What does EMDR Feel Like?

As you might have noticed, lately I have been experiencing a lot of personal and professional growth with EMDR therapy integrated into my life and my practice. Several people have asked me what does it feel like? In the words of the founder, Francine Shapiro:

“People have different experiences of EMDR. Some say it is like rapid daydreaming;
some describe it as watching scenery go by from the window of a train; others liken it to
watching a DVD or snapshots in a slide show; some compare it to prayer, active
daydreaming, or meditation. Most people have commented that it is like going into a
painful memory and bringing along the sensation of comfort, like being rocked and
soothed when distressed. Sometimes people cry releasing strong emotions and
sometimes people experience physical sensations as their body releases its sensory
experiences. You always remain in control and able to stop, ask questions, or obtain my
help in figuring out and getting what you need.

Unlike exposure therapy, the experience of EMDR is NOT a moment-by-moment reliving
of a painful life event; instead the traumatic memory links up with positive, useful
information and resources that are also stored in your brain. EMDR creates “dual
awareness” which means that instead of getting fully pulled into a memory, the gentle
buzzing in your hands, eye movements, and auditory tones anchor the mind and body to
stay oriented to the present time and place while simultaneously remembering the
distressing experience. As with all trauma work, EMDR can be emotionally intense. At
all times I will be there to help you know you are safe in my office and to gently coach
you through any difficult parts of the process.

EMDR does not make people forget their painful experiences or stop being sad
sometimes about them; however the memories will become just that: memories. They
will become less upsetting because they will be filed in the brain as something that
happened in the past instead of being relived over and over in the present; you will be
able to recall them but without the painful emotional charge.

Because the part of the brain that communicates in images works faster than the part of
the brain that communicates in words I will encourage you to talk less than traditional
therapy. After each set of bilateral stimulation I will ask you what you are noticing and
then tell you to “go with that”. If at any time you feel overwhelmed or “stuck” please let
me know; there are many things I can do to help.

EMDR works by enhancing your body’s own natural healing processes. It is your brain’s
neural networks and channels of associations that control the EMDR desensitization
process. The bilateral stimulation simply helps you move your own eyes and awareness
back and forth across the midline of your body so that the hemispheres of your brain talk
to each other more efficiently. YOU CANNOT DO EMDR WRONG; everyone’s process
is wonderfully unique.”

The mind is fascinating, isn’t it? 🙂

 

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EMDR for Birth Trauma & Perinatal Mood Disorders

Whether from childhood or adulthood, during pregnancy, birth, or from postpartum depression and anxiety, or from a recent loss, we all have issues we wish would stop following us around and triggering us. Lately, several moms have asked me about working on past trauma, so I want to share a little bit about EMDR and how transformative it can be.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro, is a research-supported, integrative psychotherapy approach designed to treat symptoms of trauma and posttraumatic stress. EMDR sessions follow a specific sequence of phases, and practitioners use bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements, taps, or sounds, to help the client process unresolved memories from adverse experiences. EMDR can be used to address any number of concerns, and it is compatible with other types of therapy.

The way Dr. Shapiro describes it is fascinating:

“When a disturbing event occurs, it can get locked in the brain with the original picture, sounds, thoughts, feelings and body sensations. EMDR stimulates the information and allows the brain to reprocess the experience. That may be what is happening in REM or dream sleep—the eye movements help to reprocess the associated material. It is your own brain that will be doing  the healing and you are the one in control.”

Bilateral tones or tactile stimulation can have the same effect for people who can’t or don’t want to do the eye movements, and you don’t need to talk about the experience to reprocess it. 

EMDR has been accepted as a the frontline form of treatment for PTSD by the World Health Organization and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. Studies show that it is possible to alleviate emotional and physical distress more rapidly with EMDR than with traditional psychotherapy alone. Trauma symptoms were eliminated for 100% of people who had experienced a single traumatic event and for 77% who had experienced multiple traumas after six 50-minute sessions. Because discussing the details of a traumatic experience is not required in EMDR sessions, the anxiety associated with confronting and revealing those details may be alleviated. Research has also indicated that eye movement is a physiological method of internal desensitization to the emotional reaction to the memory.

