories. My new memories seem to be surfacing about once every six months now, and I am growing more confident in my ability to work through them. If I could just “let it go” without having to remember, I would. That hasn’t been my experience. I need remember enough to heal, and I cannot “let go” until I remember and process.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

In my last blog entry, I answered the question of how a person can “let go” of a traumatic memory that he or she does not remember. I said that you can’t. “Letting go” of a traumatizing memory before processing it is simply denial. The trauma will continue to plague you until you process it. I then shared me experience with healing from mother-daughter sexual abuse – I didn’t have to remember every abusive experience to heal.

Now I would like to focus on healing from the ritual abuse. I recovered my first inkling of there being any ritual abuse with a flash of my soul/spirit being high in the treetops looking down at a bonfire (out-of-body-type memory). Since that first flash, I have recovered quite a few horrific trauma memories of the ritual abuse.

I believe I have needed to process more specific ritual abuse memories than I did of mother-daughter sexual abuse because the ritual abuse memories had significant differences that I needed to heal. With the mother-daughter sexual abuse, it was mostly the same thing over and over again, so I only needed to remember a handful of memories to heal. However, the ritual abuse varied, traumatizing me in different ways. I have had to process specific traumas that are different from one another, at least different enough that I need to work through them one at a time versus in a blanket way.

I started working through the healing process (having flashbacks, seeing a therapist, reading self-help books, etc.) in 2003, and I started working through the ritual abuse traumas in 2005. Even though I did a lot of trauma work and experienced a significant amount of healing, I was still extremely triggered by Christmas because of the memories I just worked through this past Christmas, which I blogged about here:

I could not “piggy-back” that trauma with the other ritual abuse memories despite the fact that I have done an enormous amount of work processing traumas from ritual abuse. I had to remember what happened before I could “let it go.”

I haven’t yet shared what an amazing transformation has taken place inside of me from letting go. For the first time ever, I decided not to “do” anything with those memories. Other that writing about them on the blog, I did not analyze them. I did not sit around thinking about them. I didn’t do exercises to work through my emotions. Instead, I chose to “be” with whatever I felt without judgment or action.

For about three weeks, I was probably clinically depressed. I withdrew from everyone in my life to the extent I could. I didn’t return phone calls or get together with friends. I just went about my day feeling sad. I tried to visualize allowing the pain to pour out of me with nothing to interfere with the process – no distractions, no advice, no trying to make it better, etc.

After about three weeks, I miraculously felt better – I mean really, really better. I found myself sometimes singing Christmas carols and appreciating the beauty of Christmas lights at night. I stopped feeling the urge to wear my “Bah Humbug” shirts. By remembering what happened and “letting go” of the emotions, I found freedom from the emotional bondage.

More tomorrow…

Photo credit: Hekatekris

Read Full Post »

On my blog entry entitled What Does “Letting Go” Mean?, a reader posted the following comment:

How do you let go of abuse you can’t remember? I try to tell people who don’t understand PTSD, “you can’t forget what you can’t remember.” ~PW

The short answer is that you can’t. Trying to “let go” of memories you have not yet processed is simply denial. Well-meaning people sometimes advice child abuse survivors to “let it go,” but what they really mean is to shove it back down inside so nobody has to deal with it. What these people don’t realize is that until you process the trauma, it continues to affect every single area of your life. You cannot “let it go” until you process the trauma.

Considering how much trauma I suffered as a child, I feared I might not live long enough to process every single memory of every traumatizing incident in my life. My therapist assured me that there is no need to recover every memory of the abuse (thank goodness!) You need to process just enough to reach a place of working through accepting that one area of trauma.

For example, I know that my mother sexually abused me from when I was a toddler through around age six. I can pinpoint the length because I recovered a memory of her sexually abusing me as a toddler and then another memory of myself at around age six when my father walked in on my mother hurting me. That’s when her sexual abuse stopped (although it started up again briefly after my father’s death when I was 16).

My mother was a stay-at-home mom and had 24/7 access to my sister and me except when we were in school, so I know there were more incidents than the two. However, I have only recovered a handful of specific memories of being sexually abused by her. One was when I was two years old, and she performed a “new” sexual act on me. Another was the memory of my mother sexually abusing my baby sister in front of me for the first time (when I was four). Within these flashbacks are the thoughts I was having, which confirm that these four incidents were not the only times she sexually abused me.

