Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives 2021 – #Pot Luck -#Grief: Collective Underpinnings In Sudden Loss and Importance of One’s Personal Journey. LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW


Since this series began in January 2018 there have been over 1000 Posts from Your Archives where bloggers have taken the opportunity to share posts to a new audience… mine. The topics have ranged from travel, childhood, recipes, history, family and the most recent series was #PotLuck where I shared a random selection of different topics.

In this series I will be sharing posts from the last six months of 2020

It is an opportunity to showcase your writing skill to my readers and also to share on my social media. Which combined is around the 46,000 mark. If you are an author your books will be mentioned too, along with their buy links and your other social media contacts. Head over to find out how to participate: Posts from Your Archives 2021

This is the second post from LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW of Pespective on Trauma and looks the aspects of grief.

Grief: Collective Underpinnings In Sudden Loss and Importance of One’s Personal Journey

Awake and reflecting on loss, I prepare myself (on this particular morning) to call a friend who is experiencing a new and unexpected loss. A recent pain that holds the potential to awaken every painful place she (my friend) will believe she has failed the person she has lost.

These thoughts beckon me to my own losses, my own people, and the places I want to protect her (and maybe myself) from. Though I know, even if I tried, I cannot protect her from this inevitable experience. (I can only listen, encourage expression, and love her). I expect she will believe she has let her person down. Her brain will find ways, searching for larger reassurance, that if she had only said this, done this, didn’t say this, didn’t do this, would have known. It can go on this way for a long while. This soul wrenching pain, that will absorb blame in the form of regrets, exists in an effort to feel safe. It manifests as a wish to return to the place before loss. The place where we could do better for our loved one. The imaginary place of no regrets.

Both the tendency to search out blame (self and otherwise) and for our brain to link like experiences are normative in grief. They are needed for predictability and, as odd as it sounds, they are needed for safety and survival. We need predictability to feel safe. When loss occurs, life as we knew it is forever changed. We can’t call our person, drop by, or just know they are there. Making sense of this (finding it’s very personal meaning and making it manageable) takes time.

Blame, in some ways, is part of how we make meaning. We rationalize; it would make sense that our person is gone because (we, they, it) did something wrong. It does not make sense that they were here yesterday and now they are not. This is uncomfortable. It seems there has to be a predictable reason. How do we protect ourselves and our loved ones from this? What are we to do with this knowledge? The knowledge that, they aren’t here and they should be. That they might be if only something (some nuanced variable) had or had not occurred? How do we make sure this never happens again? This search, for meaning and safety, seems endless for a time.

It is also worth noting, that our brains ability to find commonality seems a double edged sword in grief. It can bring, along with empathy for experience, heavy doses of emotional numbing. We normally make associations with previous feelings and experiences as a way to learn new skills and to stay safe in our world. It is a deeply ingrained (and needed) survival ability. (i.e. we know not to touch the stove because it is hot, and/or mom or dad (without us ever touching the stove) had a large reaction when we got near it. Our brain associates the hot stove with the experience of touching it and/or the reaction of others. We remember because our own or trusted others reaction to the experience. We made an association that will , ideally, keep us safe in the future.

For my friend, her brain is likely finding associations with the many complex feelings she is attempting to navigate. This loss will touch other places of loss, and can bring further complexity (pain) to her process. This is such a difficult piece to sort in grief. It is important to feel this loss and at some point to recognize (the very non-conscious process) that this loss may be triggering (re-igniting) past experiences of loss. This makes it all the more difficult to make sense of. At times, it can bring long lasting complications around recovery.

As described above, my brain easily finds associations (based on my own experiences of pain and loss) with what (I expect) my friend may feel. I know my feelings attached to sudden and unexpected (non predictable) loss because I have associated experiences. This makes it possible to anticipate what she may be experiencing. I prepare myself (which is why I am awake so early) for our initial conversation by revisiting my loss. Again, this is normative. I imagine she will journey the strange and painful landscape of grief by blaming herself or potentially others. This (could occur) in an attempt to make meaning, by trying to make reality predictable and therefore manageable. I also know it won’t be, at least not, in the beginning.