EMDR has been found to be deeply healing for parents who have experienced the pain of pregnancy loss, birth trauma, or perinatal mood disorders. Since EMDR begins with teaching self-calming tools–such as the safe/calm place, deep breathing, and visualization techniques–many people are able to process and let go of the trauma they’ve experienced to some degree before even starting with the eye movement reprocessing.

The best way I can describe it from personal and professional experience is that it softens the memory of the traumatic event so that it is less vivid, sharp, intense, or distressing. While it doesn’t erase the memory–and we wouldn’t want that because it is part of our life story that makes us who we are, and makes us stronger in many ways–it does make the memory more fuzzy, distant, and we are able to appropriately respond, rather than feel triggered. It is amazing to see the brain release the memories and file them away, healing itself with its innate capacity to do so.

More posts about some of the calming techniques to come! And for the Dads who experience vicarious trauma, here’s a website geared towards them that they can check out, too!

References:

  1. Lee, Gale K, R.N., M.N., Beaton, Randal D, PhD, E.M.T., & Ensign, Josephine, R.N., PhD. (2003). Eye movement desensitization & reprocessing. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing & Mental Health Services, 41(6), 22-31. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/225537073?accountid=1229
  2. Shapiro, F., & Laliotis, D. (2011). EMDR and the adaptive information processing model: Integrative treatment and case conceptualization. Clinical Social Work Journal, 39(2), 191-200. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10615-010-0300-7
  3. Seidler, G.H. and Wagner, F. E. (2006). Comparing the efficacy of EMDR and trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy in the treatment of PTSD: A meta-analytic study. Psychological Medicine, 36(11), 1515-22. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/204490302?accountid=1229
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Honored to be a Guest on the Healthy Moms Happy Family Podcast Today!

Nothing is more energizing to me than talking about my work with perinatal mental health, specific tools we can use along the way in our healing process, and how finding our tribe is essential. Such a fun morning chatting with Diana Collins on the Healthy Moms Happy Family Podcast!   Thanks, Nevada Maternal and Child Health Coalition for your support!

Check it out here!

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Choosing the Wilderness, or the Dance Party in the Wilderness

At the airport, on my way to Las Vegas to teach an all-day training about my postpartum depression/anxiety support group curriculum, this quote by Jen Hatmaker cracked me wide open:

“I’ve chosen the wilderness because it is where I can tell the truth…and gather with my fellow outsiders, but this limp will remind me of the cost, what lies behind me, what will always feel a little sad and a little bruised. Was it worth it? Unquestionably. And I hope the limp shows my fellow wilderness dwellers that I’m acquainted with pain and didn’t make it out here unscathed either. Outliers, I suspect it won’t hinder our wilderness dance party in the slightest.”

I’d been focusing on the stuff—the slides, the shoes, the snacks—to give myself some distance from the fact that I’m actually going to be teaching about something very vulnerable: how I clawed my way out of postpartum depression (with my husband’s help) and how to help others do that, too. But that vulnerability is my greatest strength, and I will sing about it as long as I live, so that others will know they are not alone.

At the training, I had the privilege of chatting with almost everyone who came, thanks to a glitch or two with technology, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise! I can’t tell you how encouraging it was to meet doulas, lactation consultants, WIC counselors, a yoga instructor, and other social workers who wanted to start support groups for moms and/or dads. This was literally a dream come true! I am working to plant the seeds of this group in as many places as possible so that as many parents as possible can access help for PMADs. One mom who is currently working through her own struggle said that when she’s been in recovery for a year, she’s going to start up an Afterglow group. I am so so proud of her, that in the midst of her pain, she is already looking to see how she can make meaning out of it and help others. Wow.

No matter what you’re going through, there are others ahead of you on the path. Follow their lanterns, even if you’re still limping. There’s a dance party waiting for you.

 

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One of my Favorite Poems of All Time

This is one of my favorite poems of all time, because it reminds us that feelings come and go. They might barge in unwanted sometimes, but they never stay forever. If we sit with them, they can be our best teachers. Sometimes they are here to clear the way for something new. So trust in that as you go through your day. And feel free to share this poem with other parents you know, who might need a word of encouragement as they process all the feelings and changes in this crazy season of life. 

