LIFE AFTER SHOCK
Resiliency. Life after shock is sobering. The shock hits! Bam! What is your personal response? How do you cope?
Shocks initiate from diverse occurrences. These can be caused by individual trauma, as well as local, country-wide or global disturbances. A short list of causes of shock is below. There are many, many more.
Loss of a child in a custody battle.
A diagnosis of cancer for you or a loved one
Unexpected death of a friend or loved one.
A wildfire that burns your home.
An earthquake that demolishes a city.
A gunman that murders individuals in a movie theater or a school.
Shootings in your local neighborhood – many of which result in deaths of innocent people including children.
An election result that puts a narcissistic person in power who stands for division and hatred.
How do you cope when your first hear of the news? What is your behavior the next day? A week later? A month? Years?
If you research the topic of resiliency on the Internet, you will find many articles on this topic. My life (as well as others) have consisted of much trauma and moments of shock. There is no simple solution to life’s complicated problems.
One of the worse shocks I received was the day after Thanksgiving in 2007 when my daughter, Megan, and I were discovered in Spokane, WA. I, as a protective parent, was arrested. Megan was taken to a facility and full custody was eventually given to her father. (I will not repeat my story here. Please read more on my website if you are interested.) After that day, my life was never the same. The shock of losing one’s child (whether for years or to death) is one that does not go away quickly. I eventually faced a trial because I was charged with custodial interference. The jury was hung. The charges were eventually dismissed. The damage was done though.
Here I am now – further along on my healing path and a life coach. How did I survive the shock?
Resiliency: life after shock –
Even as I write this, tears form. Life is very hard for many of us.
As a recovering alcoholic and one who attended 90 12-step meetings in 90 days in order to gain my sobriety in 2002, I had to deal with the desire to self-medicate with alcohol. I was starting to share my past of abuse with my pastoral counselor as well as face the reality of the abuse in my marriage.
In 12-step meetings, you often hear of living life one day at a time. Well, the reality is that life consisted of one hour at a time, one minute at a time ….. Many days consisted of minutes – minutes when you just sit and do not self-medicate. Eventually minutes turn into hours and hours into days and days into weeks and weeks into months and months into years. I have immense gratitude that I withstood those minutes and days and weeks of longing for alcohol. There is no complacency within me regarding my sobriety. It is a gift. Not everyone stays clean and sober. Life is so difficult …
When Megan and I were separated in 2007, the PAIN was almost unbearable. The first thing that many of us want to do when the moment of shock hits is to reach for loved family members. I had no family members to gather close to me.
My family of origin did not want to face the abusive situation of our childhood household in its entirety. Friends did not know how to react to the abuse in my past as well as in my marriage. I spent most of the time from August, 2007, through the trial in the summer of 2009, and finally until 2010, at a convent as a guest. Megan and I were residing there when we were discovered elsewhere in the city.
Those moments, days, years were likely the most challenging times ever. Despair lurked and often hit full force. Suffering from PTSD did not help. I had no communication with my daughter, Megan, for 20 months. The shock of jail … the shock from your child’s situation and not knowing if she was safe or knowing she probably was not safe … the shock of learning I was being charged … the shock of turning myself in to jail and being in jail (especially when I suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) … the shock of bail and restrictions … the shock of learning your child attempted suicide when in the custody of her father (the abuser) … the shock of the trial itself …
Fortunately, there were many blessings also … the convent, the Sisters of Providence, prayers, pastoral counselor (Fr. Clement Marcantonio) in Germany, some friends (new ones as well as a few steadfast ones), two attorneys working for my defense, etc.
Finding material to read that would give me hope or just a reason to continue for one more hour became quite necessary for me. Somewhere along the line, whether in Germany or in Spokane, I discovered a gospel song called, “Stand” by BeBe Winans. I printed the lyrics and posted them on the back of the door in my small convent room. In fact, there were many quotations taped to the door from various books and articles I read during that time period that resonated with me.
My belief in God – even during my intense moments of doubt and rage – sustained me. I am a strong believer in prayer – in connecting with the Divine. People’s prayers for Megan and I sustained me especially in periods when I could no longer pray in the ordinary sense.
What did I do after the shock(s)?
I showed up each morning as damaged and battered and worn as I was.
Each day was lived (barely at times) minute by minute.
