Surviving in the Grief Wilderness


Hope Endures

Surviving in the grief wilderness is hard.  There is no road map, no supplies, no flashlights, no warmth. It is no secret to anyone reading this that I have been living in my own private Hell I call the Grief Wilderness.

I have tried so many different ways to help light and smooth out this dark craggy place that feels like a dungeon at times.

I have been working with a bereavement counselor for 8 of the 9 months on a weekly basis.  I have read everything suggested to me, and more that I found on my own on the topic of grief.  I took an 8-day road trip always spending the night with friends.  I flew to my home town to be with a dear friend and her family for comfort.  I flew to an experiential spa in New Mexico where I spent 6 days in therapy, meditating, doing sound therapy, and somatic experiencing.  I sat in the Native America Medicine Wheel with a therapist where he told me I had a double dose of PTSD.   I meditated some more.

I have private yoga instruction that also begins with deep meditation.  I have my Reiki practitioners on speed dial.

I journal every day and I write very publicly on Facebook about my journey.  I moved the grieving part of my life to a Facebook page called Fractured.  I am writing a book by the same name.  I move forward, I am in continuous motion but I kept hitting a road block.  I kept hitting a wall.  I could only go so far.

It has been 9 long months of feeling as if I were up to my breast bone in quicksand and my breast bone aches.  It physically aches.  I called it “heartbreak ache”.

No one prepares us for the devastation we will feel when we lose a spouse and because that is where my loss lies that is what I write about.  I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child, I know the pain of losing my parents and my brother and it was sad and I still mourn.  However, losing a spouse who has been your best friend for years, who has been the person who knows you best, who takes care of you, who does the things you don’t know how to do is to me the worst loss imaginable.

At my 8th month my bereavement counselor approached me to ask if I would be interested in a medical study on using Accelerated Resolution Therapy with people who are in deep grief.  I jumped at the chance and I immediately went to Google to learn more about it.

I was stuck and my counselor knew it.  It was as if my life was being played out on a gameboard and my feet were super glued to the shock spot.  I was frozen there.  I could not move off that spot.  Every time I thought about Larry walking out the door to feed the roses and walk back in and die in my arms I felt as if I had been punched in the head and kicked in the gut.  I would cave to disbelief that this happened.  I would cry.  I couldn’t even talk about it without crying.  That night replayed in my head every day and every day I felt the shock that this ever happened.

The last words he ever said to me were “I am going to go out and feed the roses and then I will come back in and have another glass of wine with you.” Then he died.

I went for an evaluation, answered pages of questions, had an EEG and made my first appointment with a licensed professional mental health therapist.  I learned there would be a total of 4 sessions and in my research, I had read that many people achieve success with the first session.

I was in this session for 2 hours.  Part of that time was spent hooking up another EEG (they are done on visit 1 and 4) and the rest was spent doing EMDR.

I am not going to go into the psychiatric details of what EMDR is and how it works, there are plenty of articles on line about it.  Suffice it to say that many lives have been saved, and people have been pulled from the brink of suicide due to this therapy.

I was watching the news on a channel I do not usually watch and this local station had done an interview with a veteran who was on that brink. He is here today because of ART and EMDR therapies.  I listened with intent and the therapist that was interviewed is the very therapist I am seeing.  I knew I was meant to see this interview.

I am not saying that these therapies are a cure all for many mental illnesses however this is an incredible start in treating those of us with trauma and shock that can lead to phobias and anxieties.

I woke up the next morning after my first session, I said my usual good morning to Larry as I looked at my favorite photo of him and I started my day.  My phone rang and a friend asked me how my first session went.  I started to tell her all about it and for the first time I was able to go to the night he died and not cry.  I didn’t cave and my breast bone didn’t ache.

I tried to trigger myself on and off all day and got the same results.  I was unstuck.  The super glue that had been holding me in place had dissolved and as the day continued, I had new thoughts and new ideas and I had excitement over them.

I will mourn and I will grieve every day for the rest of my life that Larry died so suddenly.  I miss him all the time and I love him with all my heart.  Everything I do reminds me of what we did together.  And, yes, I still have tears.  The sadness doesn’t go away with these therapies.  All that happens is we can finally move forward.  The positive pathways in our brains connect again.  We have hope.

This is a great description I found about ART. Again, I highly encourage you to do the research because it may help you, or someone you know be better, be in control, move forward, and let go so much while holding onto what needs to remain.

What is ART?

ART is an evidence-based novel psychotherapy that fosters rapid recovery by reprogramming how the brain stores traumatic memories and imagery.  ART has roots in and includes elements of existing evidenced-based modalities.  The treatment program incorporates memory visualization techniques that are enhanced by the use of horizontal eye movements, as well as memory re-consolidation, a way in which new information is incorporated into existing memories.






Leave a Reply