The Guest House 

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

by Rumi

translation by Coleman Banks

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Breathing through Pain, or What Yoga taught me about Postpartum Depression & Anxiety

Long ago, a wise friend once told me, when I asked her why she practiced yoga so faithfully, “yoga has taught me to breathe through the pain.” And while she meant the pain of holding poses that sometimes defy gravity or common sense, she also meant the pain and frustrations of life.

That coin of wisdom rattled around in the back of my brain for a few years, never falling into the right slot evidently, until EV was about 18 months old. I decided as a new year’s resolution to try yoga as a way to feel at home in my body again. I committed to go one night a week and/or use my lunch break on my two work days to attend class. (Naturally, I didn’t want to get too sweaty and then go back to work. No Vinyassa flow classes for me, thank you very much! So Yin yoga or Iyengar yoga it was going to have to be.)

Having never tried Yin yoga before, I consulted my friend who is a yoga instructor up in the Bay Area. She informed me that she hates it because it’s too slow…so I had a feeling it was exactly what I needed. When you have a high-energy child who talks and walks early, doesn’t sleep much, and wants to do everything “by my own,” a space where I could focus on melting into a pose, breathing slowly, and the challenge was in being still and quiet sounded like heaven to me. It was. I cried. I needed that…like a mother. And as I laid there in Shavassana, or corpse pose, at the end, arms and legs splayed out, letting my spirit float away on my breath, leaving all worry and responsibility behind for a few moments, I felt intense gratitude for that time and space, but also, for the power of the breath.

I only make it to yoga class about once a week, but when I do, it stays with me, sustaining me as a person and as a mom, until next time.

Here are some of the key takeaways from yoga that have helped me on my journey through postpartum depression and anxiety:
  1. Whatever it is, if it hurts, breathe through it.

    I don’t always realize I’m holding my breath when I’m hurting–whether it’s the emotional pain of a loss that feels unbearable to me in that moment, the physical pain of getting kicked in the knee while carrying my tantruming toddler to safety, or one of those intense feelings of anxiety when all the fears and unknowns of life knock the wind out of me. When I remember to keep breathing, slow and steady, I can create calm in my mind and body. It’s biofeedback. When you breathe slowly instead of hyperventilating, you slow your heart rate as well, and then your body doesn’t physically feel anxious anymore. So go ahead. Take some big deep breaths, lion breaths, or sighs like you practiced for during labor. You’ve got this.

  2. Along those lines, breathe first and act second.

    If someone is unkind to you and you can’t function, let alone figure out how to respond, give yourself time to breathe first. We live in such an immediate response type of culture, but it’s ok to give yourself time before you react. Actually, when you stop, breath, and think first, you’ll probably like your response a little better. If you could use some help in this department (couldn’t we all!) download the app, Stop, Breath & Think. Listen to a meditation once a day for a few minutes and watch your patience grow as you practice breathing and mindfulness meditation.

  3. If your mind is not in a good place, count your breath!

    Count to four as you breathe in, hold for four, breathe out for four, and hold the emptiness for four. Repeat, repeat, repeat. This is what military snipers and emergency medical personnel trying to keep a trauma victim alive are trained to do. Counting your breath is not too simple to be effective. It’s for badasses. And you as a parent, doing a thousand things a day that no one notices, are actually keeping another human being alive. You are a badass. So breathe…in for four, hold for four, out for four, hold for four. (Practice it now.)

  4. Do something for you, at least once per day.

    You might not get to do something that takes a whole hour, like yoga, but do something that brings you joy. Even if it’s for 5 minutes, it will start to add up and create a positive shift in your mood. Take a shower. Read a book for pleasure. Drink a cup of tea. Plant something. Go for a walk. Dance it out. Savor a piece of dark chocolate. Have sex. Trade massages with your partner. Build something with Legos that your five-year-old self would be proud of. Send a friend an encouraging message. Or hold a yoga pose and breathe. 😉 If you’re in Reno, come join me for yoga at the Studio!

