Grief, PTSD and Letting Go
Postraumatic Stress Disorder
I didn’t realize I had PTSD until my husband died. It took a while to fully understand it and accept it. The National Institute of Mental Health has this to say about PTSD:
“While most but not all traumatized people experience short term symptoms, the majority do not develop ongoing (chronic) PTSD. Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event. Some experiences, like the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one, can also cause PTSD. Symptoms usually begin early, within 3 months of the traumatic incident, but sometimes they begin years afterward. Symptoms must last more than a month and be severe enough to interfere with relationships or work, to be considered PTSD. The course of the illness varies. Some people recover within 6 months, while others have symptoms that last much longer. In some people, the condition becomes chronic."
For more definitions and information about PTSD, here's two more links:
Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355967
American Psychiatry Association: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd
People who experienced childhood trauma are more at risk for adult onset PTSD. Also, trauma that occurs as an adult can trigger childhood trauma. I did not even consider that I may have PTSD because I felt like I had already dealt with my childhood trauma.
Healing Childhood Trauma
I began my self-healing journey in 1984, when I was about 30. A friend at work referred me to a psychologist after hearing me share about my dissatisfaction with life and my bouts of depression. Luckily for me, this psychologist was also very spiritual, and so began my foray into the realms of understanding myself and my relationship with the Universe. (Hereinafter referred to as The Uni.)
I was raised Catholic, with all the residual after-affects. The God from my childhood was a guy with a long white beard who lived in heaven. (I always confused God and Santa Claus.) And God’s “son” was born to a virgin. Go figure. All good Catholic girls had either Mary or Marie for a middle name. I am no exception. We were expected to emulate the virgin mother Mary, which was very confusing, especially as this was the era of sex education and women’s lib.
No offense to Catholicism, but with the heavy-handed nuns and the everlasting guilt hanging over our heads, by the time I was a teenager, I knew it wasn’t the right place for me. I always felt close to God on my own, without a religious affiliation necessary to uphold my connection. Mental health therapy was discouraged by the church and shameful to the family. We were supposed to turn to priests for confession, rather than seek professional help. It’s no wonder then, with this doctrine embedded in my psyche, that it took me until my 30th year to reach out.
With the help of my new therapist, I began to examine my childhood, which I really hadn’t even considered as part of my problem before this. It turned out I had no memories before six years old. We tried some hypnotherapy, but even then, few memories came up. I learned that I was labeled an “amnesiac survivor”, which simply means that I survived whatever emotional or physical abuse I received as a young child by blocking out the memories of it. There were plenty of memories after six years old though, and all I can say is, it wasn’t a pretty picture.
The therapy set me on a new path of looking within. I am a seeker of truth and I wanted to heal. Over the next 15 years I tried many other types of therapies, read many self-help books and attended a plethora of retreats and workshops. I was making progress, but I was still frustrated that I couldn’t recall my younger years. I only knew that whatever I experienced was affecting my day-to-day life and I wanted to change.
Eventually, I came to accept that I would have to move forward without being able to know everything that happened to me.
I LET GO
I let go of the NEED TO KNOW. I allowed myself to live in the present while my past remained a mystery.
Meeting My Husband – A Special Story About Letting Go
( I have shared a bit about the story of losing my husband in my first blog article, which was posted on January 4, 2020. Here’s the link: https://www.reinventingmyself-agrievingwidowsjourney.com/post/how-my-grief-journey-began)
My husband was indispensable in helping to heal my childhood trauma. The trust I developed in him and his ability to hold space for me played a key part in allowing me to move through a lot of repressed emotions I'd been holding onto. I am eternally grateful for that amazing healing.
How we met and came together is a story we told many times over the years because it was truly magical. This is the first time I have written it down. It may be why it’s taking me so long to get it done and published on my blog! Sweet memories can sometimes be painful while grieving.
