Lost cat and waves of grief

I was glad the words of the book Trauma-Proofing Your Kids (https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/trauma_proofing_your_kids) flowed into my mind after my daughter and I witnessed our beloved cat get hit by a car last Monday, then run away. I was able to put my feelings on the side and just be present for my daughter who was naturally extremely emotive and shocked. She likened the experience of seeing your child get hit.

Even though my wise mind knows to stay with her pain and let her process, I had noticed waves of moments of me wanting to distract her. She responded best when she told me that nothing could stop this pain so to stop trying. She continued to go on about all the sensations and feelings she was having. That’s when I remembered the book. I agreed with her then just hugged and comforted her how she needed me to. By the end of that night, she was feeling bad for the individual who hit our cat and wondered how they were coping. I was blown away by how well my daughter was handling her cat being lost and not knowing what condition she was in.

To actively process our grief, we posted signs, went to all the neighbors’ houses, we went on searches at all times of the day, left a trail of food as well as played board games, read stories, had friends over, ate our favorite foods, and did visualizations of our ideal outcome while accepting the reality of the worst-case. Our small island community was extremely responsive and kind. We got encouraging messages and tips. Fortunately, this story has a happy ending and our cat is home safe and sound after 5 long, emotionally draining days. On the day she was found by a neighbor, my daughter mentioned feeling surprised that she had no negative feelings or worries that day. That she just had this feeling all over that our cat would be home today. We learned a lot about grief and the value of family, friends, and community.
Here is a picture of Luna Belle, Queen of the Moon Tribe (as my daughter likes to say is her full name) resting comfortably.

Image from book When Someone Very Special Dies: Children Can Learn to Cope with Grief by Marge Eaton Heegaard
Words by Dr Jessica Zucker 
Artwork by Anne Robin Calligraphy http://
shop.drjessicazucker.com/
cards/grief-knows-no

“From Neurons to Neighborhoods”

Our mother’s well-being and safety whilst we are developing in utero along with our early life experiences strongly influence our brain development. Stressful events that occurred to our parents will naturally affect us as children. Sadly, our culture is full of violence and negativity yet also doesn’t support processing negative events or emotions. The presence of at least one safe, nurturing, and responsive adult to be there for us to process emotions and negative events, especially during stressful times, is vital for well-being and positive development.

Without a safe supportive person, and instead of processing, our automatic defense mechanisms get triggered. We tend to ignore or dismiss are stress signals and negative emotions, then use distraction or substances to cope. The really hard part is to process the negative events, you have to at least acknowledge them and open yourself up to the negative emotions. Also, very few people know NOT how to react negatively and to truly hold space for someone who is processing negative emotions.

What doesn’t get processed then gets stuck in the body and unconscious levels of the brain. I highly recommend learning about how Adverse Childhood Experiences lead to health issues. The more stress or toxins (emotional, chemical, environmental, or physical) you add, the more you tax your body and the mind/body/spirit become dysregulated. The more you stay in a dysregulated state, the more harmful, pervasive, and lasting the effects. Thus, unprocessed stress kills more than anything. Our minds and bodies will unconsciously express the stress. With no safe places or skills to process the stress, it will manifest in many problematic ways like physical ailments, disease, negative behaviors, habits, and conflict consequently destroying our well-being and relationships.

Here is an excerpt from From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. National Research Council (US) and Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development; Shonkoff JP, Phillips DA, editors.Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2000.

“This account of early brain development emphasizes the ways in which the nervous system is designed to recruit and incorporate experience into its developing architecture and neurochemistry. Normal experience (e.g., good nutrition, patterned visual information) supports normal brain development, and abnormal experience (e.g., prenatal alcohol exposure, occluded vision) can cause abnormal neural and behavioral development (Black et al., 1998). Plasticity is a double-edged sword that leads to both adaptation and vulnerability. “…

“In this report, stress refers to the set of changes in the body and the brain that are set into motion when there are overwhelming threats to physical or psychological well-being (Selye, 1973, 1975). Stress can have dramatic effects on health and development (Johnson et al., 1992). This happens because the physiology of stress produces a shift in the body’s priorities. When threats begin to overwhelm one’s immediate resources to manage them, a cascade of neurochemical changes that begin in the brain temporarily puts on hold the processes in the body that can be thought of as future-oriented: finding, digesting, and storing food; fighting off colds and viruses; learning things that don’t matter right now but may be important sometime in the future; reproducing and rearing offspring. Many of these neurochemical changes take place in the very same brain structures (e.g., hypothalamus and brainstem) that function to regulate heart rate, respiration, food intake and digestion, reproduction, growth, and the building up versus breaking down of energy stores (Stratakis and Chrousos, 1995).”    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK225562/

“I was spanked and I’m fine!”

