Best Death Possible – Part One -A Mother’s Death

Today, December 13, 2020 is the fifteenth anniversary of my mother’s transition. Until this time I haven’t shared the details of my experience of her death.

There are so many things I would do differently, most are details that would matter only to me, however one thing I believe could’ve changed the outcome.

I want to say right off though, you can’t be a doula and be a daughter at the same time. You just can’t. There are family dynamics, emotions, fears, hopes, anticipatory grief, expectations, and underlying currents at work that you can’t, as a daughter, step out of enough to BE a doula. That said, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a great daughter, in attendance, advocating and emotionally supporting your mother, but I wasn’t that either.

I know this is long so I appreciate you even considering to read it all. It is not meant to be an all inclusive recount of the events, but rather a highlighted exploration of needless trauma. If I were to write it as an account of the experience there would be many many more details about the emotional and relational aspects.

Tuesday

It started on a Tuesday with a call that Mom was in the Emergency Department with difficulty breathing. I was at work and rushed over as soon as I could. I found her in a cubicle sized exam room when I arrived. She had her chemotherapy appointment a day or so before and said she just wasn’t feeling right and was having a hard time breathing.

When her cardiologist came in my mother introduced me like this, “Dr. Kramer, this is my daughter Judy. She hates chemo.” To which he replied, “Yes, it is nasty stuff.” He stated that Mom had congestive heart failure and they would be running additional tests.

The hospital was full, she would wait hours in that cubicle sized room until a patient room opened up. I was working a relatively new job as a therapist in a psychiatrist’s office, and had to return to work, but visited her between patients later in the day. I found her that time in a room that I would’ve sworn was a janitor’s closet earlier that day. It was set off by itself long past any other patient rooms, and as far away from any staff as you could get. We sat for a while and talked about what the doctors were saying and what tests were going to be done. She waited until I was halfway out the door, late for my next appointment, to say, “I’m afraid.” I replied, “I bet you are. This is scary.”

Thing 1 I would change. I would’ve turned around and stayed with her. It turns out the patient I was late to see had cancelled and it was not the policy of the office to call and let therapists know when scheduled appointments cancel. My last appointment of the day was a no show. So, yes, I would’ve stayed with her. I would’ve explored that fear more. I would’ve been a great daughter who was attentive, present and emotionally supportive.

Wednesday

When I returned on Wednesday I found her in a different room wearing a rebreather mask. She was worried about the Christmas cookies she had committed to baking for the hospice she volunteered for. The same hospice I worked for just months before starting my new job. She wanted me to call the volunteer director and let her know the cookies wouldn’t be done.

At this point the diagnosis changed to add pneumonia to the congestive heart failure. I remember seeing the x-ray of her lungs…It looked as if they were wearing woolen sweaters. Where there should be clear darkness, there was fuzzy white. They started her on antibiotics.

Thursday

When I returned Thursday she was on a different type of mask. Her breathing was no better. Her lungs were no better. I knew from my years of working as a hospice social worker that chemo compromises the immune system and that if she was not responding to the antibiotics in 24 hours it was not good. I emailed my Aunt because my father was not ready to call the family in for visiting. My Aunt was not only my father’s sister, but she was my mother’s best friend since long before they were married. There was no way I wasn’t going to tell her what I knew.

By Thursday night the medical staff was out of options. The pulmonologist wanted to do a bronchoscopy to get a biopsy of her lungs to see what kind of infection it was so they could target the treatment. The problem is that after the bronchoscopy she would need to be on a ventilator for an undetermined amount of time. This is something my mother was adamantly opposed to.

Ten years prior she completed a Living Will specifically declining artificial life support. As we discussed the treatment options around her bed she spoke as loudly as she could through that mask that she did not want to be on a ventilator. However, she was ignored. My father is a very intimidating man and overrode her decision; insisting the doctor do the test. Later on, when I would bring up the Living Will Mom signed to attempt to advocate for her, he jumped up, towered over me and yelled, ‘WHAT piece of paper?’