 

Want more? Read about more of my go-to coping tools here. 🙂

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Comics FTW

I don’t 100% know why art rattles something out of its slumber in my chest, but when I recently found out about this series of comics by illustrator Molly McIntyre @brooklyn_rabbit , my heart awoke and did a happy dance! Molly’s comics meet you right where you ought to be, at the intersection of truth and humor, like this fantastic motherhood comic on www.everydayfeminism.com below. (How I wish I had known some of these things from the start!)

To top it off, Molly and my shero, social worker Karen Kleiman of @postpartumstress , teamed up for a raw, heartwarming, and humorous series of comics that they’re calling their #speakthesecret project. These comics are exactly what we need. Motherhood is messy and beautiful and hard. So let’s say what’s truly on our minds. Or draw it. Whatever works for you.

Creating art out of the feelings of loss and confusion is the most life-affirming thing we can do. It was the part of my healing process that I recommend to everyone. Even if you don’t think of yourself as artistic, there’s a creative bone in your body, somewhere, looking for an outlet. It’s especially important because when we’re honest about how we’re feeling, it frees up another person to be honest about how she’s feeling, and then we realize we’re no longer alone. And we can get some of the much-needed help that we deserve.

 

What have you created recently to express yourself?

 

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Thoughts on Healing our Grief through Art for the 7th Annual PILSOS Time of Remembrance

Tonight, the Pregnancy Infant Loss Society Of the Sierras (PILSOS) hosted A Time for Remembrance in Idlewild Park for 200 people whose lives have been affected by the loss of a baby. At 7pm, in an act of beautiful symbolism, candles are lit around the world to create a wave of light in remembrance. I was asked to be the keynote speaker to share some encouraging words on processing grief, as well as some of my poetry…

It’s truly an honor to be here tonight with all of you, in a room full of people with a common purpose, to remember loved ones and to continue to love unconditionally. Thank you for being a community that is strong–not through stoicism–but through vulnerability and honesty.

As a licensed clinical social worker who has worked in hospice for 7 years and pivoted to specialize in parental mental health, what I’ve noticed most of the time, when someone is grieving, is that people talk too much, offer too many clichés, or simply avoid the hard conversation. Let’s not do that tonight.  So speaking of honesty, I have to admit, I feels odd to be up here because what my instincts, training, and heart are telling me to do is to listen to each and every one of you, to hold space for your story, to validate your pain and loss, and to give you hope for the future while not minimizing everything you’ve been through.

What I will say to each of you as individuals is that whatever path of grief you’ve walked to be here tonight, I haven’t walked in your same shoes, but I want to honor the difficult journey you’ve been on, and invite you to fully rest, release, and leave some of your burden here. 

Wherever you are in your grief journey, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all pushed ourselves to look, act, and feel “normal” too soon in some ways because we think we’re supposed to, or others gave us the messages that we’re supposed to get over it and move on. But we never “get over” someone we loved, we learn through much trial and error to integrate it into our lives.

It’s as if you broke your leg, and the doctor mistakenly diagnosed it as just a muscle sprain, so you were told to get up and walk already. If you received that misdiagnosis, your healing process would be slower and more painful, not to mention more confusing! You might wonder, what’s wrong with me? Why is this taking so long? But what you were going through was actually normal for a broken leg, you were just given false information, a misdiagnosis. As it often is with grief.

I love this quote by grief specialist and companion, Dr. Alan Wolfelt. He writes about mourning in our culture: that “Normal thoughts and feelings connected to loss are typically seen as unnecessary and even shameful. Instead of encouraging mourners to express themselves, our culture’s unstated rules would have them avoid their hurt and ‘be strong.’ But grief is not a disease. Instead, it’s the normal, healthy process of embracing the mystery of the death of someone loved. If mourners see themselves as active participants in their healing, they will experience a renewed sense of meaning and purpose in life.”  Amen.

For me, the healing process and renewed sense of meaning and purpose in life were intertwined with art, as I’m sure it has been for some of you, too. In order to process our loss, as well as my husband and my experiences of postpartum depression and anxiety, I started writing, furiously. Writing poetry became not only my outlet, but my desperate attempt to help others understand what we were going through. Poetry unlocks something in the chest and weaves a golden thread from one heart to another, helping two people connect in a way that doesn’t happen as readily with plain prose.

