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Resilient Survivor of Traumatic Losses Asks Which Meditations to Use

28 Mar

A therapist dealing with her own major losses, traumatic grief, anger, panic attacks and PTS asks which meditations would be best for her, to complement and fortify the work she is doing in psychotherapy.

Question:

Hi. Belleruth,

I recently lost both parents - my mom after a long illness, and my dad killed himself a few months later. 

After an argument with me, he went upstairs and shot himself. I found him. It was a huge trauma, and I have been in great distress ever since.

I have had panic attacks for the last few months and from time to time I feel afraid of dying. I need some help to work with this trauma and to heal,

I feel that my heart is full of pain (sorrow and anger at the same time).

As there are a lot of meditations on your website, I would appreciate so much if you would recommend to me the imagery you think would be best for my healing.

I am 38 and in therapy in the moment. I work as a psychologist myself, specializing in body-based, somatic psychotherapy. 

Thank you very much,

Svetlana

Answer:

Dear Svetlana,

I'm so sorry. What a time you've had. 

Recovering from any loved one's suicide is hard enough, but when someone close kills himself in an impulsive, angry response to an argument, with that element of "I'll show you!!", it's particularly cruel and punishing.  So, of course, you're angry.  What a selfish thing to leave you with. On the other hand, you know he had to be feeling trapped in tremendous, intolerable pain and, at least for a moment, just had to get OUT. So, of course, you're terribly sad as well. 

Plus, you just lost your mother, who would perhaps be the one you'd most want to talk to about this, get comfort from. And, if she was ill for an extended time, you're recovering from that as well. It's a lot to deal with, no matter how strong and together you are. 

The good news is people really do recover from this; you're really clear about what you're feeling and what you need to do; you're young; you're in therapy; you're a body-based therapist yourself, so you've got sophisticated knowledge to help you get through this; and you know how to ask for help.  That combination of active ingredients is more than what you need to heal. 

We do have some guided imagery that would be good for you in these circumstances.  First of all, if your relationship with your mother was essentially positive and uncomplicated, and you're missing her extra-much under these painful circumstances, I'd use the Ease Grief imagery for help with that loss.  If the relationship with your mother was fraught and difficult, I'd leave that alone for now. 

Assuming that you’ve responded well to the technique of guided imagery, you could try the imagery for Panic Attacks for  some brief exercises you can do when you’re out and about and feeling triggered or when you sense that an episode is starting up. There’s also imagery in there to reframe the panic to excitement  (physiologically, the sensations are quite similar).

To target your reactions to the bitter way your father left you, I recommend listening to Heartbreak, Abandonment & Betrayal. In fact, if you find this imagery suits you, I'd listen to it repeatedly for several days or weeks, or until you're sick of it, whichever comes first. 

Then I'd move on to Healing Trauma, which gets right to the heart of the healing from your PTS, but is intense and emotionally evocative. You shouldn't have a problem with it, and especially after listening to the Heartbreak imagery. It has a profound, cumulative effect that you may feel right away, or it may sneak up on you.  Either way is good - trust your body and psyche to get the timing right.  And go back to the Heartbreak imagery and intersperse it with this imagery when you're so inclined.

For some variety, and if it's still an issue (and it may or may not be) you could alternate with Anger & Forgiveness - but only if/when you're ready to forgive.  And if you're not, that's okay too - don't push it. 

If you want help with sleep while all this is going on, then Healthful Sleep is a good one to listen to before bed. I imagine your sleep has been pretty disrupted.

And finally - and if you're a body-based therapist yourself, this will probably come as no surprise to you - Somatic Experiencing, the technique created by Peter Levine, might really help you along in your therapy, as part of your work with your therapist.  There are trained SE therapists everywhere, and especially on both coasts.  (For all I know, you're an SE therapist).

So, those are my recommendations.  I wish you well.  If you feel like it, drop a line in a few weeks and let me know how you're doing. 

All best,

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Belleruth 

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Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award