When everyone left the room my mother again reiterated to me that she did not want to be put on a ventilator. We talked about it awhile. I encouraged her to talk to her husband, again, but she wouldn’t. So, I walked her through a process to get her to a place of peace about being on a ventilator short term, if it meant possibly finding an answer. She made me go to her house to bake up the cookie dough she had started.

During this whole time I needed to also be present for my twelve-year old daughter. I had pulled her out of school twice during this time because I wanted her to have every option to have last memories with my mother. Every day my mother got worse and every day I thought would be her last. I was also keeping my mother’s older sister informed who was living in a nursing home. I continued to keep my other aunt informed, as well.

Friday

Friday morning they did the bronchoscopy and by Friday night she looked like a blown-up balloon. During the bronchoscopy they pierced her lung and she was filling up with air. Bloody drainage came from the chest tube and she was indeed on that ventilator. Her doctor went out of town so we were left with an associate. The results of the bronchoscopy were inconclusive so an infectious disease doctor was brought on to determine whether or not to try fungicides or to start her on penicillin, which she was allergic to.

Saturday

By Saturday she was in multi-system organ failure and treatment options were still being discussed with my family. I was hearing lab results familiar to me from my work in hospice. I started to push the medical team about these things and realistic expectations. She agreed to be on the ventilator for a period of three days. She was only continuing to decline since. I failed at keeping her off the ventilator; I would not fail at keeping my promise that it would be short term. That night my father decided that my mother should not be left alone and he wanted me to stay at the hospital.

During the night my mother woke up on the ventilator and wanted my sister, my father and my husband there. She didn’t want to talk until they were there. She wanted my sister and I to get along. She wanted us to watch over our father. She wanted him to stop smoking. She wanted my husband to take care of me. And she wanted to say I love you to all of us.

The staff set me up in a room far away from my mother’s to stay. I wasn’t allowed to sleep in a cot or recliner next to her bed. What was the point of staying if not in her room? It was all too much for me by that time. I called my Aunt in the middle of the night because I just didn’t have anyone else to talk me off the ledge I was on. I’ll never forget the comforting voice on the other end of the phone saying, “Hold on. I’ll be there tomorrow” as I sobbed for the first time.

Sunday

Sunday morning came and there had been further decline. We as a family started talking about removing her from the ventilator, only to find out there was no supporting documentation in her chart by the doctors. Apparently what they were finally saying to us and to the nurses was not what they were documenting. So, again one by one we had conversations with each doctor about her condition and the reality of needing to let her go. By Sunday night we were talking about taking her off the ventilator Monday.

Monday

Monday came and there were faith-based hoops to jump through to get the approval to take her off the ventilator. This was the first time we spoke with anyone from palliative care and I only remember it being one brief conversation. Her doctor returned from out of town and was surprised that she had not recovered. He made his first call to her oncologist who said, “Sometimes patients respond to chemo like this. Give her steroids.” This was an emotionally devastating blow because she had been in multi-system organ failure for days now. Her cardiologist said she would likely not wake up and would need long term care placement if she did recover.

I mean it when I say my mother would rather be dead than be institutionalized living on a ventilator.

Thing 2 I’d change. I would’ve called her oncologist myself the first day she was admitted. She kept saying that she felt fine after chemo but then a day later she didn’t. I wrongly assumed that the medical team INCLUDED the oncologist. I do believe this one thing could’ve changed her outcome.

By Monday afternoon we had everything in place. I was prepared to let her go that afternoon and then I was told that it would be another day. My father wanted to wait until Tuesday.

I lost it.

I have never sobbed so hard, either before or since, as I did then. It was all so exhausting and now to make my mother suffer another day seemed cruel. I just kept yelling, ‘she deserves better than this.’ I understand – now, outside my own grief – that he needed a day to prepare. He had not been able to grasp reality days before as I had been. I had been fighting for days to end her suffering, while he’d been fighting to keep her here.

Tuesday

Tuesday morning came with yet another blow. My mother’s case now needed to be sent to the Ethics committee for approval to remove her from the vent. Why at each turn there was another hurdle someone didn’t foresee I did not understand. It was a Catholic hospital and they didn’t explain in advance the protocol to remove the tubes once in place. I was livid and unable to get face time with the bureaucrats causing my anger.