Around 1998, I had decided I needed a major lifestyle overhaul, so I moved home to the small town where my parents lived. Prior to this, for many years, I had a series of high-stress jobs, the most recent being a film producer in Los Angeles. I was intent on giving my daughter a quieter and more meaningful life. Fortunately for me, The Uni was bent on helping me out. I was directed to a program sponsored by private businesses which paid for trade schools for people like me, looking for a new career. Soon thereafter, I found myself enrolled in a one-year massage program at the National Holistic Institute in Emeryville, California, fully paid for! (Thanks Uni!)
There was much more to be thankful for coming my way. What I couldn’t know at the time was that my future husband, Hawk, was attending the same school. Not only that, we lived in the same town an hour away! We didn’t meet at school because I was going on weekdays and he attended nights and weekends.
Around graduation time, I noticed an index card on the bulletin board at school listing a job offer in my town. I contacted the owner and went to work at his pain clinic right away. About a month later, I was sitting in the kitchen at work eating my lunch when Hawk walked in! He had just graduated and seen the same job listing. We laughed about how we had both been commuting an hour each way for over a year to the same school and never met. And here we were working at the same clinic. What a coincidence! Right…
The Uni was determined to put us in each other’s path.
And, yet…there was no physical attraction between us. No fireworks. Instead, over the next year, we became very good friends. We even discussed our experiences with online dating and gave each other advice. Hawk became a fixture in our lives and helped in so many ways. He took me to dinner for my 45th birthday and I invited him to a friend’s art opening. We were becoming closer by the day, but our relationship remained platonic.
We hung out together like this for another year when one evening our relationship took a decisive turn. I don't know what possessed him, but Hawk suddenly kissed me. He looked into my eyes, questioning. I kissed him back. We then said good night, talk to you tomorrow, etc. Like normal.
What the heck just happened???
I feel like The Uni was saying, “Come on, guys! Enough! It’s been a year and you need to get a clue. You have important spiritual work to do together on this planet and you’re not getting any younger. Get with the program!”
But…but…Uni…we’re best friends! We aren’t attracted to each other in that way. What will happen to our friendship? Where will things go from here?
Our egos were definitely in the way, telling us that we weren’t ready for this, we weren’t each other’s types, we were waiting for Mr. Right or Mrs. Right to come along, anything to not face the simple truth…we were meant to be together. It was intense and just too scary.
The awkwardness went on for about a month while we tried to navigate the direction our relationship was taking. It was uncomfortable, and still, we were being pulled together by some invisible force.
It was the fall of 2000, and Amma, the Hugging Saint, was coming to Northern California for her regular visit. I had been seeing her for a few years and she was an important spiritual figure in my life. I invited Hawk to come with me to see her, knowing he would be hesitant because he wasn’t interested in Eastern guru’s or religions. He decided to keep an open mind and accompany me. (Here’s Amma’s website: https://www.amma.org/)
It was a bit awkward waiting in the darshan line to get our hug. Hawk was naturally nervous. When we reached the dais where Amma sits, she reached for Hawk first and pulled him toward her. She gave him a long hug, then pulled me in for a hug. I started to get up thinking that was it. But, no…she pulled both Hawk and I back in for a double hug, put our hands together, one on top of the other, and then kissed the top of our hands several times. As she released us, she rained rose petals over us.
It was overwhelming. Hawk and I literally crawled to the side of the room, tears streaming down our cheeks. We knew something profound had happened but weren’t sure what. People were telling us, “Amma just married you.”
As it turns out, this is how Amma performs the marriage ceremony when asked by couples. We didn’t ask, but the message was clear: Wake up and quit wasting time! LET GO! You two are meant to be together.
This may seem like miraculous message enough, but Amma and the Uni weren’t done. Whenever I am waiting in the darshan line to see Amma, I pray to turn my mind and ego over to God. This time, I focused on SURRENDER. I knew that Hawk was good for me, but my ego was in the way, so I prayed for surrender to whatever was in my highest good.
I prayed to LET GO.