So, I would like to share a poem with you that I wrote to commemorate that season of earth-shattering loss that we’ve all experienced, and then some words of wisdom that helped me through my process, that I hope will ease yours.

To give some context for this poem, while each of us is in a different place in our journey tonight, we each have had a moment when a dream and a life was no longer, when everything we knew to be true was irreversibly altered in the moment we saw spotting, or were told “there’s no heartbeat,” or “I’m sorry your baby has died”, or your baby is born and then without forewarning something is wrong with his health and he dies, or you have to decide when to withdraw life support for your infant when you have been told your child will not survive without tremendous medical procedures and interventions. One moment you felt joy and hope, the next helplessness and hopelessness for the future. And you were catapulted into a season of mourning.

 

It’s called, In My Mind

In my mind I have travelled

To so many towns today

I lost myself in mine

Disoriented

Moving in slow motion

Response time delayed

As if I cannot shake

The early morning hours

Following me all day

With their gray

As if I do not have enough blood sugar

To care that I am hemorrhaging

Wouldn’t it be nice to drift away

On this inebriation induced by grief

For an eternity or at least a while?

Instead I have to sing this sad sad song

No one wants to hear

My melancholy melody

I sing not to perform for anyone

But to lament for the being I can no longer see and

To choose life—sing or die

Sing or deny the pain and live half alive

Which is the same so sing

Her spirit seems to brighten at the sound of her mama’s voice, besides

In my eyes hurt swishes and scintillates

Tears fall into this lukewarm water surrounding me

Sparks fly from my fingers seeking release

Tempted to set everything on fire

At least fire moves dances fights creates destroys

What I would give

To slough off this immobilizing feeling

To move dance fight create destroy

I did once so

Why do I feel now like I cannot move?

Something must…someone must…acknowledge

This raging grief or sit down and weep with me

For so much

Is gained and so much is lost

 

In the early days of loss, it’s vitally important to be extremely gentle with yourself. You have sustained a serious life injury. I like how Dr. Wolfelt says to “think of yourself as in emotional and spiritual intensive care.” Imagine if our friends, family, and support system knew that we were in emotional and spiritual intensive care. How different might that look? How much isolation might that have prevented?

Anger and other explosive emotions—like blame, resentment, and rage—may also come up. Reframe such feelings as a natural form of protest. They are not something to be ashamed of. Someone who gave your life meaning has been taken away from you. It’s normal for your emotions to shout, “No! Stop! I don’t want this!”

Enduring the pain of grief is the most difficult challenge of our entire human life. Being separated from someone we love hurts more than words can express. Something that gives me hope in the most excruciating moments is that any emotion that intense is not sustainable. It requires too much energy, and cannot possibly last forever. Like a wave crashing over you, you get up, and have a moment to breathe…before it crashes over you again…sometimes expectedly, when you’re in the middle of the worst of it. Sometimes the grief wave crashes over you seemingly out of the blue, when you think you should be more resilient by now.

But over time, two things help soften pain: embracing it and expressing it. Sometimes we think that if we deny or distract ourselves from our pain, it will go away. We all know by now that doesn’t work. Instead, if we allow ourselves to fully feel our feelings whenever they naturally arise, they begin to diminish, almost imperceptibly, little by little. And when we mourn those feelings by expressing them outside of ourselves—through art, ritual, or even physical activity—we experience additional healing momentum.

This next poem is the very first one I wrote in my grief, when I was feeling raw and bereft and angry and alone. Personifying grief as a wizened old man, not malicious but simply persistent in carrying out his duties, helped me to have a conversation with grief, in which I felt empowered to negotiate what I would and would not put up with, and to stand up for myself and my needs.

It’s called Something Dark and Soft, and in my book, I dedicated to you, the community of parents who have loved and lost

 

I

Something dark and soft nuzzled up to me

An unfamiliar animal that would become my constant companion

Though I not it became the pet

Grief did not grasp me insistently by the hand

Or coil seductively around my neck

Merely it settled down behind my eyes

Curled up and took a nap

Where did the light go?