I have been able to process the trauma of being sexually abused by my mother by working through this handful of specific memories, even though I was likely sexually abused by her hundreds of times. As my therapist said, I don’t have to put myself through reliving all of those incidents. I need to remember enough of what happened to process it and heal.

This blog entry is getting too long, so I will continue with this topic tomorrow…

Photo credit: Hekatekris

Read Full Post »

I have previously shared that I have almost finished reading Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy. I have about 50 pages left to read in the third book, Mockingjay. One of the minor characters is a woman named Johanna Mason, who won one of the previous Hunger Games. She is the tragic character who has both the strength and the weakness of having nobody left to lose.

Johanna makes a comment to Katniss (the lead character) that the one thing she thinks her shrink is right about is that you can never go back to being the person you were before the trauma (in her case, before the Hunger Games). For this reason, she must let go of trying to become that innocent girl again and, instead, find a way to live with being the person she is today.

It’s just a small part of the book, but it was one of the most meaningful conversations for me as a trauma survivor. Because my child abuse started at such a young age, I don’t really have a “before” to go back to, which I guess is a blessing in some respects. I don’t grieve the loss of the innocent girl I was because I don’t remember ever being that person. Still, I do grieve the innocent girl I should have been. I don’t think it’s the same thing, though. I grieve a concept while those whose trauma started later grieve a version of themselves that ceased to exist after the trauma.

I think this dialogue in the book resonated so deeply with me because it is part of the process of “letting go” that I am work through right now. Another thing I need to let go of is any hope of being someone who has never experienced trauma. That ship has sailed and isn’t coming back. It is unrealistic for me to strive to act and react as someone who has never been traumatized acts and reacts.

If I can accept this truth at a heart level, I can let go of my definition of “normal.” I used to tell my therapist that I just want to be a “normal” person. What I meant by this is I want to be like someone who has not endured trauma. That simply is not possible.

This reality does not have to be a “bad” thing. I have many strengths that were honed because I have survived trauma. I need to let go of the labels of “good” or “bad” and, instead, recognize and accept what “is” and “isn’t” without judgment.

Image credit: Amazon.com

Read Full Post »

On my blog entry entitled New Year’s Resolution: Letting Go, a reader posted the following comment:

Ahh, “letting go” – the advice psychologists, family and friends have always given: “Just let it go.” And my standard answer to them as well: “I’d love to let it go if it would only let go of me.” ~jeffssong

Just as how society’s distortion of what “forgiveness” means interferes with many child abuse survivors’ ability to forgive, society’s warped view of “just letting go” can erect barriers to this natural process for child abuse survivors. Let’s explore what “letting go” is and what it isn’t.

First, there is no “just” to letting go. Whenever someone adds the word “just” to “letting go,” what that person is really advising is living in denial. The other person cannot handle the child abuse survivor’s intensity, so the person gives out pat advice that will make him or her feel less uncomfortable.

Someone in my life asked me multiple times why I couldn’t just “stuff it all back inside.” While that question made me angry, at least it was honest. “Just let it go” is a dishonest way of pressuring a child abuse survivor to “stuff it all back inside” or pretend it didn’t happen. That’s not healthy.

“Letting go” is not a moment – it is a process. “Letting go” is a conscious choice to stop “stuffing it all back inside.” It is the choice to feel whatever you need to feel to get to the other side of the pain. Another word for “letting go” is grieving.

Grieving is another concept that isn’t honored in the Western Society. You might get until the funeral to cry, but then it is time to “let it go” and pretend like you didn’t experience a loss. When I was 16, I actually had someone tell me it was time to “get over” my father’s sudden death when it had only been six weeks! My response was, I have even begun grieving him yet!

My favorite definition of grieving is the process you go through to accept your new reality. For example, grieving my father’s death involved whatever I needed to do to stop thinking about what my life should be like right now and, instead, accept that life without my father is my reality.

Let’s circle back to “letting go” – It is the process of letting go of what I think my childhood should have been like and accepting that my life is exactly the way that it is. Part of this process involves letting go of the emotions I have bottled up, letting go of judgments and expectations about who and what I am, and letting go of the need to dwell in the past. “Letting go” is the process I need to go through to look forward in my life rather than always looking back.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

Read Full Post »

PhotobucketOn my blog entry entitled In a Weird Place Today, a reader posted an excerpt from a blog entry entitled The Truth About “Feeling Sorry for Yourself”….. I am so grateful to have learned about that blog entry because it has really helped me clarify where I am emotionally right now.

