Today I wrote down on little pieces of paper all the unknowns, all my questions and all my regrets and guilt surrounding the death of my son. I put them in an old floral print notecard box. I am still mulling over what to do with the box. I think I may bury it with a plant at Chris' gravesite.
Although less painful with time, progress in grief and loss seldom move in a continually forward straight line. Time to time, you will have to go back and confront and re-examine issues. That is what I am doing now. I feel I have some unresolved issues regarding acceptance and being able to move on.
I am re-reading psychologist, Kathleen O'Hara's book, "A Grief like No Other." I also had the good fortune to meet with her personally. Kathleen wrote her book to heal herself and help others survive after the sudden and traumatic death of a loved one. Her own son was murdered in 1999.
She stresses three principles in her book: Acceptance; Forgiveness; and Gratitude. She gives Seven Steps to achieve these goals. Kathleen uses visual imagery exercises to help you get through the steps. This exercise I did was Step Five: Out in the Deep-- Practicing the Three Principles.
You are supposed to imagine yourself in the ocean and swimming with a large box. The box contains all your negative emotions and thoughts, like guilt and anger, which hold you back from achieving the three principles. You swim along but are aware of the heaviness of the box. You release it while imaging that you are floating in the water and the box sinks. Gradually you are able to swim ashore and connect with the firm sand on the beach without your box of fears, etc. holding you back.
Well I had trouble with this. I couldn't let go of the box. I lugged it to shore. It was much heavier than I thought. Once on shore, I felt compelled to open the box and examine the contents. I didn't do so well after that. This sent me into a night of binge eating. Plus, I woke up with heart palpitations and a racing pulse. I made the connection to the unfinished exercise.
I was determined to get through this. So I did the exercise a different way, because to tell you the truth, this ocean visualization is hard for me. I am not such a good swimmer. So my adaptation worked out better. My heart rate is better now. I feel calmer with a sense of relief. All my negativity is safely away from me in the box. If negative thoughts and feelings return, I can tell myself they are in the box. Identifying issues and discarding the box of these issues is key to accepting your circumstances-- what happened and what is-- in order to move along in your journey.
In my next two blogs, I will take you through my experiences with Step Six: The Coal Reef, Generating Creativity and Step Seven: The New World, Emerging Possibilities.
I would definitely recommend "A Grief like No Other" for anyone who feels traumatized by the death of a child or loved one. You may not be in a place to read it today, but someday you might be able to concentrate on the words and do the exercises. I think it is a worthwhile tool to keep in mind.