Though my sight has gone hazy and gray

There is a light who shines

Even when I cannot see

And this light claims me by Love

Which I will cling to

Blindly

And in hope of sight

II

Light

Stings my eyes

Like antiseptic in

This hole in my heart

Aches in my stomach

I miss you

Viscerally

Rolling words around in my mind

All day

Like marbles I have not spoken a syllable

A housewife without children

I wait and tidy wait and tidy with

No one to talk to

Who will listen now?

Stop…. Breathe…. Feel…. Breathe….

Wading through grief makes for much worse work

Though my limbs grow heavier I must not stop

Press on I could wash clean scrub I could

But even if I could for years continue avoiding

Grief would be waiting for me at the end

Of the line with a basketful of clean laundry no less

And a sad smile on his furrowed face

Come walk with me a while

One foot in front of the other one day at a time

Or moment if I have to I have to because

I need to know Love will wait with me

If I ask Love to wait

More than that: Love will wade with me all the way

To hope and healing though my limbs grow heavy and weak

I will invite light into my dark night and wait

III

Grief, come in

Rest your weary bones

Tell me a tale if you wish

Settle in for a moment—I am not one to turn away a guest—

Only one request will I make

Do not misunderstand my invitation

And overstay your welcome

Please do not assume I am too busy or my to-do list is too long

You may sit with me a while

But I cannot be your captive audience

My reasons run deeper than a few piles of laundry and dirty dishes

Hospitable I am you see but

Vacant I am not

Light is the permanent dweller here though oft overshadowed

You wish to go, you say—huffing and stomping—to leave me

Like I have been left before alone and shivering in the dark

Cruel Grief, you are a jealous one wanting me all to yourself

But I cannot give you what is no longer in my possession

Besides you come and go as you please I cannot

Count on you as a constant companion

Nor would I want to since when you come you bring Darkness shivering with you

So go on! Get out! I do not want you here!

Though my precious one has gone home—too soon! —

She is with Great Love who holds us in her hands

Her hands are a place of refuge and rest: I will lie me down

My Mother Maker’s hands will carry me beyond grief to hope

And my eyes

Dazzled in the light of Love will

See (someday) more clearly than ever before

 

One essential thing we sometimes forget about grief, because it feels true, is that we don’t have to grieve and mourn all the time. You cannot and should not. Instead, conceptualize it as “dosing” yourself with the pain. Feel and express your grief for a bit, then push pause –back and forth, back and forth—especially because grief takes such a prolonged time. Truthfully, it never completely ends, because you will never stop missing the person who died. You will always feel pangs of grief over the absence of this person in your life. But instead of being overwhelmed by the long-term, consider adopting a one-day-at-a-time approach to your grief. While this may sound cheesy, it’s also a primary principle of mindfulness. The only moment is now, the only day we’re guaranteed is today. Tomorrow will concern itself with tomorrow. Find your own mantra, or use one of these: Today I will feel whatever I am feeling, and I will express those feelings outside of myself. Today I will take care of myself, and I will accept the caring of others. Mine was more often than not, “I’m doing the best that I can today.”

In the meantime, prioritize doing something, at least one thing, that gives you pleasure each and every day. Mourners need something to look forward to, a reason to get out of bed each morning. It’s nearly impossible to look forward to each day when you know you will be experiencing pain and sadness, and that’s it. To counterbalance your normal and necessary mourning, each and every day plan—in advance, preferably—something you enjoy. Yoga, dance, reading, singing, writing, baking, going for a walk, having lunch with a friend, gardening, playing piano—do whatever brings you enjoyment, even if it’s only for a few minutes.

If you haven’t already, consider creating a sacred mourning space. Whether it is a cozy chair in a corner or a under a special tree outside, give yourself a place to contemplate, to sit with your feelings of grief without judgment. The word contemplate means “to create space for the divine to enter.” Think of your sacred mourning space as a place dedicated exclusively to the needs of your healing soul. Retreat to your space several times a week and honor your journey through grief by lighting a candle, incense, sage, or diffuse essential oils to make it a receiving and releasing space.

Start each new day with a meditation or prayer. We can set the tone for our day by praying or meditating, even for a few minutes. This literally helps to re-wire your brain, according to Dr. Andrew Neuberg. Repeat a simple phrase or prayer to yourself, such as: “Today I will live and love fully.” You might also offer words of gratitude, simply: “Thank you, God, for giving me this day. Help me to appreciate it and live it to the fullest.”

