Finding EMDR to help with Grief

My favorite quote is from Earl Grollman when he says, “The only cure for grief, is to grieve.”  I spent a good two years lost in the throes of loss and grief, not knowing how to overcome my grief after the loss of my son.  I felt alone, afraid, and hopeless.  I was deep in despair and unsure that anything good be done to get me through it. 

It wasn’t until I had another son, that things really began to change.  The process to get pregnant again and bring him to life was nothing short of harrowing but I somehow managed through it.  The first six weeks of his life were filled with joy and love, as I surrounded him in my protective bubble.

As I contemplated going back to work when he was six weeks old, I experienced overwhelming bouts of anxiety at the thought of being away from him.  The thought of being away from him was more than I could bear.  I didn’t want to go.  I couldn’t go and leave the one person I needed more than anything in the world.  I began catastrophizing that I wouldn’t be able to go to work, that I’d lose our house and end up homeless. 

Spinning out of control had me running back to therapy, only this time as if my life depended on it, because it did.  I was fortunate to find the right therapist, who understood what I wanted and needed, who could help me regain control in an uncontrollable situation.  

I explained to my therapist that I didn’t need to relive my childhood and I didn’t need to explore I feelings.  What I needed was to stop the very regular panic attacks I was experiencing so that I could get back to work while managing to keep my son safe, protected from the outside world. 

My therapist suggested I find someone to support me with EMDR because the trauma of losing my first son and the fear of repeating that event, was what was creating my panic and anxiety.  I had never heard of EMDR but was desperate to find a solution and was willing to try anything.  I am so glad I took her advice. 

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) Therapy is designed to help alleviate what seem like irrational negative feelings that surface as the result of traumatic events.  I find the neurobiology fascinating and can’t wait to learn more about how pulling traumatic events into your short term memory and engaging right brain, left brain transitions can actually remap the neural pathways in the brain and make me feel better. 

It is still unclear exactly how it works, but I can tell you first hand that it works, and it works very quickly to eradicate feelings of sadness, loss, and despair.  If you’ve suffered loss and have feelings that seem irrational, feelings that you can’t seem to move through, I can’t recommend it enough.

My irrational fear was the result of worrying that something would happen to my current son, that I would lose him, like I had lost his older brother.  After EMDR, it made sense.  When my first son’s life had ended, I held him tightly for a while, before I had to let him go.  The time came to say goodbye and I handed him to my nurse.  I walked away, and never saw him again.  I couldn’t help but be concerned that this might happen again and was traumatized each time I even thought about walking away from him.   

EMDR helped me move passed the fear and trauma of losing my son and helped me to regain my sense of well-being.  The process taught me that I had indeed experienced personal trauma, trauma that I found crippling. After EMDR, it all made sense.  I had found the clarity I needed.  I learned that I wasn’t going crazy and that there were tools that could help.  Thankfully, EMDR is becoming much more mainstream and it is simpler than ever to find someone trained in the technique.  EMDR therapy helped me through my grief and it can help you too. 

 

 

 

Catherine McNulty

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After losing her infant son in 2011, Catherine embarked on a journey to do more than survive grief. The loss forever changed the trajectory of her life and sent her looking for meaning and purpose for the life she was given. She channeled the love for her son into her own healing, self-growth and personal empowerment. Today, she has created a framework to grief that disrupts conventional ways of looking at loss. She challenges her clients to step outside of a victim mindset and regain control of how they navigate grief. She teaches how to grow through grief and encourages speaking openly about grief to break down the walls of silence around grief. Catherine lives in San Diego with her family where she speaks, writes, and offers coaching to those who want to do more than just survive grief. She is a board member of Empty Cradle and volunteers at Miracle Babies and the Ronald McDonald House. Her business, Grief INSPIRED supports those who are grieving and guides them to create a new normal that honors the ones they’ve lost.

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