Tuesday afternoon the tubes were removed. My sister, my father and I were around her bed with our hands on some part of her when she exhaled for the last time, some 45 minutes after the machine was turned off.

I Did The Best I Could

Thing 3 I’d change. Her transition was sterile and un-ceremonial. Aside from the blanket I’d bought her for Christmas and gave her early, there were no personal effects. Nothing of my mother was in her death. I’d have music playing. She loved music. Johnny Mathis maybe or Ann Murray. Maybe Johnny Cash. Or maybe some Boots Randolph. I would’ve brought crystals to surround her. Anointing oils to bless her journey and thank her body for its service. I would’ve chosen a poem or a prayer to recite with all of her family present, not just the three of us.

Thing 4 I’d change, though not necessarily in order of importance…I’d take pictures of her in the hospital. Especially before the ventilator. She would’ve hated it though – no make up, hair unkempt, face mask pressed into her cheeks. As it is though I don’t know when the last picture of my mother was taken.

Despite these things I’d change, I know I did my best, but I still don’t feel it was good enough. We all did the very best we could within a system fraught with death denial. My energy had been used up on decoding the things that weren’t being said, forcing them into the air where my family could pluck them at their ready, then begging for the right things to be done.

This is why thing 5 I’d change, not in order of priority, is hiring a death doula (or better yet I wish the hospital had this service.) This one change would’ve made all the other changes for me. A Death Doula, a Transitions Doula, an End of Life Doula, an End of Life Specialist, a Sacred Attendant…whatever name they go by they offer the same thing – holding dedicated sacred space specific to the transition of loss and supporting the best death possible.

(Continued in Part Two- A Daughter’s Hope)

Attachment To Things Has Gotten A Bad Rap

In a country where hoarding is an epidemic, while simultaneously Marie Kondo has become a celebrity for downsizing, it’s important to understand the reason behind our attachment to possessions and the therapeutic value ‘things’ have in grieving.

“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot,” ūüé∂ a popular lyric and a popular trend when I was growing up in the midwest. Beautiful, architectural, and historical buildings bulldozed, then replaced with parking lots and structures. The trend remains the same, it’s just a different kind of parking structure today…storage facilities.

When people’s attachment to things is such that they require separate housing for their belongings we have to start asking, “why?” It isn’t enough to just roll our eyes and say, ‘commercialism’, or ‘materialism’, or ‘gluttony’, as so often I’ve heard.

When people live in homes that have become unhealthy and deteriorated because attachment to their possessions has become unmanageable, we have do to more than give it a name and slap it into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders.

In a culture that denies death’s inevitability; that has sterilized death and dying care, by allocating it to institutions rather than family members; and has created fantasy worlds on television bombarding people with false notions and images of impossible idyllic life standards, it’s no wonder “things” become important.

Things don’t die and they don’t abandon us.

It’s no secret we don’t do death well in this society, but what is a secret is why we feel so attached to family heirlooms, gifts and mementos, sometimes to the expense of our wellbeing.

It’s more than just ‘sentimentality’. Objects hold energy. Our possessions (things we have owned) hold our energy very strongly because it was constantly bathed in our energy.

However, even store-bought gifts hold the energy of the giver even though it might not have been in their possession for very long. The intent or ‘thought’ behind the gift lives in the material of the gift.

Individuals who have strong attachments to people, and have suffered great loss, will often have stronger attachments to possessions than those who do not have strong attachments to people and/or have not suffered great losses. Holding onto belongings is a coping mechanism designed to exert some control over loss. The theory is ‘I love things because things don’t abandon me. They can’t die and they can’t walk out on me.’ Which is why then those individuals will be devastated if something of value gets broken or stolen (material versions of death and walking out).

When someone dies there are many who rush to get rid of the loved one’s possessions believing the things are painful reminders. They mistakenly believe getting rid of the belongings quickly will facilitate faster grieving. The truth could actually be the exact opposite. Holding onto belongings that hold the energy of the loved one keeps their individual signature vibration within daily life. This enables the relationship to reconfigure. Spoiler alert, we don’t have to stop having relationships with people just because they die.

