C-PTSD and More Grief
And the Grief Goes On
March 25, 2021
Yeah, the grief continued all through this week. Remember last week when I talked about grief has no time restrictions? Well, last week really proved this to be true. Last week’s episode I focused on the 5 Stages of Grief and how you too will go through these stages, even if it is for the loss of your favorite fountain pen.
This week was more like surviving the grief and I tell you all about it in this week’s episode. I took some bold moves to combat the ongoing and what seems like everlasting grief this week. I had pretty good results as evidenced by the fact that I actually was able to produce an episode this week.
As usual, here are some websites that offer more information about grieving when you have Complex Post Traumatic Stress.
An Evolutionary Framework for Understanding Grief by Randolph M. Nesse. This is an academic projects and packs a lot of punch. If you have an insatiable thirst for knowledge then this article may interest you.
Here’s a brief article on accessing your need to grieve those childhood losses that so many people with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress experience.
Here’s a series of relative articles that are much easier on the brain that the more scholastic articles I am sharing this week. I hope you like them.
I just discovered Pete Walker as I prepared this week’s podcast. He has been through it all and has lived to talk about it. Not only that, but he has also dedicated his professional career to helping people with Complex PTSD. My hat’s off to you, Pete Walker.
C-PTSD and More Grief
And The Grief Goes On
March 25, 2021
Hello and welcome to Out of My Mind in Costa Rica. I’m your host, Ray Erickson. Early this week, Sunday to be exact, I had a wee bit of a conflict with my wife, and I began preparing for this week’s topic to be on conflict, but no, that was not going to happen. Although the conflict woke me up to my need to take better care of myself, I couldn’t shake the grief which was the basis of Episode 20 so here it is the day before my self-imposed release date and I am starting from scratch and continuing from where I left off last week, which was grief.
Grief is sticky. It doesn’t want to let go which is why it requires such a conscious effort to release grief. Keep in mind that people with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress have extremely high levels of grief as a result of the numerous personal losses that span their lives. At least that is what it has been like for me, and I wouldn’t be surprised if those of you who fit the criteria for C-PTSD aren’t also treading water trying to keep yourself from sinking into your own ocean of grief. For what it is worth, you are not alone.
Can you imagine the total collective grief of people who have experienced complex trauma in their lives? Imagine how overwhelming a force like that must be. Grief can only be released when you have fully accepted the loss and how many people have been able to fully shed all of their grief. Not many. No one I can think of and no one I have ever heard of. Maybe a few of the Buddhist monks have achieved this, but then again, their faith is based on the all-too-common human experience of suffering. As long as we suffer, there will be grief.
We are never free of grief, but each step we take releases miniscule amounts of grief is a reason for elation and celebration. Yes, grief needs to be celebrated. We have forgotten the old ways and we have forgotten the teachings of our ancient ancestors. These humans were immersed in the present moment as hunters and gatherers. Each day they risked their lives in the hope of a successful hunt or the discovery of a riverside blackberry patch. Grief was around every corner and they had ways to address the grief. They had rituals. They had ceremonies. They had vision quests.
When you research grief, you may notice that it is slanted towards the loss of loved ones through death. This is the most common association for grief. Death can come to us in a hundred thousand possible ways. It doesn’t really matter the manner in which one dies, they are dead, that’s a fact. They may be in our hearts, but they are no longer in our lives. The grief cycle has begun. In many ways, physical death is a much easier loss to process that death by divorce or death by rejection. When people die, they are dead. It’s concrete and there is no chance of them ever showing up in your lives again, except through our own unresolved grief.
Dead people are easy. But most of the losses in my life were not a result of death. Yeah, I have experienced my share of death. Much of my death experience has been the result of suicide. This form of physical death continues to live in the minds of the survivors. I’ll say more about suicide in a little while. For me, death by rejection or abandonment is a much more difficult loss to grieve than physical death. Whether it’s the rejection of ourselves or our rejection of another, we experience loss, but the object of our loss is still alive, breathing, doing what they do. Grieving those who have actually died has a terminal point somewhere down the road, but how does one fully grieve the rejection by your family for instance. In my case, I was excommunicated by my family (rejected me) because I was forcing them to look at the incest. This was intolerable for my family and to prevent the exposure of the family secrets, they chose to cut me out. I ceased to exist. In their minds, I was dead.
