What do you do when hearing news of sudden death and you can’t catch your breath? When you feel frozen and the trauma is stuck in your body? Try this exercise below.
My Dear Community,
I’m bombarded lately with late-night calls, emails, and texts from people bereaved by sudden death. Shootings and suicides cover the landscape.
No good-bye. No warning. A child falls and dies within hours. What do you do when besieged once again by depression that feels like a bonfire? Where do you go? Who do you turn to when in the midst of searing pain? Do you take yourself out of this torturous life?
I’m trained to stay present in my body and to my breath. Then I can be the person who comforts.
This week, as I watched the images of the mass shootings, my heart heard the chaos and confusion. I heard the horror. I felt it in my body.
Then, with a cleansing breath, it moved out. I returned to the state of harmony.
That changed when I saw the text
My breath froze when I read this text from my neighbor on Wednesday evening:
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.
Stunned, I stared at the text. And couldn’t breathe.
This amazing Hispanic woman has been through so much. Last summer she was cruelly harassed by upstairs neighbors. They were working on a remodeling project late into the night. She kindly asked them if they could stop at 10 p.m. so she could sleep. The next evening, she showed me the nasty note they’d left on her door that said, “Go back to where you came from.”
So of course, she and I connected immediately.
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.
I pondered what to do.
Calling out for guidance
I called out, “Now What?” and the name Peter Levine immediately came to mind. We 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 released.
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 this for yourself.
Let me hear from you:
- What did you feel in your body when you heard the news last weekend?
- Where did the trauma get stuck in your body?
- Have you tried this releasing strategy?
- Email and let me know how it worked for you.
Love all around, above, below, to the left and to the right, before you and behind you,
I am still struggling with Michele’s sudden death. It’s been over 2 years, yet I have not cleaned any of her clothes, etc. I know there are many women who could use these. There is a “Career Closet” at the YWCA, for women looking for nice clothes for job interviews. I think I have not moved passed this because finality to her death. I have a hard time getting to this point, although rationally I know it should be done. Thoughts?