We don’t stop loving someone when they transition to the next life, whatever you believe that life looks like. Love is energy and energy never dies. Our love just has to have a new focus of attention. Hence why some find visiting gravesites to be important and necessary. A focus. A new physical focus of the relationship.

Others choose to embrace personal belongings of the loved one. A healthy attachment to those things would be someone choosing several items of the person’s belongings to incorporate into daily life. An appropriate amount would be what can easily fold into one’s current living situation and serve a purpose. Serving a purpose is largely defined by the individual. A box of personal belongings that is taken out once every other year and brings comfort does indeed serve a purpose. The rest of the belongings then are easily, even joyfully shared with family, friends and the community by way of donations.

In extreme contrast, an unhealthy attachment to those things, of course, would be the inability to release any of the items to new homes and having the possessions overrun the home. The items cannot be incorporated into daily life, because there is no living actually happening when the possessions…well…take possession of the person. Excessive items stored, whether hoarded in a residence or locked away in a storage facility, are possessions in possession of people. Not a single item can be connected with or appreciated on a daily basis because it is not accessible. So you are paying rent for things to take up space in your life that are not adding quality to your life.

Having the deceased person’s belongings allows us to hold onto a physical representation of that relationship, yes, but it also allows us to continue a relationship with our loved one in a new way. Every time we wear that sweatshirt, we first feel the energy of our loved one that still lives in the material. When we feel that energy we are connecting with it, just as we did when they were alive. Then we might recall some memories. We feel again how we felt when they were alive – even if just for a moment. And whether we know it or not, we are making new memories with that person because we are doing new things while thinking of them.

This is so important. Not just right after a death, but for years going forward. After death, love and grief are forever intertwined. Grief doesn’t end. There is no finish line we magically cross. There is a difference between grieving and grief.

Grieving is the expression of the loss we feel for someone who has recently died. Grief is the cloak that love wears post death. Grieving ends. Grief does not.

Grieving is also called mourning. Its symptoms include but are not limited to sobbing, anger, depression, sadness, lethargy, insomnia, rage, and outbursts. Its cause is the loss of something/someone we love. Grief is loving someone who is no longer on this planet. Grief is the missing of someone. Therefore, we don’t grieve or mourn forever, but we feel grief forever. Many people do not understand this distinction and feel guilt when grieving ebbs, having associated their intense grieving with their intense love. Grieving is connected to the intensity of the loss of the love, not the intensity of the love itself.

When we incorporate loved one’s items into our daily life we are honoring them and ourselves. Instead of the empty place setting at the holiday table, we can focus on feeling their energy present at the table in the dishes they used or passed down to us. Someone’s clothes can be worn to provide us with a hug just when we need one. Clothes can also be made into blankets to promote that safe feeling someone gave us. Personal items can be pinned onto, sewn into or carried for a wedding ceremony as way to connect with them on that special day. Jewelry, as well as dishes, can be passed down for generations ensuring that the energy of the ancestors is prevalent and available for generations to come.

In recognizing the importance of personal items we have to understand our reaction then when these things wear out, get broken or lost. In many ways it is like losing that loved one all over again. We made the transfer from loving this person in body, to loving them in spirit with these items as a tangible tool. It can feel like losing that person all over again when these valued items are lost or broken.

It helps to remember that nothing is ever really lost or broken though. Broken dishes can be made into beautiful mosaic garden stones or even jewelry. Once more we need to make a transition from one physical focus to another. When we lose something of a loved one then it is a little harder to adjust, but it’s still a matter of perspective. You can view it as ‘the loss of one thing, makes room for another.’ Or it can be the impetus for you to take an action you otherwise wouldn’t have. Maybe acquire something of your own that holds as much energy for you. The situations are too numerous to go into in a simple blog post, but I hope you get the idea.

In the crystal gems world we believe that when a stone is lost it is either going on vacation for a much needed rest for a job well done, or it was needed elsewhere by someone else. A broken gem implies that someone you love needs the energy of that stone, thus it broke in order to be in two places at one time (or three or four). Something that shatters into pieces that are rendered unusable is considered to have served its purpose and is returned to the earth where it began. Quite often those pieces find themselves in potted plants where they still continue to be of service by nurturing the plant.

