Vacillating between emotional pain and the somatic relief of psychic numbing, Marie came to my office bewildered and in shock. Two weeks earlier a truck had crashed into a car in which Marie’s mother was riding. Although the truck driver had survived, Marie’s mother and her partner had instantly died.
“I don’t know how you can help,” Marie said, her tired eyes revealing her grief. “You can’t bring my mother back or help me make sense of my loss. I’ve always had faith in a divine spirit, in an afterlife, but now nothing seems right.”
Given the traumatic impact of Marie’s loss, how could I help?
I knew that healing was possible, and I also knew the journey could be long. Not surprisingly, as is often the case, intuition offered wise insight for gentle first steps. I could hold Marie in compassionate presence as she discussed the tragedy and its aftermath. I could offer some light trance work, and along with accepting posture and gaze, communicate somatically and experientially the opportunities for new insights, new meanings and new strengths.
For the first three sessions, waxen-faced and grim, Marie revealed the depth of her bereavement. She talked about her vivacious and courageous mother, her family of origin, her nuclear family and her work. “I love my life,” she said. “But my mother was my best friend, and now my heart is broken.” Then, in session four Marie surprised me with an unexpected development.
“Thinking about living without my mother is unbearable. But this weekend something happened that I didn’t expect, and I feel guilty about it. I went shopping for a prom dress with my daughter. At first I was sad because my mother was supposed to come with us, but then I forgot! And we had a lovely time. Afterwards I felt awful! How could I forget my best friend?”
Pleased that Marie had experienced a fleeting sense of pleasure, I wanted to say the “right” things such as, how wonderful to feel a little happiness. This is good, normal, and an omen of hope, of healing. No need to feel guilty. But the sad lines around Marie’s mouth and her eyes, staring at some picture I couldn’t see, gave me pause. Perhaps my words might wait. It occurred to me intuitively that the “right” words might be better to come from Marie’s best friend.
I remembered a conversation I’d had a few days earlier with Scott Miller, PhD. Scott and I had discussed “The Art of Healing in an Age of Science,” a fascinating article he co-authored with Mark Hubble. The article discussed Miller and Hubble’s research into the effectiveness of more ephemeral “treatments” and their uses in therapy. Their findings discovered that enlisting and using alternative “healing energies” might in some cases be just as effective as EMDR, DBT, REBT, CBT and XYZ (retrieved from https://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/magazine/article/1077/how-psychotherapy-lost-its-magick).
Paul Leslie, author of Low Country Shamanism, is quoted in Miller and Hubble’s article. Paul’s advice affirmed my trust in soul wisdom, intuition and somatic intelligence: “Dive in… Embrace what your clients believe and know. Breathe life into the magical beliefs and spiritual traditions from your own home, family, and culture—all that came before, and all that make you who you are…”
Because Marie had been close to her mother, I thought Marie might find solace in a felt sense of her mother’s presence. As per Paul’s advice, I trusted my sense that channeling Marie’s mother for a “consultation” was the way to go. And I took the dive in.
“Marie, what do you think your mother would say about your enjoyable day with Margaret?”
“Oh, she’d probably be glad we had a fun.”
“I’m wondering, would you be willing to go into a relaxing light trance like you did last time? And this time maybe, add something?”
“I think so, like what?”
“I’d like to help you intuitively channel your mother and see what she has to tell you.”
“I’d like to try.” She leaned back on the couch.
As Marie’s breathing slowed, and her focus shifted inside, she easily entered a state of trance. I suggested that, by using her senses, Marie could imagine and feel her mother’s presence, experience what it was like to really be with her mother.
“You can sense her, imagine seeing her kind eyes, smelling her perfume, hearing her voice in your inner ear,” I said.
When Marie indicated that she sensed her mother was with her, I invited her to ask her Mother for her advice about healing from grief.
“She say’s she’s okay. She’s in no pain, peaceful.”
“She wants me to be peaceful, to live happily and enjoy my family.”
I then asked Marie to find a place in her body that could hold this message for her.
“It’s here. In my heart.”
“Keep your hand there as you hear and sense the love coming from your mother, knowing she’s okay and wants you to be okay.”
“What are you experiencing?”
Tapping her heart, Marie replied, “I feel better. I know it’ll take time, but I can always have her with me. I can even talk with her if I feel the need.
Marie returned to our next session with brightened affect, sad but smiling, her eyes more alive.
“How did our last session settle in?” I asked.
“I liked the channeling. I did it again on my own.”
“I’m curious to hear.”
“My mother told me it’s okay to feel grief over here (indicating to the left) and also to be happy over here (to the right.) I didn’t think it was okay, or even possible. I still really miss her, but I’ll always have her here (touching the center of her chest). Now I know that it’s okay to be alright.”
Bette J. Freedson, LCSW is a clinical social worker, certified group psychotherapist, and the author of Soul Mothers’ Wisdom: Seven Insights for the Single Mother. Bette’s specialties include stress management, parenting issues, recovery from trauma and the development of intuitive insight. She maintains a private practice in southern Maine with her husband, Ray Amidon, LMFT.