I understand how anyone who has been physically punished would have to make sense of being hit in some way. You would need to believe that there must be some value in it… I mean why else would the person you love and trust the most hit you and make you suffer more…You must have deserved it, Right!?!

It is a step in healing when you take the time to reflect on your upbringing. The heartbreaking part for me is that the majority of people have been trained to dismiss their suffering and believe “they are fine” and that we are getting what we “need” to learn lessons and respect, then stop there as their conclusion. They don’t even know that they have other options to reconcile the conflicting messages. Stuck to rationalize it and pass on the suffering to the next generation.

From my experience, we are not fine. Seriously, look at the divorce and crime rates, suicides, homicides, the addictions and growing list of diseases… If you don’t know how these are related, then you definitely need to do your research. Start here at Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

The reality is the majority of our vital needs are neglected, abused, dismissed or propaganda-ed which is detrimental to our wellbeing and humanity.  The fact that one thinks it is normal and completely acceptable to hit a child during the most critical and sensitive period of human development is proof in itself that they are not fine. Even if one was “fine,” often times there are contextual variables affecting outcomes so naturally,  as humans, will find some way to rationalize and find ways in which spanking seems effective, oblivious of the resiliency factors at play or the future negative consequences.  I assure you that no matter what resiliency factors may be present, disconnection at some level has occurred, whether it be emotional, mental, physical, relational or spiritual. Spanking does to a child’s development what hitting a partner does to a marriage…

To me, we are all born inherently good and those who act ‘bad’ are those with less vital needs met and more pain to heal.  Everyone is doing the best they can with the resources they are aware of, have access to, or what was literally beaten into them. Fortunately, we can heal past negative events and discover new resources. I have found that secure attachments, co-regulation, compassion, connection, mindfulness, and nonviolent communication are the most effective ways to nurture human beings and discover mutually satisfying solutions.

Consciously choose to be part of the solution, not the problem. Ease stress, nurture needs…

Here are some resources to support positive, peaceful, and conscious parenting:

http://nopunish.net/

http://www.littleheartsbooks.com/

https://www.ahaparenting.com/

https://www.handinhandparenting.org/

https://www.teach-through-love.com/

“By understanding and increasing just this one capacity of the human brain, an enormous amount of social change can be fostered. Failure to understand and cultivate empathy, however, could lead to a society in which no one would want to live—a cold, violent, chaotic, and terrifying war of all against all. This destructive type of culture has appeared repeatedly in various times and places in human history and still reigns in some parts of the world. And it’s a culture that we could be inadvertently developing throughout America if we do not address current trends in child rearing, education, economic inequality, and our core values.” ― Bruce D. Perry, Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential–and Endangered

To learn more about the side-effects of spanking, click the following links:

The effects of spanking confirmed by 50 years of research

https://edition.cnn.com/2017/12/05/health/spanking-dating-violence-study/index.html

http://www.naturalchild.org/jan_hunt/spanked.html

Disclaimer

Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers,  as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA

 

 

 

Positive Reframe on Female Bodies

I have been seeing a slew of photos of new celebrity mother’s showing how wonderful they look after losing all their baby weight gain while their babies are still under the age of one. Some have only just made it out of the 4th trimester – the first three months after the baby is born. Now don’t get me wrong, I want women to celebrate their bodies and feel comfortable to share no matter what stage or shape you are in. I happened to lose 60 lbs after my second child was born and was asked to pose for some clothing advertising. I was actually “skinny shamed” by a commenter. They had no idea nor took any consideration on how this was my first time ever modeling and I was finally feeling confident and flattered for being asked after losing all the weight I gained from four pregnancies, three being consecutive miscarriages, including a stillbirth.

What concerns me the most is the added pressure and sub-text, the negative messages that women are absorbing about their bodies when they are the most vulnerable, in the transition of being a mother and needing to nurture a dependent soul. How you look should absolutely be the last thing on your mind. In fact, I don’t even think it needs to be on a list of worries. Have you had a baby!?! I assure you, there is enough to worry about. Being able to shower and sleep are hard enough. I could easily go off on a tangent about privilege as well… losing weight is hard and it’s one thing when you have secure resources and an elaborate support system but let’s get back to weight.

The most recent comment I read from a celebrity was regarding her postpartum body. She stated, “I don’t even know what to say, other than I’m so sorry to my body.” … I wish we could reframe this messages to one of gratitude, strength, encouragement, and compassion for our bodies like, “Wow, thank you body for supporting and nurturing me and my baby. I will continue to prioritize my well-being and nourish you the best way I can.” Imagine what would happen if we consciously chose to send positive and supportive messages about our bodies…What “If tomorrow, women woke up and decided they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would go out of business.” Dr. Gail Dines

Here are some links on how society influences and/or distorts how we define beauty…

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, sitting

Below are resources to support positive body image:

How to Talk to Your Daughter About Her Body https://www.huffpost.com/entry/body-image_b_3678534

When Your Daughter Says “I’m Fat” How To Build Body Positivity in Girls https://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=23026

Celebrating Every Body 25 Body Image Positive Books for Mighty Girls  https://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=10912

Take Wonderful Care,

blog signature

Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my posts reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. This online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA

Victims, Bullies or Response-able?