I’m not a gambling man, but I would wager that not one of my family members grieved an ounce for my loss. They killed me. This assured them the secrets were safe. I am guessing their collective grief never got the past Stage 1 and they remained in Denial for the rest of their lives. I was dead and forgotten, as if I never existed. There is only my younger brother, Tom and I still alive and he may even be dead. I have no idea.
Their decision to kill me off in their minds worked in my favor. I knew about incest families and I knew about grief. I took full advantage of the Child and Family Institute’s support along with a significant about of psychotherapy over a long period of time has led me to believe I have adequately grieved this loss. Maybe. You never really know. I survived this environment through a cleverly created dissociative state and by following the rules. The dissociative state blinded me to the abuse and following the rules helped me survive. Not only was I blind to the abuse, but as the hero child, I showed the world that my family was OK. We were normal.
Social work saved me from even more grief and loss by giving me the understanding and the skills needed to process grief like the loss of my entire family, not to mention the loss of my entire childhood. A childhood that turned out to more fiction than fact. What a life, eh? Well, I’m grateful that my family released me because that was a major toxic waste dump. My life did nothing but improve beyond that point. I was cruising. I had my master’s degree; I obtained my professional licensure to practice social work and I spent the next 25 plus years living a good life. That is until C-PTSD began to undermine that very foundation.
I had no idea I had C-PTSD, but looking back I can see, without a doubt, that I was suffering from this condition. Learning I had grown up in an incest family blew me away. And what’s amazing to me, somehow, I managed to escape my family’s toxic environment entirely intact. In fact, I was so intact, that I possessed the healing power of psychotherapy, which I did, but I was not free from the damage caused by my incestuous family. Not by a long shot. No, I was damaged, and I had been carrying this pain without any conscious knowledge of it until 3-4 years ago.
No, I felt pain, but I did not know it was intergenerational pain. I knew grief was involved, but I didn’t know I was really, really damaged. There was lots of grieving going on. In fact, at one point in my life, within 2 years, there were 8 people I knew who died of suicide. Most of these losses were occurred during my wild and crazy daze in Idaho back in the early 1980’s. I was the “hero child”, the good boy and I was slipping down a slippery slope into a death spiral which made it clear I needed a change in scenery.
Suicide. Now’s as good a time as any to address this type of loss. When I was living and behaving like a fool in Idaho I didn’t know about Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and her 5 Stages of Grief. This was pre social work school and I was acting out like a mad dog hell bent on self-destruction. I had no idea I was grieving so much loss. Subconsciously, I was still playing by the family rules.
My descent into my own personal hell is the single greatest regret in my life. I literally hated myself. You could tell by my actions. I knew I was sliding down a slippery slope, but I didn’t know how to stop myself. That is until I was told by my lawyer that with 4 DUI’s (driving under the influence) in a year-and-a-half, I was looking at jail-time.
This got my attention, and it gave me a good reason to get out of Dodge, so I did. I moved to Sacramento, California where the sun began to shine once more. If you want to know more about my fucked-up life in Idaho then, go check out those early episodes. Sorry, I don’t remember which one, but it was one of the first 4.
The real grief work did not begin until I was exiled by my family and I was working at The Child and Family Institute. I worked with juvenile sex-offenders in an outpatient setting. These were not your dangerous predator-type of offender, more like a naive, experimental type of offender. But don’t let these fuckers off the hook just because they were teenagers and they committed crimes that involved less coercion, less manipulation, and less violence. Their crimes were still violent, and they stole the innocence of many a young child. No, don’t you have any pity on these young men.