In this society we are too quick to judge…ourselves as well as our neighbors. We are too quick to judge someone’s home as cluttered simply because they have ‘more things’ than we choose to. If the things bring them pleasure and are easily incorporated into their living, then they have just the right amount of things for them. Instead of judging ask them about those things and the stories they hold. When they die you might just find that old cuckoo clock they spent the afternoon telling you about brings you comfort too…

Carol

Holistic Support In Uncertain Times

Carol was the neighborhood mom of my adolescence. Carol’s daughter, Marsha, and my younger sister were the best of friends. While in our youth we were not allies, as we grew into adulthood we grew closer.

I had peripherally understood that Carol had battled a few different types of cancer throughout her life. It’s unfair really, that anyone would have to face multiple cancer fights, but she was known as a fighter. Even in our youth, her warrior spirit was recognizable.

But there comes a day in every warrior’s life when the sword and shield get heavy and it is time to lay them down.

Carol was at peace with her decision to forego aggressive treatments. She was tired and just wanted to BE: BE with her family, BE in her home and to BE with her God.

Carol was at home with hospice care and as so often is the case of only daughters, Marsha was the caregiver of record.

Upon my arrival I found the energy of the house to be chaotic. This is not surprising as our society has created an atmosphere that treats death as a medical event, rather than a holistic experience. Often an individual internally senses when it is time to let go and accepts this new phase of their journey, but in an effort to ‚Äėstay positive‚Äô the family can pressure the patient to ‚Äėnot give up‚Äô. This fear-based disparity creates a chaotic energy in the environment.

Acceptance is a very different energy than giving up. Giving up is premature disengagement usually stemming from depression. Acceptance is completely different. Acceptance is no longer fighting against the tide, it is allowing peace to take the place of fear and standing in the love of those surrounding you. Acceptance transforms the scared energy into sacred energy.

Carol was in acceptance. Her daughter was in acceptance. The rest of the family, maybe not so much.

Acceptance became our first goal so sacred things could start to happen.

Families need permission to be ok with a patient‚Äôs decision. A simple ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs ok‚ÄĚ from someone with experience often opens up a floodgate of relief from self-imposed criticism.

I observed the family as it operated organically. I saw who was comfortable providing what, supported their strengths and nurtured their perceived weaknesses. I could identify small but significant shifts to facilitate the transition from crisis energy to sacred energy.

Once that happened, peace replaced the panic.

I watched as Marsha used the therapeutic ritual techniques I’d suggested to provide holistic support to her mother. Therapeutic ritual techniques not only provides practical emotional and spiritual comfort to the individual, but it also offers an outlet for the underlying helplessness caregivers experience while caring for a dying loved one.

I never orchestrate anything when I am providing holistic support. I aim to be non-invasive and wait for organic opportunities to facilitate sacred moments. When I was alone with Carol I offered spiritual and emotional support and encouragement. When I was alone with family members I listened to their deepest fear revealed and spoke to that.

You can‚Äôt know from one moment to the next what will be of significance so I am always looking for signs. While her son was catching me up on his life, I noticed a change in Carol‚Äôs face. I knew she was looking through the veil to the other side. She smiled, sighed and said ‚ÄėOoohhh‚Äô. I encouraged her to share her vision. She said she saw so many colors. All kinds of colors. Colors she had never before seen. When I asked her what it felt like she said ‚ÄėJoy. It feels like joy.‚Äô

I saw the glow of her vision reflected on her face.

Carol died surrounded by her closest family members just three days later.

Providing holistic support to those facing a life limiting prognosis whether due to aging, trauma or disease is the greatest honor of my life. I understand the complicated struggle that happens along the journey between life and death. I am comfortable having the uncomfortable conversations and holding space so that families and individuals can find their own path, create their own memories and feel empowered in their own experience.

My greatest wish is to support more individuals and families in shifting from scared to sacred.

Judith Klemos BSW, CTTP, ULC Minister
Healing Rites of Passage
http://www.willowsongmedicine.wordpress.com
219 488 6176

Suicide Scapegoating

So many messages these days telling people who are struggling to reach out. Fair enough, but part of what depression does is it mutes your ability to reach. If you are NOT depressed and you see someone struggling, YOU reach out. If you don’t see someone who used to be around, YOU reach out. ~Caissie St. Onge

Sometimes synchronicity still amazes me.


