Perspective on Trauma

Building Perspective on Trauma, Loss, Attachment, Familial Pain, and Moving Forward: LaDonna Remy, MSW, LICSW


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Grief: Collective Underpinnings In Sudden Loss and Importance of One’s Personal Journey.

Awake and reflecting on loss, I prepare myself (on this particular morning) to call a friend who is experiencing a new and unexpected loss. A recent pain that holds the potential to awaken every painful place she (my friend) will believe she has failed the person she has lost.

These thoughts beckon me to my own losses, my own people, and the places I want to protect her (and maybe myself) from. Though I know, even if I tried, I cannot protect her from this inevitable experience. (I can only listen, encourage expression, and love her). I expect she will believe she has let her person down. Her brain will find ways, searching for larger reassurance, that if she had only said this, done this, didn’t say this, didn’t do this, would have known. It can go on this way for a long while. This soul wrenching pain, that will absorb blame in the form of regrets, exists in an effort to feel safe. It manifests as a wish to return to the place before loss. The place where we could do better for our loved one. The imaginary place of no regrets.

Both the tendency to search out blame (self and otherwise) and for our brain to link like experiences are normative in grief. They are needed for predictability and, as odd as it sounds, they are needed for safety and survival. We need predictability to feel safe. When loss occurs, life as we knew it is forever changed. We can’t call our person, drop by, or just know they are there. Making sense of this (finding it’s very personal meaning and making it manageable) takes time.

Blame, in some ways, is part of how we make meaning. We rationalize; it would make sense that our person is gone because (we, they, it) did something wrong. It does not make sense that they were here yesterday and now they are not. This is uncomfortable. It seems there has to be a predictable reason. How do we protect ourselves and our loved ones from this? What are we to do with this knowledge? The knowledge that, they aren’t here and they should be. That they might be if only something (some nuanced variable) had or had not occurred? How do we make sure this never happens again? This search, for meaning and safety, seems endless for a time.

It is also worth noting, that our brains ability to find commonality seems a double edged sword in grief. It can bring, along with empathy for experience, heavy doses of emotional numbing. We normally make associations with previous feelings and experiences as a way to learn new skills and to stay safe in our world. It is a deeply ingrained (and needed) survival ability. (i.e. we know not to touch the stove because it is hot, and/or mom or dad (without us ever touching the stove) had a large reaction when we got near it. Our brain associates the hot stove with the experience of touching it and/or the reaction of others. We remember because our own or trusted others reaction to the experience. We made an association that will , ideally, keep us safe in the future.

For my friend, her brain is likely finding associations with the many complex feelings she is attempting to navigate. This loss will touch other places of loss, and can bring further complexity (pain) to her process. This is such a difficult piece to sort in grief. It is important to feel this loss and at some point to recognize (the very non-conscious process) that this loss may be triggering (re-igniting) past experiences of loss. This makes it all the more difficult to make sense of. At times, it can bring long lasting complications around recovery.

As described above, my brain easily finds associations (based on my own experiences of pain and loss) with what (I expect) my friend may feel. I know my feelings attached to sudden and unexpected (non predictable) loss because I have associated experiences. This makes it possible to anticipate what she may be experiencing. I prepare myself (which is why I am awake so early) for our initial conversation by revisiting my loss. Again, this is normative. I imagine she will journey the strange and painful landscape of grief by blaming herself or potentially others. This (could occur) in an attempt to make meaning, by trying to make reality predictable and therefore manageable. I also know it won’t be, at least not, in the beginning.

At this point, because no writing on grief would be complete without referencing Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler, it is important to note researched , legitimately helpful, and beautiful writing (primarily by these authors) exist on this topic. Elizabeth Kubler Ross and David Kessler who collaborated on several books (see links in the recommendations section) provide beautiful and informative guidelines. Kubler Ross provided the well known 5 stages of grief ( denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) and Kessler added a 6th in his latest book Finding Meaning, The Sixth Stage of Grief.

It is also worth noting, as both authors do, that while there is a framework, grief is a uniquely individual journey. It is a process with similar reference points but no set roadmap. We can have differing responses to this process. Like many human reactions, our responses are laid across a continuum of possible reactions. In this writer’s opinion, these reactions range from denial and avoidance to active and conscious grieving. In the beginning, as we are acclimating to the realization that our person and predictability is gone, it seems we can only survive. Sometimes the best we can do is to just get through the day. It takes time to adjust to loss and grasp what this genuinely means to us. Time that must be respected.

It also takes awareness. As noted, a range of possible reactions exist. An individual in denial (which is normative initially) of his or her own pain might engage in activities that numb their own experience. This could take many forms including avoidance through busyness, over-sleeping, addictive behaviors, care-giving, care-seeking, and /or advice-giving (and many other forms) that can minimize or dismiss their own and others experiences. A goal, in navigating grief and loss, is to stay consciously connected to what is occurring internally. This is not easy, and as noted almost impossible, in the beginning phases of the grief process. Overtime, it is however essential.

This (staying consciously connected) means staying aware that one is struggling to make sense of this non-sensible loss. Allowing expression to take shape in ways that acknowledge and not push pain deeper by avoiding, minimizing, or dismissing. Reaching for expression and healthy coping is individual. It can include many strategies. These are considered healthy if there is acknowledgement (primarily to the self) that the coping is pursued to manage the normal feelings connected to loss, that blame and regret are normative, and (if the chosen coping) it is not harmful to self, other, or property.

It is important to recognize in the beginning phases of grief (as Kubler Ross highlights) blame and regret are normative. It is very likely these emotional counterparts will be there is some form. It is a part of the complicated (and again individual) grief process. These emotions may exist in varying degrees. This said, these feelings change overtime. If they do not, it is possible the person is in need of additional support. Self and other blame is not considered normative overtime and will complicate an already complicated and complex process.

It is also worth noting, as often discussed by author and researcher Brene Brown, that blame can perpetuate shame. I would believe that self-blame (can be experienced in the form of regret) and can evolve into a sense of shame overtime. The varied circumstances around unexpected loss are fertile ground for this experience, This is true due to the inability to say what is left unsaid, to share feelings with one’s person, or to physically repair if conflict did exist. If left unspoken or non-supported, these will be complicating factors overtime.

Coming back to my friend, our call, and our connected experience of grief ~ my intention is to show up for her. To be there, to listen, to hear her thoughts and feelings. Providing a safe place for her to be witnessed in her unique pain by being there. I won’t be sharing the thoughts in this writing, my experience of loss, or the following resources, with her today. Possibly at a later time. For now, she needs a listener. Someone to hear about her person, her experience of loss, and all that it means to her. She needs this just as I have needed it in my life and you, quiet likely, have needed in yours.

The experience of loss is not uncommon, especially in our world today. This said, it is a very personal experience and needs a place to be acknowledged in this way. As a personal and unique journey that is collectively understood.

Copyright Protected :© 2020 LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW. All rights reserved.

Professional Disclaimer: It is important to recognize that all information contained in the Perspective on Trauma Blog is informational, and is not intended as a substitute for clinical care. It is not possible to provide informed care through web content, as an informed treatment relationship cannot be formed. If you or a loved one is in need of care, it is important that you access this care from your own care provider.

Agreement of Use: In consideration for your use of and access to the Perspective on Trauma Blog, you agree that LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW is not liable to you for any action or non-action you may take in reliance upon information from the blog. As noted, it is not possible to provide informed (personalized care) through blog content. It is your responsibility to seek individual clinical care from your own provider, who will know or learn your specific circumstances, should care be needed.

Potential Resources:

Hospice Foundation of America~National Hotline: 1-800-227-2345

Hospice Foundation: https://hospicefoundation.org/Grief-(1)

Hospice~ End of Life Care: https://www.cancer.org/treatment/end-of-life-care/hospice-care/how-to find.html#:~:text=Hospice%20care%20providers%20also%20are%20listed%20in%20the,on%20Aging%20or%20a%20local%20United

David Kessler’s Daily On-line (Facebook based) Grief Group: https://www.facebook.com/IamDavidKessler

Literature:

David Kessler: Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler: Life Lessons: Two Experts on Death and Dying Teach Us About the Mysteries of Life and Living

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, David Kessler, et al: On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross MD:  On Death and Dying: What the dying have to teach doctors, nurses, clergy, and their own family

Brene Browm: Podcast with David Kessler on Finding the meaning of Grief

https://brenebrown.com/podcast/david-kessler-and-brene-on-grief-and-finding-meaning/

Brene Brown: Short Videos on Shame and Vulnerability:

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Brene+Brown+SHme+and+blamne&&view=detail&mid=6A9057491FA4ABF21B576A9057491FA4ABF21B57&&FORM=VDRVRV

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Brene+Brown+SHme+and+blamne&docid=608046757947837660&mid=0BBB896B86730C116EE50BBB896B86730C116EE5&view=detail&FORM=VIRE


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Removing Shame: “Know My Name” by Chanel Miller.

“We suffer from society’s shallow understanding. Disclosing one’s assault is not an admission of personal failure. Instead, the victim has done us the favor of alerting us to danger in the community. Openness should be embraced”. Chanel Miller.

It is a long journey for survivors of abuse laden with deep pain, heartache, and often shame, loss, and judgement. This young woman’s courage in both her healing journey and in sharing her story is admirable and needed. See Chanel Miller’s interview in TIME Magazine September 2020.

https://time.com/5879561/chanel-miller-on-coming-forward-know-my-name/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=social-share-article&utm-term=ideas_books&fbclid=IwAR2SDgnljAJcgSfbXEs0i8En_gVYvQJenZc6hfRyCjP7d2F_4MwbPt9u2LQ


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Tragically Unaware; The Internal world of the Narcissist.

Tragically Unaware: The Internal World of the Narcissist.  

When we think of narcissism, we often think of someone with an over developed sense of self-importance. Someone who is superficially charming, aggressive, arrogant, lacks empathy and who is willing to manipulate to meet his or her end goals. While this (at its core) is true it is important to recognize narcissism exists along a continuum (traits to disorder) and does not always manifest in the classic way we conjure up.

Often when I think of Narcissism; I think of many of the characters whose stories unfolded in the novel The Great Gatsby (written in 1925 by F. Scott Fitzgerald). There are many glaring examples of narcissism in the novel, but for the purpose of this writing  Jay Gatsby (the novels main character) and the Buchannan’s (Tom and Daisy-supporting characters) are offered in exploration of narcissism and its existence across a continuum of characterological manifestations. All three characters were afflicted with the sense of entitlement, willingness to deceive, and carelessness toward others that make-up core components of narcissism. As noted, several of the characters from the novel could exist along this continuum. Characters so self-possessed that they did not value (or even truly recognize) the experiences, needs, or lives of others. Only taking, for themselves, to fulfill their perceived needs.

And, while this writing is not an analysis of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s cast of characters, it is a worthwhile and (in this writer’s opinion) interesting framework to better understand the many ways in which narcissism manifest. In reality, narcissism can present as overt and grandiose with its impaired host engaging in exhibitionism and exploitative acts to gain something or someone that supports (serves to mirror) their needed self-ideology. It can also present as a more covert approval seeking (seemingly vulnerable) individual who is slightly more aware of their fear of rejection. And, because it does exist on a continuum it may present in many ways including these two extremes. At its core it is powered by an intense and distorted need to feel loved (which is felt through admiration and feels valuing to the individual).

There are many reasons one would grow into developing narcissistic traits or in developing narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). These reasons (as many do) lay within the once developing child this person was. While it is true that unspeakable abuse can form this core, it can also be formed by over indulgent caregivers, caregivers who focused on performance rather than connection, and/or caregivers who unwittingly (due to their own pain) insisted their child mirror them-never allowing a separate mind (in a sense) to take shape. At its core narcissism does not allow its unaware recipient to tolerate (or lovingly acknowledge) anyone who feels threatening (rejecting) through difference or non-agreement. Along, with not tolerating difference the individual needs a consistent supply of admiration and approval. This person has a difficult time hearing they have done anything wrong (in any arena). Their fragile sense of self is deeply threatened at this seeming rejection.

What an intensely empty experience this would be. Always seeking approval in some form but never really feeling it is enough. In reality, never feeling they are enough. This is an internal feeling that the individual works mightily to never feel. In fact, the overt narcissist may be so well defended (psychologically speaking) that he or she is oblivious to this experience. Their focus is generally on another who, in their view, caused them to feel something they equate with undesirable or bad. It is this other’s (whether this is an individual or larger entity) fault. They work hard to stay away from these bad feelings (that resonate with not being enough) and can (on some level) accomplish this by minimizing, dismissing, or placing blame elsewhere. The covert (or more vulnerable seeming) narcissist will still deflect and place blame but will be less overtly aggressive in their counterattacks. They may more consciously feel self-doubt but will not truly own this. They are also working to stay away from that internal sense that exist under layers of defense.

Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchannan (from the novel) are solid embodiments of the overt narcissist. Dangerous in different ways. Jay Gatsby is presented as charming and mysterious. He has built his life and maintained his livelihood by engaging in illegal behavior. He uses his neighbor (Nick the story’s narrator) to lure Daisy (his long time love interest or obsession who can mirror or bring validity to his self-image) to his home in which he has consistently thrown lavish parties to entice her. He engages in a plot to have Daisy at seemingly any cost. If he has any feelings regarding his moral shortcomings, they are not overly present in the novel. Tom Buchannan is a more brash character. He bullies, brags, lies, has affairs and, is an over inflated personality.  Further, when he learns his wife Daisy has been unfaithful (with Gatsby) he is seemingly singularly focused on having his possession back.

Daisy in some ways fits the characteristics of the covert (or vulnerable) narcissist. Her self -focus and need for approval, and importance is initially hidden behind what seems her pain around her husband’s betrayal and her love for Gatsby. This façade is shattered as the story came to an end.

The ending of the story is tragic as are many ill-fated relationships with well defended narcissists. In short summary, the final scenes of the novel include Daisy agreeing to tell Tom that she is in love with Gatsby and is leaving the marriage. Several characters are witness to this conversation. Daisy does not truly want to leave her marriage and makes a dramatic exit by running from the room where the characters are gathered. She frantically jumps into Gatsby’s car intending to drive away (not dealing with the reality of her own behaviors or even recognizing its impact on others). Gatsby follows and is in the car with her when she accidentally runs over Tom’s lover Myrtle.  (A supporting character who could also easily fit onto this continuum, but that is a writing for another time). Gatsby, due to his seeming love for Daisy and her seemingly fragile nature, takes responsibility for Myrtle’s death. Myrtle’s distraught husband (George) then breaks into Gatsby’s home and shoots him as he lays floating in his pool. He (Myrtle’s husband) then kills himself.

Tom and Daisy continue, surrounded by their fine things and upcoming holiday. Careless, unaware, highly defended, self-involved people causing (in this fictitious tale) irreversible harm to others.

In reality, true narcissists (those suffering from narcissistic personality Disorder) are self -focused and do not have the relational skills necessary for genuine reciprocity. (A necessary ingredient in connected relationship). They do not feel deep wells of empathy and do not generally have the self-reflective capacity required to maintain emotionally safe (and sometimes physically safe) relationships. This said, with well skilled and intensive treatment (with a therapist trained in the challenges of treating narcissism) changes can be made. This is generally a long and difficult journey, laden with disruptions in relationship, for the individual and those who love him or her. To be very clear, while a fictional novel was utilized to provide a framework for exploration, there is very real harm that can come from relationship with a person who is suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder or is on the continuum. Often, emotional abuse (which is highly impactful to its victim) is a controlling component in relationships across the narcissistic continuum. In addition, it is highly important to recognize, danger to the physical self may exist in some circumstances. (There are many variables to this, and this is not to say that all who engage in violence toward others are narcissists, or that all who possess traits along the continuum will cross physical boundaries. This can, however, present as a variable).

For the individual involved in the relationship with the narcissist, and dependent on many nuanced factors, the journey to recovery can be lengthy. Much harm can be done to one’s self concept and they will need to work to make sense of the experiences they have had. Support is necessary as one navigates this painful process. Over time, and through reflective self-work, a stronger self-concept can grow.

Overall, it is important to note that the topic of narcissism is broad and multifaceted. This article explores minimal aspects of a vast and nuanced topic. It is intended to highlight the existence of the above noted continuum, bring understanding to the internal experience of the individual on the continuum, and its potential (and often substantial) impact on those involved. It is also worth noting that narcissism (while explored in the context of the novel The Great Gatsby whose characters’ lived lives of privilege) can exist across socioeconomic classes and individual circumstances. As always, it is important to note that this writing is not intended as treatment advice or guidance. It is offered in exploration of this subject matter.

Lastly, I do want to offer potential resources for those who may wonder if they are in a relationship with someone who is on the narcissistic continuum, or who has made the (generally highly complicated) decision to leave the relationship. As noted, this can be a long journey and gaining a better understanding, informed support, and resources in the event of escalated crisis are important pieces of this process.

1) Narcissist Abuse Support Organization

2) Thrive After Abuse on-line Group

3) The National Domestic Violence Hotline

Copyright Protected :© 2020 LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW. All rights reserved.

Professional Disclaimer: It is important to recognize that all information contained in the Perspective on Trauma Blog is informational, and is not intended as a substitute for clinical care. It is not possible to provide informed care through web content, as an informed treatment relationship cannot be formed. If you or a loved one is in need of care, it is important that you access this care from your own care provider.

Agreement of Use: In consideration for your use of and access to the Perspective on Trauma Blog, you agree that LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW is not liable to you for any action or non-action you may take in reliance upon information from the blog. As noted, it is not possible to provide informed (personalized care) through blog content. It is your responsibility to seek individual clinical care from your own provider, who will know or learn your specific circumstances, should care be needed.

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Desensitization, Kindling for Emotional Defense.

The pain in our world feels both big and broad today. As, I watched the morning news another young man has lost his life in police custody and another story surfaces of a young man who lost his life to police violence last year. These names, these lives lost, are added to a growing list of individuals of color who have lost their lives to police brutality or  gun violence in our country. Names that we all recognize, and know the public details of their horrific deaths, are memorialized in our headlines and minds.

The names, and lost lives, of Adrian Ingram-Lopez, and Elijah McClain are added along side Rayshard Brooks, Ahmaud Arbery, Brionna Taylor, Manuel Ellis, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Emmett Till , George Floyd, and the many we do not know of. These crimes against our own American citizens occur at an alarming rate and, in the aftermath of Mr. Floyd’s public murder, a more public rate.

As these stories, and the painful reality they bring, swirl in our collective awareness daily confirmed Corono virus cases and deaths are simultaneously reported. With each rising number on our screen, someone’s loved one, loses his or her battle against covid-19. Another family must navigate the long and painful journey of grief.

These reports are made against the backdrop of a country whose leadership appears to politicize safety and many are left feeling hopeless and fearful. The growing sense of futility, fed by the reality playing out before us, needs resolution. It takes a strong psychological structure to withstand what is before us. And, an even stronger one to remain hopeful in its midst.

To desensitize means to make (someone) less likely to feel shock or distress at scenes of cruelty, violence, or suffering by overexposure to such images. In psychology the term systematic desensitization is used to describe the process by which a client may find resolution to a phobia or neurosis through gradual (real or imagined) exposure to the problematic issue. It is this, that has my own mind worried today.

As the last moments of our fellow citizens repeatedly play out before us, many at the hands of the system in place to protect us, we maintain consistent knowledge of death and virus spread while concurrently navigating our newly adjusted (safety conscious) lives. Clearly stated, it is to much to manage without distraction or defense. It is human nature ( a built in safety mechanism) to avoid, run from, or fight against pain. In the midst of so much, one may find themselves avoiding, distracting, or shutting down.

Many of us are empathetic people and easily commit to helping others. Working to do what is right and doing this (right action) until it no longer needs to be done. It will take a strong resolve, in this climate, to manage all that is occurring  without succumbing to desensitization. We should never become callous to the pain of another and taking informed steps to protect both ourselves and others is a must. Remaining vigilant to the process of desensitization seems a necessary ingredient. It will take informed effort. Holding an understanding that desensitization is a normative response to painful content will help and, as stated,  being purposeful in your intention to maintain commitment to care for both self and other, will assist in this process.

We can protect ourselves and our larger world from desensitization through awareness, solid information, purposeful action, and self care.

Awareness, means maintaining awareness without saturation. It is important to know what is occurring in our larger world, community, and immediate environment. Holding these truths in mind, while making conscious choice in navigating what is occurring without singular focus is important. Further it is highly important to gain information from trusted sources (sources without vested interest) and to take purposeful action. Your own purposeful action will be unique to you. It may mean belonging to an organization, donating time or money to an organization, writing letters to the legislature, helping people in your life navigate this difficult time, living a life that models safety, awareness, kindness, and standing up for what is right. There are as many ways to take purposeful action as there are individuals. Lastly, as I often write about, it is important to actively engage in selfcare. Selfcare implies, adequate sleep, hydration, nutrition, exercise, relationship, engagement in hobbies that you love, and social and spiritual connection.

In my recent blog post Collective Pain and Unrest, A Change is Needed, Resources for taking direct action to assist families, legal pursuit, and social change were provided.  I will add these here and add known resources for Elijah McClain.  These resources are added along with National resources for protecting and supporting emotional health is this difficult time.

Please note, I was unable to locate a support page for Adrian Ingram-Lopez if you are aware please share it with me and I will add it to this post, or please post the resource in the comment section,

Change.org

Black Lives Matter 

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) 

Justice for Elijah McClain      (Change,org)

Ahmaud Arbery: I run with Maud GO Fund Me: 


Justice for Ahmaud Arbery! I Run with Maud!- Legal Support

George Floyd Memorial Fund (Go Fund Me): Memorial fund 

The family of Mr. Floyd provided the following address in the event individuals may want to send support, cards, or letters.

The Estate of George Floyd: C/O Ben Crump Law, PLLC. 122 S. Calhoun St. Tallahassee, Fl 32301. Attention: Adner Marcelin

Scholarship and Unity Fund in Honor of Eric Garner: In support of families impacted by gun violence.

The Freddie Gray Fund: Family support and Memorial Fund.

The Trayvon Martin Foundation: A Non-Profit Organization for families who have lost a child to gun violence.

Tamir Rice Foundation: An after school growth and enrichment program for children, and police accountability Program.

National Supports: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-(800) 273-8255. The National Children’s Advocacy Center 1 (800) 422-4453 The SAMSHA Treatment Locator (for treatment of alcohol or substance addiction) 1 (800) 662-4357. The National Domestic Violence Hotline 1 (800) 787-3224. The National Sexual Assault Hotline 1 (800) 565-4673 TalkSpace https://lp.talkspace.com or Betterhelp  https://www.betterhelp.com

Professional Disclaimer: It is important to recognize that all information contained in the Perspective on Trauma Blog is informational, and is not intended as a substitute for clinical care. It is not possible to provide informed care through web content, as an informed treatment relationship cannot be formed. If you or a loved one is in need of care, it is important that you access this care from your own care provider.

Agreement of Use: In consideration for your use of and access to the Perspective on Trauma Blog, you agree that LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW is not liable to you for any action or non-action you may take in reliance upon information from the blog. As noted, it is not possible to provide informed (personalized care) through blog content. It is your responsibility to seek individual clinical care from your own provider, who will know or learn your specific circumstances, should care be needed. It is further your responsibility when donating to ensure the privacy of your information and comfort with stated purposes of funding organizations and Go Fund me campaigns. LaDonna Remy, MSW, LICSW is not affiliated with the organizations provided.

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Collective Pain and Unrest, A Change is Needed.

In the aftermath, that is again racism unmasked in our country, pain, anger, and sorrow – culminating in outrage threaten to swallow us . The death of George Floyd has sparked years of collective pain as we (the American public) have watched it unfold in our own psyches and in communities across our country. There are no words I can write that will capture the depth of pain that is felt. Mr. Floyd’s death is as senseless and cruel as the racism it was born of.

In truth the abuse and blatant permissiveness and dismissiveness around the marginalization, mistreatment, and deaths of African American citizens is not new.  But, it has seemingly found new permissiveness (in our current political climate) and growing awareness through public documentation.

George Floyd (who is described as a gentle giant by his family) lost his life on May 25th, 2020 in Minneapolis Minnesota, as officers held him to the ground in a non-resisted arrest. His death follows the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery who was killed on February 23, 2020 in Brunswick Georgia, and Breonna Taylor on March 13th, 2020 in Louisville Kentucky. Mr. Arbery was killed while jogging in his own community by two armed men (father and son)  who have used various explanations to justify their unjustifiable actions. Ms. Taylor, was killed in her own home, when non-uniformed officers mistook her home for a residence suspected of selling controlled substances. It is now known that residence was more than 10 miles away.

We (the American Public) are only aware of deaths that make our national headlines. But, there are many more. Of deeper upset, in our country’s history, even when there is a public outcry a seeming return to non-awareness (in the midst of knowing) ensues. Senseless losses, hate filled enough to hit our public radar, have included the deaths of Walter Scott, Freddie Gray,  Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin. These are individuals that died all across our country and that should hold pain, with opportunity to make change, for all of us.

Walter Scott was shot and killed by a law enforcement officer on April, 4, 2015 in North Charleston, South Carolina. The fatal shooting occurred during a routine traffic stop. Freddie Gray died in police custody on April 12, 2015 in Baltimore Maryland. Eric Garner died after being fatally choked by a NYPD officer on July 17th, 2014. Tamir Rice, only 12 years of age, was shot and killed by law enforcement when the officer mistook Tamir’s toy gun for a real weapon on November 23, of 2014. And, Trayvon Martin, 17 years old, was fatally shot on February 26, 1995 when walking through a residential neighborhood in Sanford Florida. In truth African American deaths have been documented since the death of, 14 year old, Emmett Till in Money Mississippi. Emmett Till’s death occurred in August of 1955.

In December of 2015, The Guardian ran a news story entitled Young Black Men Killed by U.S. Police at highest rate in year of 1,134 deaths. This story documented the deaths of African American men during the year of 2015. It was noted that African American men between the ages of 15 and 34 (at that time) made up only 2% of the population but comprised more than 15% of deaths (at the hands of law enforcement) during that year alone. It was further reported that “one in. every 65 deaths of young African American men in the U.S. is a killing by police”.

Here we are again (or still) in 2020. Emmett Till senselessly died in 1955 for reportedly “whistling” at a white female. His death, fueled by anger, pain, and outrage, fueled the civil rights movement. A beginning!  Sixty -five years later George Floyd’s senseless murder painfully digs into that same vein of anger, pain, and outrage. Peaceful protests, turned non peaceful, have sprung up all across our country. Citizens demanding change, public officials making statements and some working to reassure that justice for George Floyd will be served.

As of today (May 31, 2020) the officer who was identified as the aggressor has been arrested and charged with 3rd degree murder. The legal strategy is understood but the charge seems minimal in comparison to the life that has been lost. 3 additional officers are involved. While there is hope all will be held accountable, to the very highest extent possible, it is not enough. The brutality and oppression that has accompanied simply being African American has lasted far too long. Hundreds of years in the making; the fire that George Floyd’s death has ignited began with slavery-a first act of oppression-in 1619. Our Civil War and the Civil Rights movement (hundreds of years apart) have paved the road. But not abolished the inequality and generational harm.

Martin Luther King Jr. further uncovered, named, and brought to light the core of injustice that has plagued America’s African American citizens. He began this journey in the mid 1950’s and lost his life to this fight for equality in 1968. Today he is memorialized for his incredible strength and forward movement in civil rights, but still we are here today. We have a duty as American Citizen’s to not allow a return to non-awareness in the midst of knowing. Mr. Floyd’s death and the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray,  Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and most certainly Emmett Till should not be in vain. If we (as a larger society and it’s citizen’s) continue on in our non-awareness once the outcry has settled- we are complicit. We know!

The feeling of helplessness that exist is profound and it can seem that change may never occur. In truth there are things we can do. Both large and small. Change won’t happen quickly, but it can happen with each citizen’s care for the other and enough determination and strength to do what is right. The Huffington Post recently ran an article entitled, 11 things we can do Besides say “This Has to Stop” In the Wake of Police Brutality.

The article recognizes, as Angela Davis, has so eloquently stated, “It is not enough to not be a racist-you need to be antiracist”. The Post has interviewed Black Community Activists and provides tangible directives on turning “empathy into action in the wake of police brutality”.

I will provide the listed action steps (directly from the article above) and trust if you want to learn more about what each step entails, and do your part in making our world a safer place by working to end brutality, you will visit the article and decide which commitments you will make.

  1. If you see an act of police brutality happening, speak up. Safely make your presence known.
  2. Educate yourself without placing the burden on black people to be your teachers.
  3. Lean into your courage and push aside your caution.
  4. Engage with racist people you know. And, engage with your silent non-Black friends, too.
  5. Call the District Attorney’s office and other local government officials. Then show up at town hall and city council meetings.
  6. Pay close attention to how your local police department functions.
  7. Take the fight to your workplace.
  8. Do more listening than talking. When your Black friends give you constructive feedback, welcome it.
  9. Don’t think your off the hook because your also a minority.
  10. Donate to anti-white supremacy work, such as your local Black Lives Matter chapter.
  11. Check your own behaviors of policing Black people in your daily life.

All of these are solid systematic and (if more of us than not do them) systemically impactful actions.

I want to share the following in the event you are able and want to provide support to organizations that work to end police brutality and/or inequality and gun violence. You may find campaigns entitled Justice for George Floyd, Justice for Ahmaud Arbery, Justice for Breonna Taylor and The Walter Scott Notification Act, for Police Transparency, Accountability, and Change Act at Change.org. In addition, fund raising pages which support the families of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Freddie Gray, are provided as are organizations in memorial of, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice. In the event you are aware of additional resources please contact me and I will add them to this article or you may share them in the comments section of this writing. 

Change.org

Black Lives Matter 

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) 

Ahmaud Arbery: I run with Maud GO Fund Me: 


Justice for Ahmaud Arbery! I Run with Maud!- Legal Support

George Floyd Memorial Fund (Go Fund Me): Memorial fund 

The family of Mr. Floyd provided the following address in the event individuals may want to send support, cards, or letters.

The Estate of George Floyd: C/O Ben Crump Law, PLLC. 122 S. Calhoun St. Tallahassee, Fl 32301. Attention: Adner Marcelin

Scholarship and Unity Fund in Honor of Eric Garner: In support of families impacted by gun violence.

The Freddie Gray Fund: Family support and Memorial Fund.

The Trayvon Martin Foundation: A Non-Profit Organization for families who have lost a child to gun violence.

Tamir Rice Foundation: An after school growth and enrichment program for children, and police accountability Program.

Copyright Protected: © 2020 LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW . All rights reserved.

Professional Disclaimer: It is important to recognize that all information contained in the Perspective on Trauma Blog is informational, and is not intended as a substitute for clinical care. It is not possible to provide informed care through web content, as an informed treatment relationship cannot be formed. If you or a loved one is in need of care, it is important that you access this care from your own care provider.

Agreement of Use: In consideration for your use of and access to the Perspective on Trauma Blog, you agree that LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW is not liable to you for any action or non-action you may take in reliance upon information from the blog. As noted, it is not possible to provide informed (personalized care) through blog content. It is your responsibility to seek individual clinical care from your own provider, who will know or learn your specific circumstances, should care be needed. It is further your responsibility when donating to ensure the privacy of your information and comfort with stated purposes of funding organizations and Go Fund me campaigns. LaDonna Remy, MSW, LICSW is not affiliated with the organizations provided.

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Unchartered: Looking Within During Unsettling Times

It’s been a strange time for all of us over the last several months. As we “stay at home” or “shelter in place (no matter our political background or accompanying belief system) we all feel the impact of what is occurring around us. Differing views exist regarding balancing our nations health needs with economic and civil liberty needs. But, it doesn’t appear to matter which place one resides in this debate, when it comes to matters of emotional health. The simple truth is, we are all worried and unsure at varying levels and for the many reasons that accompany our views. When we (anyone of us) live under the stress of our current experiences we are prone to feel strong emotions. Further, it is normative to reach for coping that brings immediate relief. This will be true whether we are more prone to have strong feelings related to our own or other’s safety, economic worries for our family and larger society, or feelings of suppression. All (and many others) are plausible responses to the many unknowns around us.

We don’t know exactly what will happen, and as our leaders grapple with best approaches in managing the multi-layered impact of the virus, these unknowns are high lighted for us to see. When those in charge are unsure (whether this be a parent, teacher, minister, or leaders of the world) our trust and hope can be challenged. We have to work consciously (with awareness) to navigate the many emotions that come with this. This is much harder than it sounds.

It’s easy to react and subsequently respond by reaching for quick resolve to what is unwanted. This might occur in a number of ways. Some more harmful than others. There are many examples to choose from both positive and negative and each as individual as we are. These will be tied to what we feel and think, what our past experiences have been, the level of our distress, our ability to manage emotions, and our ability to stay aware. For the purpose of this writing, staying aware means taking that needed step back. Reflecting on what we are doing and why. Thinking about how we are impacting self and other. Thinking through our desired outcome.  And, making a (conscious) choice in navigating the need to immediately feel better.

I’m reluctant to give examples because the possibilities are so varied and endless. But, will provide a few noting that they are over simplified. One example might include, one who has the tendency to overthink. A difficulty in letting his or her thoughts settle. There might be colliding thoughts around personal safety and financial fears. This might cause feelings of anxiety manifesting in difficulty with sleep. Lack of sleep can cause many problems. (Too many to list). This person might rationalize, a drink at night might help. Out of (what seems like) a need to sleep a possible solution might be having a drink “just to take the edge off and get a little sleep”. Maybe this becomes a nightly habit, increasing from one to two, to three drinks by the time quarantine has ended. Maybe it doesn’t, but the potential for issues exist. In reality, the need was to feel less anxious. To work with what lies beneath the overthinking. Another (over simplified) example might revolve around someone who works very hard and has always identified with his or her professional self. Maybe this person gains a high sense of esteem through work. This is now threatened. It is unknown when work can resume and what it will look like when it does. Feelings of depression and anger set in. This person finds himself or herself lashing out at others. This isn’t wanted, but somewhere inside it brings a release. It feels better for a split second. Depending on this person’s psychological make-up and their ability to own mistakes, both self and relationships can suffer. Everyone, connected to this person,  is now left coping with the outcome of anger. This can grow in many directions.  In reality, working with the core emotions (possibly, anger, fear, grief) and the underlying issue (regarding identity) conscious choices can be made. Of course more extreme examples exist. These come in the form of direct self and other abuse.

It’s hard work to look at underlying issues. And, even harder work to remain conscious enough to take that reflective step back. After all, most have spent a lifetime (whether 78, 14, of 5 years) trying to avoid the feelings attached to any initial pains. (Those pains that possibly began in one’s early years). This pandemic and our leader’s responses are felt and interpreted differently by each one of us. It’s imaginable that emotional pain is boundless at this time. It’s important (paramount really) that we stay aware of this. As noted above, a formula for doing so exist. But, in reality it means looking within, sometimes struggling with what is there, and making choices (not just reacting) in response.

It’s worth mentioning that trauma statistics (prior to the pandemic) indicated 2/3 of America’s children had experienced at least one traumatic event during childhood. This is a statistic from The American Psychological Association and implies a high degree of trauma has and does occur. This (as is true of any statistic) is only gathered using reported data. It is anticipated, due to non reports around childhood trauma that there is a much higher rate of traumatic exposure. Further, traumatic incidents that involve victimization of children are most often perpetrated by someone the child knows and trust. This can leave a feeling of distrust or fear of those in charge (those who were to protect). This of course leaves many unresolved feelings. Feelings that are similar to those the pandemic  motivates in all of us. (Fear, distrust, loss, grief, longing, anger, hopelessness, and many more). When there is an early link to these feelings, through earlier experiences, current day happenings trigger (or resurface) those old feelings. When one is not aware of its foundation, reaching for coping (that is less healthy in nature) is much more likely.

In the example above, the second individual experiences anger, fear, and grief due to fear of losing his or her livelihood. This is a normal fear in this pandemic. Emotions are literally endless and free floating at this time. For the sake of example (note this is not based on a real individual) lets provide a name and gender. Let’s say John has worked hard his entire life. He is 56 years old and owns his own business. He is sheltering in place as advised. He is doing everything he has been asked to do. His business is losing revenue with each passing day and his overhead still has to be paid. He is worried. He is angry. He is scared. There is no answer in sight. He has to rely on our state and federal leadership to tell him what to do. To look out for him and his family. He is frustrated daily and begins to take his anger out on his wife and son. He doesn’t mean to. He swore he would “never act like my (his) old man”. But, he finds himself saying things he would never have said. Doing things he would never have done. His son is only 12. He doesn’t understand. This is coupled with his experience of placing trust in those in charge. His wife is hurt and begins to pull away. John grew up in a home with a dad who expected hard work and perfection. John wasn’t allowed to make mistakes. The only place his dad ever expressed pride was in John’s hard work. He could easily recall the things his dad had said and done, but he” just didn’t think of them all that often”. The truth is, while it is normal for John (or any of us) to feel unsettled by the occurrences of our world his own history escalates normative feelings-linking them to long ago. He acts without conscious thought. He acts to feelings with a foundational meaning for him. Feelings that echo the voice of his youth.  “you are a failure. You are weak” .There is nothing to be proud of. His wife and son are unaware of this, as is he. In reality, if John can identify the link to his past and his identity (the pain caused by his own unaware father) he can make better choices currently. This again, is not easy. But the longer-term consequences -could be detrimental for him and those who love him.

John’ story isn’t an uncommon one. As noted, there have been many  who have been exposed to child hood traumatization.  Further, it is not uncommon to push away and try to avoid these feelings. There may have been no one to help or no one who understood. Because these feelings couldn’t live on the surface, they had to be pushed down, to become a backdrop until they were no longer in conscious awareness.

This pandemic is unknown (unchartered) territory for our country’s leaders and for us. The feelings we are experiencing are normal. It is important that we make our emotional well being as important as every other aspect of our health. Not every person needs to seek counseling but every person would benefit from aware coping. This doesn’t imply hidden pain for everyone, but it does imply a need to take care of oneself and (for those with historical pain) it implies a deeper look.

The pandemic is traumatizing and depending on one’s particular circumstances, and supports, it can have far reaching impact.

As always, I am adding a list of resources.

Following are local and national crisis support services. Local Supports: The Spokane County Regional Crisis Line 1-(877) 288-1818. End Harm (Child Abuse and Neglect Report Line) 1 (800) 562-5624 The YWCA Domestic Violence Program (509) 326-1190. The Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Counsel (509) 922-8383 Lutheran Community Services Sexual Assault Crisis Line (509) 624-7273 Dial 211″ for additional resources.

National Supports: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-(800) 273-8255. The National Children’s Advocacy Center 1 (800) 422-4453 The SAMSHA Treatment Locator (for treatment of alcohol or substance addiction) 1 (800) 662-4357. The National Domestic Violence Hotline 1 (800) 787-3224. The National Sexual Assault Hotline 1 (800) 565-4673 TalkSpace https://lp.talkspace.com or Betterhelp  https://www.betterhelp.com

Copyright Protected: © 2020 LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW . All rights reserved.)

Professional Disclaimer: It is important to recognize that all information contained in the Perspective on Trauma Blog is informational, and is not intended as a substitute for clinical care. It is not possible to provide informed care through web content, as an informed treatment relationship cannot be formed. If you or a loved one is in need of care, it is important that you access this care from your own care provider.

Agreement of Use: In consideration for your use of and access to the Perspective on Trauma Blog, you agree that LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW is not liable to you for any action or non-action you may take in reliance upon information from the blog. As noted, it is not possible to provide informed (personalized care) through blog content. It is your responsibility to seek individual clinical care from your own provider, who will know or learn your specific circumstances, should care be needed.

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Grief’s unique Hold

woman looking at sea while sitting on beach

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While there are commonalities in experience, grief’s manifestation is unique to each person. There is not one other living being who will understand exactly how you feel or the subtleties of your unique connection. No other person; knew your person, your pet, or your situation in the exact way you did ( and do). They do not know the many nuances that existed between them and you. They cant know what made them uniquely them, you uniquely you, and your connection uniquely yours. It is these nuances of relationship that make this process both complex and sacred. And, this is as it should be.

It is a process that can’t be rushed, at times won’t find comfort, and that must be honoring of you and your important other or situation. Take your time and know in whatever way you need to make sense of your loss, it is ok. It was your connection – it belonged ( and belongs) uniquely to you.

Copyright Protected: © 2020 LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW. All rights reserved.

Professional Disclaimer: It is important to recognize that all information contained in the Perspective on Trauma Blog is informational, and is not intended as a substitute for clinical care. It is not possible to provide informed care through web content, as an informed treatment relationship cannot be formed. If you or a loved one is in need of care, it is important that you access this care from your own care provider.

Agreement of Use: In consideration for your use of and access to the Perspective on Trauma Blog, you agree that LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW is not liable to you for any action or non-action you may take in reliance upon information from the blog. As noted, it is not possible to provide informed (personalized care) through blog content. It is your responsibility to seek individual clinical care from your own provider, who will know or learn your specific circumstances, should care be needed.

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Loving an Addict; Author Unkown

“Sometimes love hurts especially when we see loved ones heading for danger. We call out to them, “Watch out!” We grab at them and try to bring them back to a safe place. But they don’t listen. They break loose, ignoring our warnings. And we must stand on safe ground and let them go to learn the hard way. And if our love is enduring, we stand with open arms to welcome them back when they finally decide-I am finished with danger-I must go home. And if our love is true, we do not hold onto “I told you so, but “I love you so”

Professional Disclaimer: It is important to recognize that all information contained in the Perspective on Trauma Blog is informational, and is not intended as a substitute for clinical care. It is not possible to provide informed care through web content, as an informed treatment relationship cannot be formed. If you or a loved one is in need of care, it is important that you access this care from your own care provider.

Agreement of Use: In consideration for your use of and access to the Perspective on Trauma Blog, you agree that LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW is not liable to you for any action or non-action you may take in reliance upon information from the blog. As noted, it is not possible to provide informed (personalized care) through blog content. It is your responsibility to seek individual clinical care from your own provider, who will know or learn your specific circumstances, should care be needed.

http://www.nar-anon.org

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A Necessary Sadness!

At times we carry a heaviness for the pain of others, and our unknown selves. We carry it, often unaware. It’s just there. A sadness for someone we love, for a neighbor’s pain ,for our own un-named pain, for humanity. There is a tendency in our american society to avoid this pain. To push it away, to judge it, to avoid it at any cost. This avoidance in itself, is sad.This can lead to an avoidance of ones own internal world and others in general. Not acknowledging feelings is a barrier to connecting, to non-judgement, and to acceptance of ourselves and others.

It is necessary to feel sadness (and the range of other emotions). It is necessary for our own growth and connection with others. Learning to live in a place of known pain is difficult but the toll it (not feeling) takes on our emotional, physical, and relational health is far reaching. There is a tendency to believe that feeling sadness (or other difficult emotions)means something is wrong with us. In reality, it doesn’t mean this at all. It means we are feeling/empathizing/connecting. That’s it. That is all it means.

It is not only important to learn to sit with feelings for psychological purposes; it is important for physical and relational purposes. In essence, learning to connect with what is felt is highly correlated to health and well being.

Copyright Protected: © 2020 LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW. All rights reserved.

Agreement of Use: In consideration for your use of and access to the Perspective on Trauma Blog, you agree that LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW is not liable to you for any action or non-action you may take in reliance upon information from the blog. Please note, it is not possible to provide informed (personalized care) through blog content. It is your responsibility to seek individual clinical care from your own provider, who will know or learn your specific circumstances, should care be needed.

Professional Disclaimer: It is important to recognize that all information contained in the Perspective on Trauma Blog is informational, and is not intended as a substitute for clinical care. It is not possible to provide informed care through web content, as an informed treatment relationship cannot be formed. If you or a loved one is in need of care, it is important that you access this care from your own care provider.

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