I first wrote this blog in 2010 and sadly, more and more tragedies are on the front page…

It is bitter-sweet for me to read all the talk about “bullying.” Great that people are seeing that it is a serious problem, but I know like after Columbine, it will fall off our plate and another tragedy will take its place. I am tired of talking. I am sick of running into walls and double-edged swords. Emotionally, I liken going to school like heading into battle naked with no triage on site, and I went to a private school in a nice suburb.

This is a typical bullying scenario through my lens: If an adult is sensitive enough and not stressed or distracted by other things and catches the barrage of insults, they will call attention to the Bully. The adult will threaten or cast some irrelevant punishment which will insult the Bully and add more pain to an already stressed soul. A soul who clearly does not have resources to cope and will take it out on another vulnerable soul. If the Victim gets any attention at all, it is to the tune of “Oh, don’t let it bother you” or “toughen up.” Then everyone is expected to get back to their task or whatever they were doing and pretend everything is fine.

The most heartbreaking part for me is that the majority of people think we are “fine” and we’re getting what we “need.” We are not fine. The majority of our vital needs are neglected and abused, dismissed or propaganda-ed. I will read more headlines tomorrow about how could someone do this horrid act and how it came out of nowhere. I could reflect a truth yet the truth hurts and we are not allowed to feel pain or cry. Yet to feel compassion, you must heal, and to heal you must cry, or at least process through our negative thoughts and feelings but we are afraid to feel or share. So where does that leave us?… Sadly, on the front page again.

passing down abuse

I plead for people to open your minds, your hearts, and your souls. Bullies aren’t born bullies, they’ve been bullied. Social interactions and emotional intelligence amongst kids (and most adults for that matter) are atrocious. Yet, I am even more disgusted when I hear adults belittle and disrespect children on a constant basis. How can we expect kids not to bully when their instincts are perpetually defied and they are manipulated to meet the needs of whatever adult has power or control over them. And then when we are tired of fighting or nagging, we let media take over.

I have been just a guilty as anyone. I can cite many examples of my own hypocrisy and human errors. Our society is full of traps, luring us to fill someone else’s pocket and boosts another’s ego whilst draining our own soul. It seems we care more about how things look than how they feel. I am sick of putting my fate and my children’s future in someone else’s hands. I choose to act in every moment I am blessed with. I have made a conscious choice to stop (as humanly possible) reacting, shaming, blaming, yelling, name-calling, and choose to respond to others how I would genuinely like to be comforted when I feel hurt or stressed or upset, especially to my children. Their feelings, their suffering, and tears are just as valid as my own even though they are small and some of their plights may seem trivial. My favorite definition of “responsible” is being able to respond appropriately in any given moment to get vital needs met = response-able. My children’s’ souls, and everyone I engage with, are in my hands and I take this very seriously.

I don’t believe there are bad people, only people with less vital needs met and more pain to heal. Every interaction is an opportunity to connect, nurture, heal and grow…

victim, bully, responsible meme

I recommend turning off media/technology for at least one hour before bed and read stories as a family. Take time every day to truly connect with your loved ones. Create your own healing rituals to get vital needs met.

Changing habits is hard and scary; LOVE yourself and everyone else through it!

Take Wonderful Care,

Debra

You can learn more about me and my online services at Wecounsel

For more resources check out:

10 habits to strengthen parent/child relationship by Dr Laura Markham

FOSTERING EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT CHILDREN, FAMILIES, AND COMMUNITIES by John Gottman 