I saw this in a word porn meme today on Facebook. For a few days now I’ve been thinking about how to put into words my thoughts around all those copy and paste posts about ‘put this on your status for 1 hour. If you feel like you might hurt yourself please call me. My phone is always on. My door is always open….” and the suicide prevention hotline.


I myself have made posts after reading yet another notice of someone dying by suicide, stating that I would be available in any capacity to help.


Here’s the problem.


No one wants to announce they are feeling suicidal. The very conditions that exist to create suicidal ideation are rooted in the foundation of isolation, shame and secrecy. It is truly the darkest time of an individual’s life and that does not make for the opportunity of change to suddenly ‘do something different’ and reach out.


YOU are going to have to be a better friend/relative than that. YOU are going to have to hear, “I need help” in other phrases like, “I feel overwhelmed”, “I’m at my wit’s end”, “I’m at the end of my rope”, “I don’t know what else to do”, “I can’t do this anymore”, “I feel hopeless”, “I feel helpless”, “I’m tired” and “I just can’t anymore.” And so so so many more.


YOU have to do your due diligence. Not saying you are responsible for the outcomes, but we can’t put MORE pressure on those who are already overwhelmed. Most of us can identify with the phrase “it is so hard for me to ask for help”, so we must understand that it would be 1000% more difficult to ask for help regarding suicidal feelings than say to borrow $1,000 or any other favor for that matter.


Sad to say, but I really just think all these ‘you can call me’ messages are attempts to make ourselves feel better about suicide and in some ways scapegoat the suicidal person by taking ourselves off the hook. “I did my part, I’m available.’


But are you? How do you respond when someone shares they are going through a hard time? Do you allow them space to share their deepest emotions and experiences? Or do you take the opportunity then to share your own current struggles and take the focus off them to yourself?
Do you offer support and empathy? Or do you tell them not to feel bad, because you have it worse?


Do you offer real help, like taking something off their to do list? Paying a bill for them? Watching their kids? Offering to accompany them to an appointment? Offering to take them to lunch? Offering any part of yourself that is not adding to their burdens????


While we each are ultimately responsible for our own actions, we cannot sit idly by as spectators with our eyes closed and hands over our ears posting “if you need me, I’m here.” Cuz you’re not.

We need to be better at being good human BEINGS.

I love you.

~Jade


Don’t Deny Yourself Because Someone Else Has It Worse

Oh man. I definitely got this message growing up and that is exactly how I taught myself to get through some of the worse times of my life. I discounted my own experience by saying to myself “it isn’t as bad as this other person’s experience so what am I crying about?” And each time any feelings around it came to the surface I would dismiss them all over again with the same thought.¬†

A subsidiary to that is ‘it could be worse’. While that has been helpful in not letting myself fall down a rabbit hole of despair at times, it has also allowed me to dismiss critical feelings related to traumas and other events. Sure I do not want to get all caught up ‘this happened and so now that is what I am’, but I do not want to skip right over the experience with the magic of a fast forward button. No healing comes from that.

We don’t want thinking to keep us down and make us believe we are an eternal victim, but discounting that we have been victimized is not the remedy. In fact, I believe it complicates trauma recovery. There are three places to be in recovery…

1) The place where you talk about it all the time. 

2) The place where you don’t want to talk about it. 

3) The place where you don’t need to talk about it. 

I have known survivors who make sure everyone knows that they are a survivor. Everyone knows their story and many have heard it more than once. 

Telling your story is VITAL in recovery!!! Let me make that clear. In the first stages of recovery you need to tell your story to whomever will listen. It is imperative that you tell your story. But that is the first stage of recovery, you shouldn’t still be feeling you need to share your story all the time if you are 5, 10, 15, and 20 years past it. That’s a complication.

“I don’t want to talk about it” is never a healthy place to be. Not on day one. Not on day 10,999. Now, on day one, it is understandable and normal…and actually, maybe it is healthy in that the mind and body and spirit all need some time to process and maybe you aren’t a verbal processor usually. However, the longer you go without speaking about it, the more difficult it becomes. 