Fortunately, I was able to be involved in my legal case. Both lawyers appreciated my input. I also worked hard to contact people in various fields to find ways to help Megan who was in a psych hospital during six months or so during this time. Megan was hospitalized in Virginia immediately after leaving Spokane. She went into the psych hospital saying the abuse occurred. She was not believed. She left saying it did not happen. Then she lived with her father (and the suicide attempt followed).
Not having contact with my daughter during these 20 months was excruciatingly painful.
Distractions were needed. Watching a television show, taking a walk, going for a latte in a local coffee shop, attending 12-step meetings, attending Mass and taking part in other spiritual opportunities offered to me so freely and graciously by the sisters, attempting to eat healthy, and trying to sleep enough helped. The basics – sleep, decent food, self-care, spiritual connection – kept me alive on a physical level. Contact with Fr. Marcantonio (pastoral counselor) helped me deal with PTSD and life as it was at that moment.
Eventually life changed for the better. The process has been slow moving. A new city, a new life, new job, therapy and (NeurOptimal) neurofeedback started and ended, new connections, new spiritual experiences, and more occurred. Slowly my relationship with my daughter, Megan, has evolved. The damage by the courts and institutions to my daughter, to myself, and to our relationship is not one that quickly repairs itself. Time and a commitment by both Megan and I to have a relationship based upon the love we have always had for each other keeps us in contact and in process.
Resiliency: life after shock …
First and foremost, it is imperative to sit, to breathe, to let yourself feel the shock … notice the numbness … feel the pain … the sadness … the anger … Oh, you most likely cannot feel the depth and intensity of those emotions all at once. It may be necessary to let each emotion in only to the extent you can … in order to stay sane and healthy enough.
My life has been filled with trauma and PAIN and SADNESS. Those emotions with their intensity would have overwhelmed me completely; so I had to acknowledge and feel the emotions in doses I could handle at the time. I also was able to reach out for help and support. Slowly I was able to feel more and more … and to deal with them in a healthy manner.
Taking a break from the pain and grief if possible also helps. Somewhere along the line, a suggestion was given to sit with your grief for a period each day … then attempt to let it go. I actually found that idea helpful even when I could not succeed in doing so. Allowing oneself to set aside a time to grieve each day helps.
Melody Beattie’s book, “The Grief Club: The Secret to Getting Through All Kinds of Change” resonated with me during this period. (See: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/260485.The_Grief_Club.) Beattie wrote of her own story as well as sharing other people’s stories. Words and/or an action or an event can change your life forever.
Once the shock lessens, the numbness lessons, the pain and emotions appear, then what? How do you cope? Can you regroup? What can you do to change the situation? Will it take days or months or years to recover? Is recovery possible? Do you fight like hell to change the things you can? What do you value?
On a community or country level, how does a community or country recover from the shock of a situation?
What does history teach us?
How did people in the civil rights movement begin to change our society? I was too young to participate in the 1960’s.
I have been reading “Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living” by Krista Tippett. Some of you may recognize Tippett from her podcast On Being. (Read: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25894085-becoming-wise.) In one section, Tippett writes of the civil rights movement in the United States and of John Lewis. She writes:
“The movement they brought into being was a spiritual confrontation in the most expansive sense of that word, first and foremost within oneself and then with the world outside. For weeks, months, before any sit-in or march or ride, they studied the Bible and Gandhi, Aristotle and Thoreau. They internalized practical, physical disciplines of courtesy and conduct – kindness, eye contact, coat and tie, dresses, no unnecessary words. Neuroscientists now would recognize the innate intelligence about the human brain in these rules of engagement. They engaged in intense role-playing – “social drama” – whites putting themselves in the role of blacks being harassed, black activists putting themselves in the shoes of policemen feeling threatened and under orders to gain control.” (Page 110)
How can we as Americans change our country for the better after the outcome of the recent election? What do we do after the shock? How resilient are we as a nation?
The questions need to be asked.
“This was love as a way of being, not a feeling, which transcended grievance and painstakingly transformed violence. Einstein asked a “what if” question, about pursuing a beam of light at the speed of light, on his way to comprehending the nature of light and gravity. John Lewis asked a “what if” question as a tool for social alchemy: what if the beloved community were already a reality, the true reality, and he simply had to embody it until everyone else could see?”
Tippett brings up the idea of what would work today to improve race relations and society. This book was published in 2016 before the November, 2016, election for president of the United States.
