My daughters sleep with me. The 3-year-old has slept with me since she was born and will as long as she needs to. The 14-year-old sleeps with me when she wants to, which isn’t often lately. Whenever the 14-year-old sleeps with me, the dogs do too. I used to lie with all of them in my bed and feel so safe and cozy. “Everyone I love the very most is here in bed with me,” I would think. I would reach out and touch each of them, feeling completely blessed we were all in one place.
Every morning this week I have awakened too early. I’m suffering a different sort of insomnia than that which I think I may have cured. This is grief-induced insomnia. The last couple of nights were better than the night before because I googled “How to stop PTSD flashbacks.” Several sites advised grounding and mindfulness. Take the mind away from the place in the flashback and bring it to the present. Feel something with your body. Open your eyes and look around. Touch the place you are and ground yourself in the present.
Each time the horrifying incident attempted to replay in my head, I did this, just reached out and ran my fingers along the covers. Moved my foot back and forth. Put myself here instead of there. This did reduce the flashbacks that played that first night over and over like a torture video on the back of my eyelids.
Each time I realized that my safe little nest is missing one, my heart would ache and head for a memory and I would reach out and touch something to bring me back here, to this smaller family. I want to keep them all with me at all seconds, as if being with me will make them somehow safer. It didn’t on Friday. My same little pod was with me then when one of them was killed.
Why is it life seems determined to remind me that we have no control? I am not a control freak. I know how tenuous a grasp on life all of us really have. My only gratitude in this loss is that I told Ava every day how much I loved her. Moments before she died, she sat on my lap, I stroked the silky, wispy fur on her head and told her how much I loved her. I felt my love for her in my belly; am reminded of it now, sitting here.
I have learned to ignore the small irritations because you never know when one you love will be snatched away, and for this I am grateful. So many times she would do some little thing and I would say, “Oh, Woofer. Don’t do that!” Instead of yelling and scolding. Oh, the small gratitude among the pain.
The good thing is actually allowing yourself to grieve, Lara. Far too often we suppress it (or attempt to) and only do ourselves harm. Remembering the good times and the loving occasions human and pet share is the only realistic way to soften the blow. I am sure Ava felt good in her belly that you shared such affection with her. Sincerely, david.
Again, I am so sorry for you and your girls. Hang in there. PTSD is real, as is healthy grieving. Mindfulness is an extremely effective practice/tool for mitigating against the body loads of PTSD. But even zen masters can be dragged around by PTSD. I once had PTSD symptoms: anxiety, insomnia, hyper-vigilance, narcolepsy. I was also, at that time a very regular mindfulness/vipassana meditator (probably not a master). The release for me was a beta-blocker, used by professional musicians for stage fright (12 years ago, anyway): atenolol. It interrupted my adrenaline re-uptake cycle, and changed my life. I continue to practice meditation, which is THE best medicine for mundane stress relief (that and regular intense exercise). Been off atenolol for 11 years; for good, I think.
I enjoy your blog the most!
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