The next day I went to a client’s house a couple of blocks from the clinic. She was in a wheelchair. I stood on a block so I could reach her head to do Cranial Sacral therapy. Suddenly, a sharp pain knifed my back. I tried to continue, but it became so painful I had to excuse myself. I was inching my way back to the clinic when suddenly my legs crumpled beneath me! I was terrified and in excruciating pain. One of the clinic therapists drove me to a nearby doctor’s office. As crazy as this sounds, it turned out this doctor was not only an MD, but also a chiropractor who specialized in back issues! Amma’s handprint was everywhere.
The nurse led me to an office to wait for the doctor. I vacillated on whether to call Hawk. I didn’t want to disturb him at work, plus I was feeling very vulnerable. It felt like a significant moment – like if I called him, I would be solidifying our new relationship as a couple. Even after our experience the day before, getting married by Amma, I was still doubting. Finally, I gave in and dialed his number. I couldn’t stop crying as I told him how scared I was.
The doctor came and took me to another room where he had equipment to help people with ruptured disks, which apparently, I had. About twenty minutes later, the nurse came in and said, “There’s a very handsome, grey-haired gentleman in the lobby asking if he can come in.” The doctor nodded at me and, even though I was surprised because I knew Hawk was at work, I nodded my assent. Hawk had called his boss and said he needed to close the store for a family emergency. He asked the doctor if he could assist and the doctor agreed. I was put on a special machine to “wiggle” my ruptured disk back in. After that the doctor measured me for a brace and sent me home with pain killers.
I had prayed for SURRENDER and I got it!
And, it was Hawk’s 50th birthday that very day!
We were together from that day on.
Hawk stayed with me for a week because I literally couldn’t move. He cooked and cleaned and took my daughter to school. I was able to see the great gift we were being given and we both saw that our future was already planned. We were spiritual soul mates who were lucky enough to find each other on the earthly plane. On July 14, 2001, we were “officially” married. Hawk and I were partners in marriage, in business and in life.
Surrender is LETTING GO; surrendering to whatever “the great plan” is for us. We can never know until we let go and let God, as they say. Spirit and our Light Being Team is always there for us, wanting to help guide us on the right path.
After my abusive childhood I couldn’t trust anybody. Hawk was the first person I really trusted, and he became the model for me being ABLE to TRUST. If I could trust him, then I could begin to trust myself, trust that others would love me, and trust that the Universe was really on my side.
Giving Up vs Letting Go
When we are holding on, it’s like we are holding our breath, contracting inwards. A shell forms around our hearts. Giving up feels like a continuation of holding on. When we give up, it feels like failure or futility. There is an edge to it; longing and guilt and a host of other negative feelings. We may feel resentful, angry, shamed or guilty. Our hearts remain walled off.
When we LET GO, there is expansion, a feeling of freedom, and faith. Our hearts open. Our breath is long and full. When we let go, whether to a higher power, to our inner knowing or to the Universe itself, we are saying that we believe that there is something beyond the physical, something beyond the “seen”, something we TRUST is taking care of us. And when we let go into THAT, amazing things can happen. Holding on and giving up are fear based. Letting go is love based.
PTSD and Letting Go
Throughout my life I’ve had many opportunities to experience Letting Go, but none as deeply profound and life changing as the death of my beloved husband. This is the ultimate test of TRUST for me, trusting in The Uni and my Light Angels to guide me in every moment. I believe this may be the cure for my PTSD, along with some very concrete tools provided by my Earth Angel Team.
Meditation is one way to learn to live in TRUST. Going deep inside and connecting with Spirit. Becoming intimate with one’s Self. My grief counselor once told me that I need to become as intimate with myself as I was with my husband. I carry those sagely words with me everywhere I go. It’s true that I was blessed enough to have my spiritual soul mate in my physical life for 17 years, but now I am learning to love myself as much as we loved each other. I know he is still with me in the etheric realms and I will see him soon enough, but meanwhile, how can I carry on the spiritual and healing work that he and I did together? The answer will come when I’m ready and I will continue to LET GO and remain open so that I can receive the message.