Losing My Son
Although this story is not about the trauma I have suffered, more the after effects and years of battling debilitating symptoms, I feel, however, there is a benefit to knowing my personal story. My only child died in 2012 aged one. Subsequently, as you can well imagine, my life was turned upside down. I would discover later that the real battle was inside of me and not with this very personal bereavement itself, or the environment surrounding this incredibly difficult time. Yes my son had died, I’m a devastated, now what?
On so many levels I felt as a mother I was expected to perform, act, behave and grieve in a certain way. I mean, I didn’t want to be perceived as one of those crack pots in the community, one of those “crazy” people who had officially lost their mind, by not conforming to the standard stereotype of a grieving mother. However, this behaviour, and pressure to conform, (not the actual grief itself) was the beginning of my unravelling.
I very quickly developed numbness, a complete lack of emotion. My body and brain began to shut down. I developed depressive symptoms and was given medication for depression by my G.P. who also referred me for CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). My CBT sessions lasted 2 years on and off and focused on the details of the death of my son. The horrible moments. The moments no parent ever wants to live through, never mind revisit in therapy. This reliving work was so damaging it only served to increase my anguish and panic attacks tenfold. I was ruminating about painful events in my head over and over, making me less and less of a productive human being, and more and more zombie like.
The attempts to medicate my symptoms of insomnia, fatigue, low mood, and lack of motivation, were failing and only served to exacerbate the numbness I was experiencing. I desperately needed something else, something different, something that could help me move from the debilitating space of intolerable pain and anguish that I was occupying. I was then introduced to a new approach that was more somatic and psycho-spiritual than cognitive. Rather than viewing emotion as a mental process, I learned that emotion is a non-conscious complex physiological process that effects most of the body and brain. When this emotion remains unprocessed the result is a potentially diverse range of physical and psychological symptoms.
The argument being that the symptoms are not pathological invaders, they are helpful messengers. I had clearly blocked my emotions and attempts at altering my thinking patterns had proved futile at best. With this new information, it became clear why my body was creating the symptoms. That is to say, instead of looking at my symptoms with negativity, or something that was happening to me, I began to view them as messages from my body, trying to communicate to me internally.
For the first time I understood that my body was trying to tell me that I wasn’t allowing myself to fully feel. The attempts that I had been making to resolve my symptoms were just obstacles to my recovery because they were inhibiting my ability to feel and get on with life. I learned that I needed to move forward in my life and allow myself to have the experience of being me. I began by compiling a list of fun things that I could do, that would be an achievement for me, like reading a book in the garden for an hour, because I wanted to. I began to feel better. I began to feel I was taking control of my life again, but I knew there was so much more to do.
My feelings and emotions had been numbed by the medications and suppressed subconsciously. I knew I was going to have to learn to feel again, but I had no idea where to start. In truth, I didn’t want to feel, feelings scared me. What’s more I could see that I was scared of being scared; I was afraid of fear. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to cope, that I’d be overwhelmed, or that I’d drown in a sea of negative feelings, or worse still, that I would I completely lose my mind.
I still struggle with this fear, but as the saying goes, “face the fear, and do It anyway”. I knew that in order to live again and move beyond these paralysing symptoms of depression and fatigue, I was going to have to learn to process my experience of life through feelings, to allow myself to fully feel. This was a totally alien concept to me, but with help I was able to begin acknowledging emotions and allowing them. As I did, I began to feel much more connected to the real me, I experienced what I can only describe as a consciousness shift. By allowing myself to experience uncomfortable emotions such as anger, fear, grief, shame, and guilt, the crippling fear of them dissipated along with the all the symptoms I had been experiencing. I now feel a sense of freedom to experience these emotions without judgement or resistance, and I don’t care if people perceive me as a “crazy” person, because I no longer perceive myself like this. I now trust in my emotions, feelings, and intuitions to guide me through my life, this new life, a life after my beloved son, a new authentic life, as a mother who desperately misses her son, but is at peace with herself.