Trauma, Grief and the Messy Truth of Gratitude

The Messy Truth

I don’t think we use it causally in my line of work– it’s also something I’ve had a tendency to minimize time and time again in my life.

Trauma can occur in many ways to many people- from my perspective and approach it’s all about how the person experiences the situation or event.

  • Did it have long term impact on their life?
  • Did they struggle to function?
  • Does it still affect them today?
  • Do they experience it in their body?

There’s a wonderful book out there called, “The Body Keeps Score.” It’s all about how our body will remember and store events even when we believe we’re well past it.

Trauma Truth: The Body Remembers

I want to share with you some of my own truth…my body remembers fall whether I want to or not.

*EVERY* August my body remembers that November is coming. I start to feel down, sadness floats up to the top and my heart and soul feel heavier.

It always takes me a week to figure out what brought on this feeling, this seemingly unexpected shift.  My body is quietly being triggered by the shift in morning light that only occurs when fall is coming…when November is coming.

With the cooler temperatures, falling leaves my body is preparing for the onset of a myriad of emotions and with it, the trauma of losing my mom. An additional layer that I must work through, along with the loss of my mom, is the start of my recurrent pregnancy losses. My losses started the day after her death and continued for the next two years…

It was a dark, dark two years for me and my body gets triggered by it every August— a full 3 months prior to the event. That is how impactful her loss and my additional losses were, and are, for me.

About 4 years ago I acknowledged I’m not simply processing grief or complicated grief as my field likes to call it…I’m processing, and still finding my way through, trauma.

No Shortcuts Found Here

This year has tough for me in more ways than I can ever express. I’ve had to listen and work through guilt, shame and fear more times than I want to admit. I’ve had to sit with old story lines, combat why they’re no longer true… and battle for myself. So often, the story lines were tied to voices of “too much” and “never enough.”

With all the transitions and shifting I’ve been working my way through, with all the letting go of the painful story lines, it’s forced me to sit with so much grief…again. While I can try and wish it away all day, in my emotion wheel and continuum, grief sits right next to her sister emotion, trauma. I cannot experience one and not the other, it’s a package deal. I’ve tried about every trick in the book, I’ve even tried to skip to the end result only to discover there is no shortcut…only through.

This work has required me to think even more about my mom this year. Wondering if I’m doing the right thing, if I will recover from disappointing people, if I’m truly putting myself and my family first (or just being selfish) all while wishing I had her insight on it and hug from her.

Below is something I wrote last year and it still rings true for me today:

Remembering my mom today for all the puppet shows she sat through that must have been mind numbing, the times she let me live when I was too sassy for my own good, for hugs she gave when I was struggling to find my place and for the trust and confidence she showed in me when I couldn’t find it for myself.

November is all about gratitude…feeling thankful for the goodness that life offers and brings into our lives. Gratitude is something that we all express- how many of us really allow ourselves to experience it?

Gratitude Doesn’t Just Happen

The topic around gratitude that people don’t like to discuss is this:  it’s hard to have deep, soulful gratitude without pain. So, often in our lives one leads to another in our lives. If we are always striving to live without fear, regret, pain, stress and sadness we don’t get experience the fullness of life–the fullness and experience that only gratitude can bring.

I’m forever grateful for my mom’s powerful presence in my life and I miss her daily. I’m forever grateful for the the beautiful women I get to call family…and those I choose to call family.

I couldn’t have this deep soulful, and sometimes painful, gratitude if it weren’t for the moments, days and months where I called on my deep inner faith and trusted that somewhere, on the other side of all this, there was joy.

— My cup runneth over (Psalm, 23:5)