Here's my latest article in the September issue of Family Times magazine.
Transforming Tragedies: An effort to build resilience to trauma in school
Everyone experiences distressing events in their lives. You’ve probably heard about trauma, the emotional response to these events. Our emotional reactions to these events can have long term effects on the way we think, make decisions and relate to others. Developing resilience—our ability to cope with stress—makes responding to adversity easier.
In the months following my sister Sanchia's death the song Hills and Valleys by Tauren Wells made me bawl. Of course I stopped to listen to it every time I heard it. I sat in driveways and parking lots to catch the last strains before getting out of the car. It's in my playlists, which is how I ended up writing this post. The song was one of Sanchia's favorites. As I listened to the song memories floated to the surface.
Following my sister's sudden death I was in my valley, walking in the shadow of death, wondering how long it would take for the pain and sorrow of the loss to become familiar friends. Each day I found new places in my life that Sanchia used to fill. The shock of stumbling into each new empty space was a fresh new wound to my tender heart How long, oh Lord?
It has been eighteen months of getting used to finding the empty places where Sanchia used to be. No more late night "Talk me down!" sessions when everyday injustice and indifference to suffering of others grate on our collective nerves. Y'all might want to behave by the way, she's not around to talk me down when I decide the world needs to change and it needs to change yesterday. Also pretty sure a couple of internal filters broke the day I realized I wouldn't hear her laugh ever again.
I'm starting to find new strength in places once weakened by grief. Old hurts are beginning to heal. In the place of open wounds healthy flesh is beginning to grow. They are still tender, some raw to the touch. I discovered this as I tried to hold back the tears that came while I wrote this. I'm learning to let the tears fall in remembrance of a beloved sister and out of respect for experience.
These tender healing wounds will one day be supple scars, the beauty marks of a survivor. Climbing in and out of these valleys, and up and down the hills, has kept my emotional muscles flexible. Sometimes I freeze. Sometimes I stumble. Sometimes I fall. Sometimes I wipe out so bad, I'm not sure I have the strength to get back up again.
"Life sucks. Bad stuff happens. Time to put your big girl panties on." I've found a place where sis managed to stay with me. She said those words to me so many times. I've already gotten back up so many times. How long, oh Lord?
One. More. Time.
I only need to get back up one time more than the times l fall. There's treasure in the hills and valleys. It's the truth of who I am, what I'm capable of, and what happens when I get back up.
Disclaimer: I'm a nerd not a doctor. Discuss anything you read here with a healthcare professional you trust.
We’re hitting that time of year when the sun goes on vacation at the higher latitudes in the northern hemisphere. Many of us take exception to the shorter days and lack of sunlight. I know I do. Around this time of year, I start feeling like I’m wading through thin molasses. By February the molasses is good and thick.
Sleep helps. Seven to eight hours every night is gold. No, don’t believe that “I’m a night person I don’t need that much sleep” mess. Yes, you do need that much sleep. You will be amazed at what happens to your body and mind once you start getting adequate sleep. Psst, you burn calories in your sleep.
Beware the blanket burrito. While getting a solid minimum of seven to eight hours of sleep every night is good for you watch out for oversleeping. When I crack an eyelid open and it’s pitch black out, but the clock says it’s time to be awake, I want to roll back into my blanket burrito. It’s a trap! Don’t do it! There’s a whole day’s worth of adventure waiting for you, don’t succumb to the lure of the blanket burrito. I have an alarm clock that simulates the sun rising to help wake me up. Others use apps that require solving puzzles or math problems before the alarm will stop sounding.
Go. Out. Side. Stay out there for at least 30 minutes. Your brain will thank you. There are parts of our visual cortex that help regulate our internal functions based on the amount of sunlight that hits our retinas. If you live on the snowy tundra like I do, a full spectrum light may be your best friend as the days get shorter and darker. Be careful not to over expose yourself. I got a little carried away with the first light box I owned.
I take a general what happens if I do this approach to life. It keeps things interesting.