At this point, because no writing on grief would be complete without referencing Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler, it is important to note researched , legitimately helpful, and beautiful writing (primarily by these authors) exist on this topic. Elizabeth Kubler Ross and David Kessler who collaborated on several books (see links in the recommendations section) provide beautiful and informative guidelines. Kubler Ross provided the well known 5 stages of grief ( denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) and Kessler added a 6th in his latest book Finding Meaning, The Sixth Stage of Grief.

It is also worth noting, as both authors do, that while there is a framework, grief is a uniquely individual journey. It is a process with similar reference points but no set roadmap. We can have differing responses to this process. Like many human reactions, our responses are laid across a continuum of possible reactions. In this writer’s opinion, these reactions range from denial and avoidance to active and conscious grieving. In the beginning, as we are acclimating to the realization that our person and predictability is gone, it seems we can only survive. Sometimes the best we can do is to just get through the day. It takes time to adjust to loss and grasp what this genuinely means to us. Time that must be respected.

It also takes awareness. As noted, a range of possible reactions exist. An individual in denial (which is normative initially) of his or her own pain might engage in activities that numb their own experience. This could take many forms including avoidance through busyness, over-sleeping, addictive behaviors, care-giving, care-seeking, and /or advice-giving (and many other forms) that can minimize or dismiss their own and others experiences. A goal, in navigating grief and loss, is to stay consciously connected to what is occurring internally. This is not easy, and as noted almost impossible, in the beginning phases of the grief process. Overtime, it is however essential.

This (staying consciously connected) means staying aware that one is struggling to make sense of this non-sensible loss. Allowing expression to take shape in ways that acknowledge and not push pain deeper by avoiding, minimizing, or dismissing. Reaching for expression and healthy coping is individual. It can include many strategies. These are considered healthy if there is acknowledgement (primarily to the self) that the coping is pursued to manage the normal feelings connected to loss, that blame and regret are normative, and (if the chosen coping) it is not harmful to self, other, or property.

It is important to recognize in the beginning phases of grief (as Kubler Ross highlights) blame and regret are normative. It is very likely these emotional counterparts will be there is some form. It is a part of the complicated (and again individual) grief process. These emotions may exist in varying degrees. This said, these feelings change overtime. If they do not, it is possible the person is in need of additional support. Self and other blame is not considered normative overtime and will complicate an already complicated and complex process.

It is also worth noting, as often discussed by author and researcher Brene Brown, that blame can perpetuate shame. I would believe that self-blame (can be experienced in the form of regret) and can evolve into a sense of shame overtime. The varied circumstances around unexpected loss are fertile ground for this experience, This is true due to the inability to say what is left unsaid, to share feelings with one’s person, or to physically repair if conflict did exist. If left unspoken or non-supported, these will be complicating factors overtime.

Coming back to my friend, our call, and our connected experience of grief ~ my intention is to show up for her. To be there, to listen, to hear her thoughts and feelings. Providing a safe place for her to be witnessed in her unique pain by being there. I won’t be sharing the thoughts in this writing, my experience of loss, or the following resources, with her today. Possibly at a later time. For now, she needs a listener. Someone to hear about her person, her experience of loss, and all that it means to her. She needs this just as I have needed it in my life and you, quiet likely, have needed in yours.

The experience of loss is not uncommon, especially in our world today. This said, it is a very personal experience and needs a place to be acknowledged in this way. As a personal and unique journey that is collectively understood.

Copyright Protected :© 2020 LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW. All rights reserved.

Professional Disclaimer: It is important to recognize that all information contained in the Perspective on Trauma Blog is informational, and is not intended as a substitute for clinical care. It is not possible to provide informed care through web content, as an informed treatment relationship cannot be formed. If you or a loved one is in need of care, it is important that you access this care from your own care provider.

Agreement of Use: In consideration for your use of and access to the Perspective on Trauma Blog, you agree that LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW is not liable to you for any action or non-action you may take in reliance upon information from the blog. As noted, it is not possible to provide informed (personalized care) through blog content. It is your responsibility to seek individual clinical care from your own provider, who will know or learn your specific circumstances, should care be needed.