Natural Born Bullies by Robin Grille

3 Steps for Parents from Nonviolence Activists

Disclaimer

Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. This online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers and seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA

~~~Go with the flow ~~~

“The simple phrase Go with the flow is actually very significant spiritually. The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus declared that life is like a river – you cannot step into it in the same place twice. Existence is always new, yet we are tempted to be bring old reactions to it. When we find ourselves resisting anything – which basically means saying no – we are usually trying to impose an old belief or habit on a new situation.

The law of Least Effort bids us to recognize the newness of life by allowing it to unfold without interference. It tells us to be in the moment, to look for Nature’s help, and stop blaming anyone or anything outside ourselves. In the flow, spirit is already organizing the millions upon millions of details that uphold life – from the infinite processes needed to keep a single cell alive vast intricacies of evolving universe. By connecting the spirit, we ride this cosmic organizing power and take advantage of it.”

From The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success for Parents: Guiding Your Children to Success and Fulfilment by Deepak Chopra

This book gives concrete and simple examples of how to talk to your children about profound spiritual lessons. The Seven Spiritual Laws cited in the book are:

  1. Everything is possible.
  2. If you want something, give it.
  3. When you make a choice, you change the future.
  4. Don’t say no – go with the flow.
  5. Every time you wish or want, you plant a seed.
  6. Enjoy the journey.
  7. You are here for a reason.
These are awesome laws to live by though I do believe that there are certain times to respectfully say “No” especially when you are giving yourself permission to follow your joy and flow. As you practice, you’ll be able to discern the difference. These principles have been unfolding in my life, especially on my parenting journey. My children are my greatest inspirations for living a life full of love and joy. Chopra’s explorations and insights are consistent with my research and experiences in human development and well-being.
A parent isn’t an authority. You and your child are both souls; you are both embarked on a journey of soul making…every family is a communion of souls.

“Only Love Today” and Comfort zone

I started reading Only Love Today” by Rachel Macy Stafford”. It is an absolutely amazing book. So much so, as I was reading it, I found myself repeatedly saying, “Yes!” “I know!” “I do that.” and so on. I set it down for a few weeks as this way of life is truly etched in my being.

Recently, I pushed my son out of his comfort zone to do something he had never done before and it didn’t go as I hoped. I have learned not to be attached to outcomes but his strong negative reaction and feedback caught me off guard. I sadly, took his reaction personally, causing me to react negatively and I struggled to be a compassionate listener for him. I could even see my overreaction and the negative dynamic I was feeding yet I could not stay connected to my wise mind and heart and be there for him as I usually am. This made me feel even worse.

To put things in perspective, only 20 hours had passed since the initial triggering event occurred till the time it took me to feel at ease with it, and I am going through some physical health issues thus unusually wore out. In fact, I was on my way to the hospital for an iron fusion, when I decided to grab the book, “Only Love Today” as my reading material for appointment and travels. I had a feeling it could help ground me and get me back to my center. As soon as I got on the ferry and opened the book to this oh-so-relevant reminder:

 

 

I love synchronicity! Synchronicity is when events seem to somehow magically connect to one another and take on some meaning that provides guidance as they relate to our current emotional states and inner experiences. So there I was on the ferry, with tears streaming down my face, knowing how every word of this is true and exactly what I have been trying to get my son to understand yet my negative reaction fueled our deepest fears.

The more I sat with this, the more tears came but I was acutely aware I was in a public space. I was uncomfortable and vulnerable. Even more synchronous is this uncomfortable and vulnerable situation relates to my son’s recent experience and journey. I am a female and afraid to cry and be emotional, it is even 100 times worse for him. He seems to have inherited my highly sensitive trait. We feel and process deeply as well as absorb and internalize sensory information at overwhelming rates. We are like sponges and find it to be a monumental task to stop the absorption. The best way I have found to slow it down is to take deep breaths, to non-judgementally notice and connect to all my senses, and send compassionate messages to myself and all those involved that counteract the deep fears and irrational core beliefs.

Here’s another quote I really enjoying during these times of transitions:

“This week I invite you to surrender to the cycles of your life and your reality. Accept the beauty of where you are in your lifecycle, whether you are cleansing, purging and renewing or growing, expanding or even ending. Love yourself as you move through change and transition. There is no ‘perfect’ way to navigate through it all. It’s okay to scream and have a temper tantrum if that’s what it takes to get to the other side. Releasing that energy only makes room for clarity and peace. Each step in your journey is really about growth and expansion…May you remember this week to Trust and know you are fully supported on your journey and may you remember that deep underneath all of this experience is really only the grandest expression of pure, unconditional Love.” ~Karen Curry

Change, even when for the better, is uncomfortable and difficult no matter what you do. Like the growing pains of a developing child, their muscles and bones ache from all the quick growing yet they are getting taller and stronger. You can even do everything “right” and it will still cause distress as there are so many variables out of your control. This is the crux of life, learning how to be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. I know that all negative and painful events have inherent value in our lives which will shine through in time when we least expect it.  All the reasons why I made the conscious choice to push my son outside his comfort zone were valid. As hard as it is to know a choice I made upset my child, it is impossible to avoid negativity and I am would not be doing my son any favors by overprotecting him and robbing him of these opportunities to struggle through, grow, and learn from.

Deep breaths, baby steps, embrace fears and love MORE ❤

where the magic happens

You can learn more about me and my services at WeCounsel

Take wonderful care of yourself as the world needs you.

❤ Debra

Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. Thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state Illinois, USA