These young men had been adjudicated to the program because their individual family and social situation implied, they would respond to an intense family treatment approach. So, even though they were “lightweights” when it comes to sex offenders, their crimes were part of a process that was just getting started. The idea was to treat these young men in hopes they did not become full-blown sexual predators. We did the best we could and for the most part, the team felt headway was being made with our young charges. Maybe we were right. Maybe we were wrong. We’ll never know.
On Sunday morning I woke up with the blues. That’s not true, I had been feeling depressed all week and I went to bed on Saturday feeling depressed. I knew something had to be done. I don’t remember what I had for breakfast on Sunday, but I remember meditating and trying to work with the depression when I realized that the MDMA I was saving for my wife and me could provide some needed relief. I had tried MDMA for the first time about a month ago and was pleasantly surprised with the results. I had divided the 500 mg into thirds and sampled one of the thirds at that time. I had 2/3 left so I split that in half and dosed myself about 11am.
I’m a firm believer in the use of psychedelic compounds in the treatment of affective disorders. I was familiar with the effects of 133 mg of MDMA, so I went into Sunday’s experience with a focus on the depression. At the worse, I would still be depressed, but at the best, I will have alleviated a great deal of the stress I was currently dealing with. So, I decided to go with it, and I am happy that I did.
I knew what to expect, but I had a different agenda for that day. Sunday was a day for grief, a day for loss, a day to rise from the ashes like the Phoenix. It was not that dramatic, but what it turned out to be was a breath of fresh air. Those of you with seasons, know the smell I am speaking of. It’s the smell you experience in the Spring when you open the windows for the first time and the outside air circulates throughout the house. I can smell it right now as I speak of it. Maybe you can too.
I needed music for the day, and I went to YouTube where I found a Grateful Dead concert in Hawaii back in 1970. Over 3 hours of the Grateful Dead Live! There couldn’t be a better musical backdrop for my date with Ecstasy. I had no plan to do anything but be with the depression and permit the mild hallucinogen to do its thing. Fortunately, the weather was wonderful, and for the first day in what seemed like months, the wind was not howling out of the east. In fact, the weather was calm with gentle breezes that seemed to come from every direction. It was a lovely day and it even sprinkled a light dusting of rain, the first one of the impending invierno, or winter here in Costa Rica. Otherwise known as the Wet Season. Soon the rain will be here, the winds will calm down and the world becomes green again.
For the next 6 hours I rode the wave that was created by the MDMA while listening to the Grateful Dead. I followed the first concert with another Dead show, but in 1980. What a difference 10 years made. The band was a hell of a lot better in 1980 than it was in 1970. This was one of my big revelations of the day. Another one was that I will be OK. The grief will run its course and I will emerge with a lighter load and a clearer vision for my life. Would I have been able to come to this conclusion without the chemical assist? Who knows, maybe, probably, but it would not have been Sunday.
All is well. I never give up for a brighter tomorrow, well maybe once or twice I have, but those times opened my eyes so I could see light at the end of the tunnel. I’m human and by virtue of being human, I am going to experience loss and the subsequent grief. It’s the way of life they say. We live. We grieve. We die. In between is where we take our stand and live our lives to the fullest extent possible. We tread forward, one step at a time, one day at a time in the direction of our dreams and we keep the faith. All is well. Then we sleep and get up in the morning and do it all over again.
Grief is sticky which is why you need to take a conscious approach to your grief. If you don’t, then the grief gets all mixed up and before you know you are spiraling down the tubes into an inferno of hell. All it takes is a little mindfulness. A little awareness throughout the day on how you are feeling at any given moment and to acknowledge those feelings as legitimate and necessary for what you are going through. Grief needs to be gentle. Good grief is like a dark, yet warmly inviting bed that cradles you until you fall asleep. Grief is a caring parent who stands by while you feel the pain of your loss. Grief holds you to the standard of full release and grief will not abandon you until you are free of your pain.