It is much like receiving a traumatic wound. There it is, fresh, gaping, bleeding and painful. The first thing you do is cover it. And you want to keep it covered. You don’t want the lose more blood. You don’t want anything to aggravate it. You don’t want to see it. But then you have to assess the damage. You have to give it attention before infection sets it. You need to maybe have stitches to bring the edges together so it can heal cleaner. 

Same with an emotional trauma wound. You might need to tell your story to the police. To the medical team. To loved ones. To your employer. They will all need to understand the changes that are now in place. Because that is what traumas do. They change us on a cellular level. 

But when you get stuck in ‘I don’t want to talk about it’ you are not processing through the pain to get to the healing part. Instead of hitting ‘fast forward’ you are actually hitting ‘pause’. 

Lastly, there is ‘I don’t need to talk about it’ anymore. You’ve told the story during the early healing phase. You’ve shared it openly with anyone who needed to hear for their own healing process or with whom you are in an intimate relationship. But you aren’t bringing it up at cocktail parties. You aren’t putting it on job applications. And you aren’t, 15 years later telling all the new people you meet. 

In the later stages of recovery and after recovery, you talk about it when it is relevant, when it is helpful or when you are building new intimate relationships. There is a difference between ‘I don’t want to talk about it’ and ‘I don’t need to talk about it’. Initially, those who don’t want to talk about it, might say they don’t need to talk about it, but that is a lie. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but telling your story in the beginning is imperative to getting to the place where you don’t need to tell it anymore.

Those who don’t need to talk about it are in that place because they have already talked about it. They have taken back their power from the experience and now that event has no more power than that day back in high school when they tripped and fell on the stairs.

If you’ve healed, trauma becomes just another event that helped shape you, not define you.

I love you

~Jade

Victim Mindset

Overcoming one’s traumas and the victim identity can be a tricky thing.

While we tend to think of victim thinking as ‘poor me’ thinking, that is only one type. Victim thinking can take many forms.

Think about trauma like conquering a mountain. The midst of the trauma is tantamount to scaling the mountain . You are at the mercy of the mountain. The mountain and your survival is what consumes you. Every step you take, every decision you make is because of the mountain. At any moment the mountain could claim your life. Your whole goal is to get to the top alive. You suffer because of the mountain, therefore you are an active victim of the mountain.

One day you find yourself on top of the mountain! You are done scaling! You commemorate your victory by planting your flag and do a dance! You sit atop the mountain and look back on the terrain that you overcame and you celebrate it! Rightfully so! You still suffer the mountain though, so you are still a victim of the mountain…a¬†surviving¬†victim, but a victim, nonetheless.

Then comes the time to descend the mountain. Every decision you make is still dictated by the mountain, but things are easier now. You are working with gravity and using tools that make the decent much more rapid than the ascent. You are (re)covering the terrain of the mountain and understanding from a different vantage point just how daunting the task had been. You still suffer the mountain, so you are a recovering victim, but a victim nonetheless.

At the bottom of the mountain a transport waits to take you back to a little city in the foothills of the mountain, where you get a hot bath, sweet-smelling soaps, and a hot meal, as well as a clean bed to rest in. You stay here just long enough to regain your strength. You get the proper treatment to set your wounds and injuries on the right path to healing. You debrief as others ask you questions about your adventure and you relive the accomplishment while telling the tale. You rest and begin to rise again in the aftercare, but still you suffer the effects of the mountain so you are a recuperating victim, but a victim nonetheless.

After you are recuperated you discard the equipment that was damaged in the climb, pack up your gear and head off for home. A place far away from the mountain. In your new home you put up a picture of your victory moment and store away your survival gear. Your home is decorated with many aspects of yourself, but only one picture of your conquering¬†Mt. Trauma. Initially, new¬†people in your life will be curious about the picture on your mantel and they will ask about it. Or you might be in a coffee shop and in conversation about what you’ve been up to, you would naturally mention that you recently conquered¬†Mt. Trauma. After some time, however, Mt. Trauma would not come up in general conversation and you are moving away from being any kind of victim of the mountain. You are a¬†transcending¬†victim.