Countries have gone through terrible times and survived. Some even thrive eventually. World War I and World War II are tragic reminders of what can occur. Although the book “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah is fiction, I recommend it. “The Nightingale” is based on truth of the times and how people fought the evil deeds that were occurring in their world. The book focuses on the French women of the resistance. (See: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21853621-the-nightingale?from_search=true.)
As individuals and as citizens of a country and of the world, there are choices to be made. Resiliency: life after shock – how do you move forward? How do we move forward? What choices do you make in the most difficult of life situations?
What values are important to you?
I wish I had answers and quick, easy solutions. I do not.
Some of my recommendations include:
Self care – especially sleep!
Stay close to your loved ones – in whatever manner you are able.
Compassion – compassion toward yourself and others.
Listen to others. (If you interact with supporters of the president-elect, are you able and willing to calmly listen to their thoughts? What anger or fear may they be experiencing about our country or their personal lives?) Connecting with each other on any level may be the beginning of an understanding in the future.
Pray or meditate – if you are so inclined.
Sit … be with yourself … breathe …
Decide what to do, how to act, how to react … what is in the realm of possibilities for you?
Not everyone is an activist in the typical sense of the word. Yet each of us can do something if we choose.
In the realm of survivors of abuse or trauma who begin to heal, probably each one of us decides if we can do something to help other survivors or to prevent abuse from occurring to anyone else. Some of us support others by sharing our stories, some survivors become politically active trying to change laws, many join the helping professions, and others show their courage by continuing to live and to deal with PTSD and/or the pain that still haunts them. Each of us have much to offer. No path is better than another. Kindness and compassion may be the most we have to offer others.
This is the first time in my lifetime I have felt the extreme heavy, somber impact of a presidential election in the United States. My heart is heavy. Division, racism, sexism and hatred are not my values. My concern for our country and for the future generations is great.
Sexual abuse and rape survivors may be triggered by Trump’s words and actions. How can we, as survivors or those who are not survivors who also care, help them? Joan Chittister wrote about Trump soon before the election in an article called, “US election’s very essence was indecency”. (See: https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/where-i-stand/us-elections-very-essence-was-indecency) Chittister states:
“And yet, the physical mistreatment of women has been the worst mistreatment of them all. Immigrants have been accused of terrorism, exploitation and racial dissimilarity — the “they’re-not-like-us people.” But women have been demeaned, derided, denuded — even in language. Sexual crime has been reduced to “locker room talk.” As if raw, inhumane, sexually brutal locker room talk is acceptable.
Most shocking of all? Few cared. The electoral needle did not move. The crime of female sexual assault did not get called corrupt and crooked. No thousands of people crowed in unison, “Lock him up. Lock him up.” Worse, few men — fathers and brothers among them — responded in horror at such talk, such actions.
Instead, the hats and the lewd T-shirts and bumper sticks went on selling outside Trump rallies. Nor did he ever say a word to stop them.”
Life is not meant to be lived alone. Reach out to others if you are suffering for whatever reason. Be there for someone who is in pain.
Unite … to heal
Unite … to change a single life or a country’s situation
I cannot guarantee the outcome will be what you desire it to be.
Believe me, I worked diligently and quite hard to prevent the damage the court and institutions did to my daughter, Megan, and to myself. My daughter and I both told the authorities of the abuse and the human trafficking that occurred. Reporting the abuse as well as quickly leaving Germany, becoming a protective parent and fighting courts and institutions did not bring the positive outcomes that we both desired.
Yet, people continue to fight to change the family courts, the laws, and to share knowledge with all. Generations from now, one can only hope that life will be different in this arena as well as in other areas for each of us individually, collectively, as a country, and as a world. We must work for the world to become better.
A chapter in Krista Tippet’s book is on hope. She wrote:
“Hope is distinct, in my mind from optimism or idealism. It has nothing to do with wishing. It references reality at every turn and reveres truth. It lives open eyed and wholehearted with the darkness that is woven ineluctably into the light of life and sometimes seems to overcome it. Hope, like every virtue, is a choice that becomes a practice that becomes spiritual muscle memory. It’s a renewable resource for moving through life as it is, not as we wish it to be.” (page 234)
“Hope is brokenhearted on the way to becoming wholehearted. Hope is a function of struggle.” (page 251)
“But my own hope rests, as much as anything else, on my experience of so many of the young among us.” (page 254)
Although the outcomes of my journey with my daughter were devastating, they did not destroy me. My relationship with Megan was not destroyed.
I did my part. There is little to regret.
I will do my best to continue to do what I am able in all areas of life that I value.