Be careful about comparing your grief with others’.  Don’t make assumptions about how long your grief should last. Like water off a duck’s back, if others tell you how you should (or should not) be feeling or behaving, let it go. Find ways to mourn that work for you.

Lastly, be on the watch for hope. Hope is defined as an expectation of a good that is yet to be. Even as you grieve and mourn, it is vital that you also find ways to nurture hope for your future—a future in which you have rediscovered meaning and are living fully again. Pay attention to the moments, however fleeting, when you experience small rushes of hope and joy. What created the feeling? Whatever it is, it is an indication of your future happiness. Try starting a list in a note on your phone so you won’t forget: playing with animals, hiking, music, the way the sunlight filters through the autumn leaves. Yes, you can foster hope while you embrace grief. They are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they spring from the same deep well—self-aware, compassionate, mindful living.

So, I will leave you with one last poem, one last expression of my grief outside of myself, that I hope will inspire you to express what you need to about your grief and clear out some room for hope to take root. And if in your process, you happen to create art out of your grief, you will have transformed your pain into a work of beauty, adding meaning to, as you commemorate, the life you lost. I hope that you’ll share it with this community, and with the world, that needs to hear your voice.

The Shards of My Heart

The shards of my heart

Keep weeping

As if to create a tide of tears

On which to buoy themselves up

Float towards reunion

And seal themselves together again

After giving birth broke me

But they forgot in their industry

A prolific bath of saltwater tears—

Though it might serve as conduit and

Antiseptic for their injuries—

Places them in the midst of

An ocean of unpredictability where

Grief troublemaker that he is

Likes to ride roughly in the waves

Peak crest trough

In an undulating arc of pain

So although I hoped

My heart would be

More cooperative by now

Waves ride over and under me

Washing me in through out so

My stomach picks up churning

Where my heart left off hurting

And I am washed up

On an empty shore of sheer exhaustion

With nothing left to do

But breathe

Prayers for peace and sweet relief

Until the tears cease for now

The waves recede with each exhalation

Suddenly with unexpected free time I scramble

In the low tide to retrieve my scraps scattered

Along the beach some of them seem to be

Missing

At a loss I wonder will I be able to

Replace them or were they swept

Out to sea indefinitely?

Sitting down to catalog the specimens I’ve collected

A glimmer in the sand

Catches the corner of my eye

All around I discover proof of promised provision

Takes shape as sea shells fools gold foreign coins and

Other lost loved tokens

Fit imperfectly to fill in the gaps of my riven heart

Creating a mosaic of more beauty and worth than

A flat picture of a plain old pasted together pumping muscle

Love and I are reinventing my life from its source outward

Again—

Though I’ve done it before and foolishly thought I was done—
Light shines through the cracks melding into alloy

A work of art that will someday

When I’ve caught my breath

Take it away

 

 

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The Afterglow Support Group has Landed at the Nurturing Nest

Great news! I’m thrilled to announce my partnership with the Nurturing Nest, Reno’s premier education center for parents. I’ll be facilitating a new session of the Afterglow Postpartum Depression & Anxiety Support Group every Tuesday for six weeks, starting November 7th from 2-3:30pm through December 12th. We have space for eight moms… please share with anyone who you think might be interested!

We will cover topics related to coping tools, self-care, what to expect, questions to ask your provider when considering medication, communicating with your partner, and attachment with your baby despite this illness, as well as provide a safe, confidential, and non-judgmental space to process with each other. Babies are welcome of course!

Sign up through their website: https://nurturingnest.pike13.com/events/3352028

Always remember, you are not alone. There is hope. With treatment, you will be well.

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Honored to be a Guest on the Motherhood Radio Podcast!

Dr. Christina Hibbert is an incredible author, speaker, and maternal mental health advocate who I had the pleasure of connecting with at Postpartum Support International’s conference last year!

I’m super excited to be a guest on her podcast, Motherhood Radio, this morning! We’ll be talking about psychologically preparing for motherhood and finding your new equilibrium as a mother, as well as my book. The show airs October 16th! You can download or subscribe to her podcast here on itunes.

Also, check out her facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/growingthroughmotherhood/

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