Grief is a friend you trust with your deepest secrets and your darkest shame. Grief is there for you to hold onto for as long as you need to hold on. It will not abandon you. It will not betray you. It will walk beside you until you are ready to let go. Grief asks nothing from you. There are no sacrifices or pledges that grief demands. No, just the opposite, grief supports the letting go of these false gestures and meaningless activities that take up much of your day-to-day existence. Grief has been my constant companion for as long as I can remember.
Is it a burden? At times it certainly feels like a burden and I scream my rage at the heavens above, but this is not grief. Rage is something different altogether and I dare not go there because it would be too much of a detour. Maybe I’ll do an episode on rage in the future. It sounds like it could be a good one. No, grief is not a burden, it’s a pathway. Grief is a pathway to healing and healing may just be our soul’s purpose in this life. Maybe we came to this 3-dimensional world to experience pain and loss and our higher self is teaching itself how to be human. I have no idea, but that’s a rather nice thought, if I don’t say so myself.
Grief is not suffering, but resisting grief causes suffering. Those who cannot look their losses in the eye, face-to-face, cara-a-cara suffer dearly. For these people death is scary. Death is mysterious. Fear of dying congers up a lot of scary imagery. I understand why death is scary. For much of my life I was terrified of death, but now, I can take or leave it. It’s not a big deal to me. Whatever is on the other side is on the other side. It’s another adventure. Not the end, but rather, a beginning.
Dying is a hell of a lot easier than living. What’s to fear from death? Hell, living another 20 years on this rock, in many ways, is scary as hell to me. If I knew I would live that long, I would have taken better care of myself. I don’t feel a big feeling when I think about dying, but then again, I’m not dying, not in the literal sense. Well, that’s not true we are all dying. Life, after all, is a terminal disease. Enjoy it while it lasts. Who knows how I will react when actually face with death, cara-a-cara. I’m hoping it is with grace.
Maybe the Buddhists are right. That the cause of all suffering is attachment. I can certainly attest to plenty of suffering at the hands of my attachments. As someone who makes strong, albeit insecure attachments with others, I’ve suffered greatly when these attachments are no longer attached. A lot of my suffering can be attributed to codependency which I talk about in Episode 17: C-PTSD and Co-Dependency. These days I prefer the term connection over attachment. Something about the word connection that feels less like an attachment than attachment. You know like an arm or a leg.
What does grief and loss have to do with people who have Complex Post-Traumatic Stress? I can only speak for myself when I say most people have no idea the mountains of grief and loss I have experienced in my life. For many of you with C-PTSD you may be dealing with a boatload of grief this very moment as a result of a loss the other day or last week or last month. Whatever that loss is, the first thing to do is be kind to yourself. The second thing is to get out of your mind, meditate, focus on your breath. Take a walk and while you walk count your steps up to 15 then repeat, repeat, and repeat until you finish your walk. Pay close attention to the sensations of walking. The movements of your legs, your arms and how your hips shift your weight as you count up to 15. Watch your breath as you take each step and feel the earth beneath your feet.
Remember, grief must be shared with at least one other person otherwise the grief remains. It’s that simple. I hope you have at least one person in your life with whom you feel safe enough to grieve deeply and fully. If not, then find a support group. Hospitals usually have a grief support group that is led by a professional therapist. Google “Grief and Loss” for something in your area. There are countless YouTube videos with meditation music claiming to assist with grief. Do what feels right. Do what works for you. Take your time and remember there are no time constraints on grief. You will grieve as you grieve.
Thank you for being here today. I didn’t know this morning that I was going to do another episode on grief, but what can I say. I’m doing my best to follow my heart and trust my gut. I hope today’s podcast was helpful and if you are so inclined, please help me reach those who need to hear Out of My Mind in Costa Rica – Living With Complex Stress. If you are listening on a platform that allows you to comment, rate or review then please, let your voice be heard. Tell me what you think of Out of My Mind in Costa Rica. What you like and what you think will make it better. Write me an email at [email protected]. I’ll get back to you right away. Most of all, if you know people who would benefit from my podcast, then please share. Sharing is caring.
So, until the next time. Be Courageous. Be Strong and Be Kind. I’ll catch you later. Bye.