Im Going Outward Bound Once Again- Well, Sort of

Im Going Outward Bound Once Again- Well, Sort of

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Life, Grief and Gardening of a Different Kind….

As you can see, it has been awhile since my last blog post. All I can say is that life has been happening, the good, the bad and everything in between.

I will not kid you, it has been a struggle, and one of the biggest struggles has been dealing with the grief. Grieving, of any kind, takes a lot of work and unfortunately there are no support groups here for my type of grief. It’s hard to explain the enormity of the grieving I am going through, when there is no “tangible loss.” People can’t see what I have lost, because what I am grieving is what happened to me as a kid and caused me to dissociate, and what I grew up with. This realization can be at times overwhelming.  Along with that comes the realization of what ‘could have” and “should have” and the understanding of how it still affects me to this day.

I looked for books to help me through this grief process, but could find very little. I did however find something in the book “The Haunted Self: Structural Dissociation and the Treatment of Chronic Traumatization” ( Onno van der Hart,Ellert R.S. Nijenhuis, Kathy Steele (2006, p. 342-343 ) A section titled “Adaptive Grieving” does speak about this. …..” Immersion in normal life often brings heightened joy and excitement with each new gain and positive experience. But simultaneously there occurs profound grief about missing out on normal life for so long. Both the joy and sadness are related to the realization of the new gains as well as having missed them so long”…..”Grief is hard; it is a task for the emotionally hardy and takes tremendous and sustained mental energy and efficiency. It can be overwhelming at times, and has a strong physical component that mimics sensations of traumatization: anxiety, anger, restlessness, dread, suspense, despair, loneliness, guilt, shame. As C.S Lewis noted in his essay on grief following the death of his wife, “ No one ever told me grief felt like fear” (1961, p.7)

Of course, when it “mimics” those sensations, it takes me time and energy to help the body to understand this is grief and we do not need to go into the fight or flight or re-enactment of past traumatization. As you can see, it’s very complex, - (like everything D.I.D.)-but I do have a great therapist and Dr., friends and family, and I have pulled them all in to help me through this process. Some understand it, some do not, but they have all been wonderful in supporting me the best they can. I have come to realize that as hard as it is, grieving fully, allows me to live and feel life more fully. Instead of running from this grief, I have chosen to honor it, spend time with it, fully embrace and let it unfold as it is meant to. Yes, it is hard and painful work, but it is also liberating.

Because this has taken so much energy, I have once again backed away from my normal activities, dragon boating, golf, socializing etc. I am now happy to say, that I am slowly getting back into the swing of things, but I am still cautious and self-care is my priority.

Last week I went and spent some time out in my much neglected garden. The winter has been great for the weeds and grass to grow throughout, and I must admit that it has been somewhat neglected these last 8 months while I have been working through my stuff and processing. And, as before, once I start working in the garden my mood lifts and I think how therapy is like gardening. The weeds and grass get in the way or block and smother the plants/flowers I want to grow. The weeds can be tiny and easy to pull out, some are bigger and stuck in there, and  last year there was some kind of prickle that  I had to take a shovel to and try to get down deep to pull it out- I have a sneaking suspicion it’s going to return this year.

And like therapy, some things are easy and quick to deal with, and some like that one prickle, take a lot of digging and hard work to get to the root of it. And every once in a while, I am pleasantly surprised when I pull up some big weed, to find that a seed has geminated and against all odds was growing underneath. 

As I was working in my garden I realized I have a lot of work to do before I can plant some more seeds, and once again I will be amazed when the seeds sprout and grow into plants. It then occurred to me that I am also planting another kind of seed, in another kind of garden.

This last week I have had 3 talks/discussions with small groups of high school students. As always these students are amazing, smart, resourceful and dealing with stuff that most people have no idea about. I love talking to youth, hearing what they have to say and answering their amazing questions. I always come away inspired and in awe, hoping I have helped in some way. Later this month I am presenting to two, grade 12 psychology classes, and I know once again I will be amazed by these students. A friend told me I do think you are doing such good work for the younger members of society who will benefit from your experience.  That is quite a legacy.

I guess I never really thought of it like that, but I like that idea. So, while I was gardening the other day, I looked at what I do with the youth as planting seeds. Seeds of hope, resiliency, strength, understanding and compassion, to name just a few. And I know, that seeds can last for years and years and when the conditions are right, these seeds will take hold and grow into some amazing, beautiful flowers.

I can live with that!

Those are my thoughts for today.
With much gratitude