About three weeks after I lost my son Chad, I thought that I might have also lost my mind. I couldn’t think straight, I couldn’t put sentences together, I couldn’t finish any tasks - even the simplest ones. I could barely manage.
A friend of mine who had lost a son a few years earlier gave my name to a grief counselor, who called me and emotionally and mentally shored me up until we met a few days later. I don’t remember much about that meeting except some words of hers that sounded something like this:
“You have experienced such a traumatic and profound loss that you will never be the same again. In fact, it will take at least two years before you can even begin to accept the fact that Chad is really gone.”
Lump-in-the-throat gulp. Hec, looking back, she was right.
I am not the same. I’m not who I was, and I’m not who I will be. And I have no idea what acceptance truly looks or feels like. As for now, I live in the middle. Some call it liminal space - the space of the threshold. That’s me, that’s us, that’s grieving mothers and grandmothers. We live in the in-between. Those who feel it know it, and it can’t be explained. Except that it’s ghastly sometimes. And terribly uncomfortable too.
It turns out I didn’t lose my mind after I lost Chad in June 2019. It just floated in and out of the premises of my body for a while, in order for me to not really lose it. That’s what trauma can do. It moved my mind out of my body, and even now, (especially when I’m stressed or overwhelmed or crazy-tired like these past few days of my life), I still get triggered and re-traumatized and unconsciously check out of my body. Annoying. Challenging. Earlier this week it felt debilitating. Forcing me to deal with it. Forcing me to take action and do something about it. Forcing me to pay attention to aggressive self-care when I least want to do THAT. (And of course if I would have done THAT sooner, then would I have even been in this uncomfortable situation? Nope. But that's not really the point now, is it?)
Fact is, I don’t like being out of my body.
So I've had to figure out a few ways to deal with it, and since I had to use every one of these resources in the past three days, they're at the top of my mind and I thought I'd share. Please note that I’m not an expert - so I’m tossing in a huge disclaimer here - I don’t have professional expertise. But I do have experience. And I can definitely tell you about some things that help. They might not seem like much but when you’re in a state near freak-out mode, even a little improvement can make a huge difference. Just pick one. All of these things will help ground you into your body. Which, by the way, is the best place to be.
Do some “yoga for trauma”. It’s simple, it’s gentle, and it will help. Search for it on YouTube or google. There are a ton of free and quick classes that will help settle you down for sure. You don’t have to have a mat or the right clothes. Just the floor and maybe a couch cushion or a pillow.
Sleep with a weighted blanket. Hands down the best-ever tool of my entire grief journey was this. I don’t know how I would have slept or existed without it.
Make a list of just the smallest tasks you need to do, and don’t walk away from the dishwasher or the laundry or making the bed until you have that task done. Be fully present to that task without leaving to do ten other things and then end up finding yourself walking around in circles.
Take a shower or a bath. Water breaks negative energy.
Throw some electrolyte powder in some water, shake, and drink 16 ounces of it.
Speaking of shaking, there’s a whole thing called shaking and it helps. If you don’t have the time or energy to research it, just pretend you’re a dog and shake like one. It will really help your nervous system. I’m not kidding. (Who would kid about this?)
Walk. Outside. Breathe fresh air. Notice ten things as you go on your walk and name them aloud. Tell yourself “Right now I am on a walk, and everything is fine”. Repeat that every ten seconds if it helps. Touch trees. Look for feathers or interesting rocks.
Tap. It’s not hard. You can’t mess it up. Yes there are tons of videos and info everywhere about it. It’s also called EFT. Don’t get overwhelmed trying to do it right. Look at a video or read a little about it and then just tap on your head with your fingers. Then tap over your eyebrows with two fingers. Tap on the sides of your eyes, near your temples. Tap under your eyes. Tap under your nose. Tap under your lip. Tap on your collarbone. Tap on the side of your hand. Tap. Tap. Tap.
Dance. Put on some music and dance. If you have a faith tradition where praising and dancing is a thing, do it. And pray if that's a thing for you. Many find this helpful.
Meditate. This might be the last thing you want to do when you’re feeling disjointed. Then don’t do it. But if you can sit still for even a few minutes, don’t worry about doing it right. Just show up and sit. Spirit will do the rest for you - even if all you do is think cray cray things and never settle down for a moment. Your intention to sit will be enough.
Schedule some EMDR sessions. Make sure you find a specialist. If you've been traumatized, it's incredibly helpful, and it works. Google for more info, or email me.
Here's to coming back to your body. Welcome home.
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