Potential Resources:

Literature:

About LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW

This Weblog (blog) is dedicated to providing information, insight, and informed thought into the difficulties inherent in navigating traumatic event, loss, familial pain, and unexpected life circumstances. I have worked as a trauma therapist for the last 21 years and have met many courageous individuals who have worked to navigate these exceedingly difficult areas. It is this experience that leads me to want to share, not only about the impact of trauma, loss, and familial pain, but the very real-life changes and forward movement that can and do occur.

The strength and courage of the individuals, I have had the fortune of working with, lends validity to the healing process. It is my hope that the writing shared here will provide information, insight, and provide or reinforce, belief in the healing process.

Connect to LaDonna: Blog Perspective on Trauma – Facebook: LaDonna Remy MSW – Instagram: LaDonna Remy MSW

 

Thanks for visiting and I hope you will head over to LaDonna’s blog to read other posts in her archives.. thanks Sally.

What’s in a Name – ‘I’ for Ifan – Life and Death


What's in a name 2

Ifan Williams sat in the small velvet chair that usually held his gran’s dressing gown and woollen shawl. The green velveteen gown was now draped over the end of the bed; adding some extra warmth to her feet as she lay sleeping deeply on this winter’s afternoon.

The big double bed was one of the few pieces of furniture in the cottage overlooking the estuary, when David Lloyd had carried his young bride, Megan, over the threshold in 1920. Over the next few years, other pieces, usually made by local craftsmen, had been carefully brought in through the wide front door at the end of the stone path that led from the main road. None of those hand crafted pieces had been replaced in the last fifty years; the sturdy old oak bed was no exception.

His gran lay beneath a patchwork quilt that she had made as part of her bottom drawer. She had explained that expression to Ifan during their nightly chats by the fireside where they sat together after supper. His granddad had died when Ifan was just three years old; whilst he was living far away in South Wales with his mother and father and two older brothers. He had never known him, but he knew his face well from the old photograph above the mantelpiece. A stern looking man with a big bushy moustache and eyebrows, who Ifan was just a little afraid of.

Gran had laughed at this notion and set about telling him tales of his granddad and his life on the mountain. Cadair Idris was on the other side of the estuary, where David had tended sheep for a large landowner all his working life. She told Ifan of his laughter and the way he would pick her up and swing her around the small kitchen when he came back from the pub on a Friday night with two or three pints inside him. She would smile as she sang the verses that David had romanced her with, even when they were middle-aged; tears would come to her eyes at the memory.

Ifan, his mother and twin brothers, Bryn and George, had returned to the valley to live with gran when he was five years old. His dad had been caught in a collapse in a mine and his mother Bronwyn could not stay in a place that held so many memories of him. It was not just her memories, but fear for her older boys who had worshipped their father and planned on following him down the mines when they were old enough. She dreaded the thought of losing them too and decided that a move back to her home away from that possibility was the only way forward. But it was her youngest son who had worried her the most. He would barely eat and at night he would toss and turn in the grip of dark dreams that had him waking; crying and calling for her.

After a few months it became clear that Bryn and George were unhappy despite finding jobs on a local farm. A soon as they turned eighteen they had announced that they wanted to return to work in the mines. They found this rural farming community too quiet and they missed their friends from the cobbled, narrow streets of the mining town. Despite her misgivings, Bronwyn knew that she could not stop them from following their own paths because of her fear. After some failed attempts to get them to change their minds, she arranged for them to board with a neighbour in the same street that they had grown up in. Bronwyn had tried very hard to be brave for Ifan’s sake as they stood hand in hand on the platform, watching the train leave the station carrying the boys back to South  Wales.

That was three years ago and despite initially missing his brothers very much; they made an effort to write to him often, occasionally sending photographs and also ringing to speak to him on the old black telephone in the kitchen. Ifan was now ten years old and had taken on the role of man of the house. Life had settled into a happy and stable routine and he had flourished. His mother too had gone back to work part-time in nearby Dolgellau in a store, walking Ifan to school in the morning and waiting for him when the bell rang at the end of the day. They would arrive home to supper on the table and Ifan particlarly loved his gran’s homemade berry crumble and thick custard.