The following paragraph summarizes the blogger’s position on feeling sorry for yourself:

When experiencing hurt, anger, frustration, sorrow, depression, dissapointment….etc. there is a natural urge which leads towards healing. If we were to “go with the flow” on feelings alone, most of us would probably feel really sorry for ourselves for a while, comfort ourselves, and then, find ways to feel better, and eventually get back into the game. ~ Illusions at Powerful Intentions

I think this explains very nicely where I am right now. I have felt the need to withdraw from most people in my day-to-day life, but I haven’t been able to articulate why. I am coming to realize that I need to “be” right now. I need to “be” with my feelings of grief. I don’t want anyone else cheering me up, distracting me, or trying to fix it. I don’t want to analyze what happened in the past, what I should or shouldn’t be doing now, or what I need to do in the future. I just want to “be.”

My therapist advised me many times to learn to “sit” with my emotions. Don’t try to stuff them down with food, drown them with wine, or control them in any way – just let them “be.” Perhaps I am finally understanding this on a heart level.

I have been frustrated by gaining five pounds since the latest flashbacks surfaced. I am not binge eating, but I am doing some comfort eating. Reading that blogger’s article helped me to recognize that, while I am not wild about the weight gain, it is coming from a place of compassion and comfort.

I am still not very good at knowing what I need or how to nurture myself. I have been trying to follow whatever feels right in the moment. I have played the piano more in the past week than I have in the past year. I have watched TV and eaten cookies. I have written when I felt like it and refrained from writing when I felt like it.

I have been trying not to label where I am right now as “good” or “bad” – it just is. However, reading that article has helped me to see where I am in a more positive light.

When I have head cold, I know there is nothing I can do to make it magically go away. I accept that I am going to feel lousy for a few days. I eat some chicken soup, nap, and watch TV – little things that I know will comfort me until I feel better. I don’t think where I am right now is much different, only the pain is in my spirit instead of my body.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

Read Full Post »

I shared yesterday that a dear friend of mine passed away. Lori Schmitt was the owner and operator of Isurvive, which is a message board for adult survivors of child abuse. Lori did not create the board. I found it in 2003 (and don’t know how long it had been around before this), and Lori took over roughly two years later (~ 2005). Isurvive was a good place before, but Lori took it to a whole new level, adding the toll-free number, the chat room, a Positive Transitions forum, a place for survivors of ritualized abuse to talk, and many other enhancements. Although I never met Lori face-to-face, she was very dear to me, and I am so saddened by her passing.

Coincidentally (or perhaps not coincidentally), I spent yesterday morning thinking about healing mentors and the sadness of losing them. I was doing yoga for the first time in a while (because I battled so much illness this winter), and I started thinking about P, my one-on-one yoga instructor who moved away a couple of years ago. P was much more than a yoga instructor to me. She is a fellow child abuse survivor who is much farther along her healing and spiritual journey than I am.

I would see P for a yoga session every three or four weeks, but I always got so much more out of it than yoga tips. She was always so “in tune” with where I was emotionally. She just “knew” when I was doing well or (as was typically the case) struggling, and she always had the answers I needed to find my way. She moved to another state a couple of years ago, and it was hard to see her go. She was a safety net for me of sorts, always putting me back on the right path both emotionally and spiritually. Without her here to guide me, I have to take responsibility for doing this myself.

As I mused about the loss of this mentor, I had no idea that another mentor had already left me the day before. Lori was another person who always believed in me, always saw the best in me, and was always there for me. While I rarely leaned in her in the past several years, she was my safety net. Just knowing that she was there for me helped give me the courage to fly … to this blog, among other things. Now that safety net is gone. Even though I know I don’t need it, there is something hard and sad about knowing that you are now on your own.

Of course, we are never alone. We grow and change, and we transform from being the mentee to the mentor. Our investments in others have ripple effects. Because of Lori’s investment in me, I invest in all of you. Several of you have told me that I have inspired you to start your own blogs, and you will wind up investing in others as you do this. I hope that Lori is able to see just how many lives that she touched and that the ripples from her kindness will continue for many years to come.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »