It’s hard enough to deal with the passing of a loved one when it’s expected. But when it’s a sudden death, there’s so much that needs to be processed in a shorter time period. Today, we’re talking about how to release the fear and trauma that come from the worst of unexpected events.
On December 6, at his 60th class reunion, my father died. He was not ill. It was not expected. One moment he was fine, the next moment he was gone from a fatal heart attack.
My aunt Mary called and said, “Your Dad sat down on the couch and died”.
To say I was shocked would be an understatement. No matter how long we’ve been an adult, losing a parent is a piercing pain. When one of the souls you’ve communicated with since you began this human existence leaves our plane, it can leave you feeling like a child lost in the woods.
That was many years ago, and I had experienced loss before him. I’ve experienced loss since him. Most of them have been sudden, and therefore felt more shocking.
During a series of mass shootings, a neighbor of mine lost her father to a shooter, and her mother was in the hospital. She sent me a text: Georgena, it is your neighbor. I’m in Texas as my parents were victims of the mass shooting at Walmart. My dad was fatally shot. My mom is in surgery now. I am asking if you would please look after my place by watering the plants on my balcony.
Even though this sudden death wasn’t related to me, it was still a massive shock. Reading her horrific text about her parents, I tried my usual cleansing breathing ritual.
But it would not work.
I couldn’t breathe! The trauma was stuck in my body.
Releasing the Fear
My body had been so shocked that I literally could not breathe. At that moment, I called out for guidance. I asked, now what?
The name Peter Levine immediately came to mind. I had read his book, Waking the Tiger, during my Rubenfeld Synergy training.
So I began purposely shaking my body.
Then I did more shaking while standing on my tiptoes.
Next, I jumped up and down for an entire minute.
Finally, the stuck-ness in my diaphragm was released and I was able to draw a normal breath.
We have three basic options when threatened: fight, flight or freeze.
A rabbit freezes as it tries blending into the bush as a coyote prowls by. Undetected, the rabbit is safe. Then, when the danger has passed, it trembles to release and thaw the frozen, contracted energy.
If you’re confronted with traumatic news that leaves you frozen and unable to breathe, try the above method for yourself.
If you find that you’re struggling with PTSD, and are feeling the fright, flight, or freeze response in your body, try this:
- Hop up and down shaking your arms and hands.
- Make a sound as you do so. Now make it louder.
- Now run in place until you can’t go anymore.
- Slowly come to a stop.
- Then, either stand still, sit, or lie down.
- Bring your attention to your body and notice how you are connecting to the floor, the chair, the bed, or the couch.
- Connect to your body by breathing in and out through your nose.
Releasing the Trauma
Sudden death can feel like a lightning bolt coursing through your body—from the top of your head, plunging into your stomach.
Whenever we are hit by a sudden loss, it’s important to check your inner state. After all, you’ve just been struck by a lightning bolt of loss.
In these moments, ask yourself: What’s the kindest, most loving thing I can do for myself right now?
Here are a few suggestions that have worked for me:
- I made a cup of hot water with lemon and drank it all.
- I searched my mind for the person I could call who would be glad to hear my voice. And who would listen.
- We connected and he asked me about my friendship with her. He asked me what I was feeling in my body. He breathed with me.
- I was very gentle with myself for the rest of the day. If I had a broken leg, I would move slowly. This emotional ‘break’ slowed me down.
- I paused before the next ‘thing’ to ask, “Now what, Spirit? Now what?”
If you experience sudden news or some other triggering event—if you get struck by a lightning bolt of loss—release the fear and trauma instead of carrying it. You can get more helpful insights about grief, loss, self-care, and releasing fear and trauma here.
Love all around, above, below, to the left and to the right, before you and behind you,
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