Eventually, Mt. Trauma would just be a picture on your mantelpiece. Then one day that picture might go into a scrapbook and only be revisited once in a long while along with a lot of other memories. This is the point where you have truly conquered Mt. Trauma and are no longer its victim. You have transcended victimhood and become you’re own hero!

The whole process is necessary for complete healing. You can’t skip a step. You can’t jump from survivor to transcending. Coming down from the mountain, telling your story, getting loving support to recuperate and working through to establish a new norm are all vital in getting to transcendence.

If you get stuck on top of the mountain or in the foothills you are still a victim of the mountain. You cannot stay atop the mountain yelling about how you conquered it, and not still be its victim. You cannot take up residence¬†in the cozy foothills, repeatedly telling your story and not still be its victim. You can’t decorate your house predominantly with pictures of Mt. Trauma, plaques that say you climbed Mt. Trauma and display your survival gear as wall decorations and not still be a victim of Mt. Trauma!

If your identity is centered around how you overcame the mountain, then you have become an inside out victim of the mountain.

What is an inside out victim?

It is someone who’s whole identity revolves around being a survivor. As we’ve discussed, a survivor is still a victim. Many of those in the helping professions, including motivational speakers and self-help phenomena are doing nothing more than glorifying the victim status by disguising it with¬†cute little catch phrases. Continuing to highlight the fact that you were once a victim only serves to perpetuate the victim status. Much like you can’t not think of an elephant when someone tells you not to think of an elephant. They are relative terms. One does not exist without the other. You cannot hear ‘survivor’ without associating it with that of which you had once been an active victim. So even though labeling yourself a survivor sounds like a healthy thing to do, you are continuing to subject your subconscious to¬†the victim dichotomy message.

When things in your past are taking up a lot of space in conversations in the present there is a problem. Inside out victims can often come up with some elaborate schemes to present as noble and healthy individuals. Often they put themselves on display where they can show off (without making it look like it) their success at overcoming their past, setting themselves up as an authority and “help” others overcome as they did. The problem with this is that the repeated retelling of their story is the indication that they have not transcended it at all. In fact, it would be my suggestion that this person never did the recovering and recuperating necessary to reach¬†transcending. My thought is that they kept it deep down hidden, rarely talked about it, until they came across something¬†that seemed to give them a pass straight to transcendence. It doesn’t work that way. There are no short cuts in living authentically and healthy.

This is not to disparage all self-help motivators. The most amazing ones can offer changes in perception so drastic that they change lives. These motivators rarely reveal their own past and when they do, it is mostly in snippets to establish credibility or connection with their client. They don’t advertise their story over and over. They don’t give you fancy terms to identify yourself. They give you real tools that enable you to live a well-lived life that don’t include¬†looking at Mt. Trauma in the rearview mirror.

You may ask why looking at Mt. Trauma in the rearview mirror is not desirable. When do you look in your rearview mirror when you are driving? When you are backing up and when you need to see what is coming up from behind you. If you are moving straight ahead there is no need for a rearview mirror.

I love you.

~Jade

A Bit About Trauma…

Everything we are, do, think and believe is connected to our Qi.

Therefore everything we are, do, think and believe affects said Qi. Trauma is a significant disturbance in our Qi. Often it is actually a predetermined event…one we ‘planned’ long before our incarnation. We choreographed it to be a significant factor in our development.

Our mental, emotional, physical and energetic bodies process everything that happens to us. Sometimes we ‘hold onto’ events and they are stored. Other times we simply allow them to pass through our awareness, we glean wisdom from it and release it. This wisdom then plays a part in our development/expansion.

Trauma, due to its very nature is something most people store if they are not aware. Even if they don’t intentionally ‘ignore’ the pain, they may not know how to truly release it from all bodies.

I do a pretty awesome healing session that would assist you in this manner from the energetic standpoint. It facilitates the release from all bodies and provides a clean slate going forward.

I love working with people who are ready to be free of their past experiences and glean only the wisdom after releasing the burden!!

Short and sweet today…

I love you.

~Jade