In the summer holidays after his mother finished work the three of them would take a picnic part of the way up the track that led to the summit of Cadair, sitting on the mossy grass as they ate egg sandwiches and sticky homemade ginger cake. Megan would tell stories of David’s life as a shepherd and one story that Ifan loved to hear time and time again was about the black sheep.

One winter when unexpected early snow was deep on the ground, the farmer and David had trekked up the narrow path to find the flock and bring them down the mountain to safety. It was almost impossible to see through the still falling snow and they had almost given up hope of finding them when David had spotted the old matriarch of the flock. Black against the whiteness and surrounded by unmoving mounds that looked like snowdrifts. As soon as the black ewe saw the men she recognised, she bleated and headed towards them, followed by the rest of the flock; visible now as they turned their dark faces in their direction. Within an hour they were all safely down to the lower slopes and feeding on bales of hay hungrily.

Gran said that in these dangerous mountains every flock needed a strong black ewe at the heart of the flock; wherever she was, they would be safe.

Now gran was very sick and the doctor had been in twice today. Ifan sat rigidly in the delicate chair holding a fragile, blue veined hand in his own small grasp. He looked up at her lined and much loved face and held his breath as he saw her eyes flicker and then open.

‘Hello Cariad my love,’ Megan turned her head on the pillow and squeezed his hand lightly.

‘Gran are you feeling better?’ Ifan leaned forward over the patchwork quilt and stared intently into her deeply lined face.

‘I am very tired pet, but so pleased to see you sitting there like a vision,’ she swallowed with difficulty but then smiled at the worried looking child. ‘Nothing that a good milky cup of cocoa wouldn’t fix.’

The boy stood up and removed her hand from his, placing it gently across the quilt… He rushed to the kitchen where his mother was making supper and grabbed her arm.

‘Mum, mum, gran’s awake and says she wants a cup of milky cocoa.’

His mother frowned and pulling out a chair from the scrubbed wooden kitchen table, she gently pushed Ifan into the seat. Resting her hands on his thin shoulders she kissed the top of his head before leaving the room.

A few minutes later, Ifan heard sobbing coming from the big front bedroom and he rushed down the corridor and burst into the room. His mother was sat in the velvet chair holding Megan’s hand up to her lips; tears filling her eyes. The boy went to the other side of the bed and looked down at his gran as she lay with her eyes closed and a slight smile on her lips. He looked across at Bronwyn and she met his gaze for a moment before shaking her head slowly from side to side.

A few days later the cottage was filled with mourners, most of whom had known Megan all her life and certainly since she had moved into the cottage with David Lloyd so many years ago. Ifan’s brothers had returned home for the funeral and were now on the back porch drinking beer with the men from the town. Ifan slipped away to his gran’s bedroom and sat in the velvet chair with his small fists clenched on his lap. Through his tears he looked over at the bedside table and saw Megan’s reading glasses perched on top of a white envelope. He picked it up and saw that it was addressed to him. The letter was unsealed so he pulled back the flap and removed the slip of paper inside. He read the spidery writing that covered the small piece of paper.

Cariad, please do not be sad. I am in a wonderful place now with your granddad and I want you to remember the story of the black sheep on the mountain. Your mum is now the heart of the family and if you stay close to her and follow her you will be safe and happy. Be brave and I love you my lamb. Gran.

After the visitors had all left; his two brothers’ and his mum sat around the kitchen table with a pot of tea talking about the day and exchanging memories of Megan. Ifan slipped away quietly and put himself to bed. For a few minutes he stared up at the ceiling above his head and then across at his album containing all the family photos he treasured. A white envelope protruded between the pages and there it would stay forever. He switched off the bedside light and within minutes he had drifted off to sleep, dreaming of a black sheep leading her flock across the green hillside in the sunshine.

©sallygeorginacronin What’s In a Name 2015