Please continue to do what you can within your reach, every day, to help … other souls, land, sky, water, creatures and more.
I love you
ESTÉS INTERNATIONAL POST-TRAUMA RECOVERY PROTOCOL
Please continue to do what you can within your reach, every day, to help … other souls, land, sky, water, creatures and more.
I love you
ESTÉS INTERNATIONAL POST-TRAUMA RECOVERY PROTOCOL
by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés,
Post-trauma recovery specialist and psychoanalyst.
[Developed and updated from 1967 through to present by Dr. Estés to deputize ordinary citizens at disaster sites so helper-souls can learn to recognize symptoms of post-trauma, and to give comfort and support for healing to those who are coming back from shock and tragedy. There is significant humane need to train people who live in the communities, and who will remain within the communities in the months and years after a disastrous event, long after first responders go home. ]
We are partnered with La Sociedad de Guadalupe para Derechos Humanos, USA
RECOVERY & NORMAL REACTIONS TO SUDDEN SHOCK, EMERGENCY, LOSS, INJURY, AND CATASTROPHE
Each person, depending on their innate physical and emotional constitution, their time of life, their day to day challenges of life, their prior traumas and luchas, their spiritual ties, is affected differently by sudden shocks and catastrophic events.
Symptoms arising from shock may differ from person to person also. Yet all will make progress in healing and rowing toward wholeness again… often with new hard-won wisdom, and with scar tissue yes, and also often with a heart broken open… a focused desire to help the needful world in ongoing or in new ways.
Thus, over a period of time, if you of ‘the inner circle,’ that is, if you are an eye-witness, a helper, a first responder, a victim, a survivor, a person who lost a loved one, or lost cherished creatures, or had a loved one in the path of danger, or seriously injured …
if you have been suddenly hit hard by tragedy or by fear and shock and heartache for the world as you once knew it… if you are a soul in the midst of the disaster, a brother, sister, mother, father, child, elder… if you are military, fire fighter, health worker, helping-professional, law enforcement, government helper, rescue worker, citizen rescuer, news gatherer, photographer—if you have heart, spirit and soul connection to the tragedy– if you are in other close-in relationships such as helping in distributions of essentials, supplier, friend-to-friend, neighbor to neighbor, pastor, spiritual advisor… you may find yourself having one or more of the following reactions.
(These are normal reactions to sudden shock relating to life and death events, to sudden twists of fate. When one has been involved in a critical incident, one’s body, one’s consciousness and heart (and many believe, too, the spirit and the soul) are shocked as well.
This is because it is shocking to see in full consciousness, in a split second, how close death always is to us, and how suddenly it erupted into our world visibly, palpably, and how fast, how loudly, but sometimes so quietly… This witness to the nearness of death and destruction and the terrible losses of life, are arresting to any human being with a heart and spirit, a mind and body, and a soul.)
NORMAL AND COMMON REACTIONS
● Sleep disturbances including inability to sleep
● Lethargy may come from sleeping too much, eating allergenic or spoiled substances.
● Exhaustion, fatigue, nagging sense of dread once the crises are far past
● Changes in appetite, digestive disturbances
● Feeling numb
● Crying, sometimes without necessarily knowing why
● Desire to comfort and be comforted physically
● Nightmares, night terrors
● Loss of memory
● Trembling, inner and/or outer
● Heart arrhythmia
● Pain in heart, not an organic disorder, but caused by
● Aching bones, not an organic disorder but rather,
caused by sorrow
● Headache, pre-migraine syndrome; migraine
● Possible augmenting of symptoms of diabetes, prior stress conditions, sciatica, asthma
●Regression in children to a previously mastered stage of development
● Poor concentration
● Refusing to talk
● Wanting to go away, or hide
● Talking ‘out of one’s mind’
● Startle reactions while awake or asleep
● Isolating, wanting to be alone.
● Wanting to just sit, or just stare
● Trying to help in any way one can, to the point of
● Not wanting to leave the scene for aid or safety
● Weeping oneself to sleep
● Hyper-vigilance, watching, listening, being unable to
be at rest
● Loss of sense of time
● Feeling distraught and helpless and alone
● Feeling that things are not real, as though in a dream
● Inability to recall sequences or retrace all of one’s steps precisely
● Feeling the future has been lost forever
● Desire to comfort and be comforted psychologically
● Feeling one should not cry
● Wanting to scream, or screaming-weeping
● Inability to attach importance to anything but this event
● Sorrowing in actual and symbolic ways
● Intrusive thoughts that cause anxiety
● Over-reactions to mild to moderate irritations
● Recurrent dreams
● Horrified Anger
● Broken Heart
● Insecurity about the future
● Feelings of fear, warranted and unwarranted
● Feelings of guilt
● Feeling one cannot stop crying
● Unusual reserve, acting as though nothing much really occurred
● Blaming others, individuals, groups: there may be passionate outbursts
● Marked frustration with how long everything takes
● Marked frustration with rescue workers, the bureaucracy, anyone who is trying to help
● Marked frustration [based on reality] with any who break promises to help, or who are perceived to not be telling all the truth, or who are perceived to be withholding critical information, or giving misinformation or not telling all they know, or who are giving out platitudes or being condescending
● Ongoing violent fantasies
● Rolling episodes of anxiety
● Mild to profound depression
● Thinking no one can ever understand, no one can ever help.
● Valid fear for one’s safety
● Replaying over and over the pain of what one has seen and heard
● Keeping secrets about what one might have known beforehand, during or after
● Blaming oneself
● Deep dread about hearing any more terrible news
● Aversion to films, movies, radio, television, anything that depicts catastrophe
● Irritability that others go on with life while one is still suffering
● Negative judgments about others’ activities or interests that seem disrespectful to oneself and what one is going through
● Desire to comfort and be comforted spiritually
● Questioning one’s beliefs
● Not wanting to hear any spiritual counsel
● Wanting very much to hear spiritual counsel
● Feeling the celestial beings/ greater Power/Creator/God, the true self have abandoned everyone
● Feeling the celestial beings/ greater Power/Creator/God, the true self are ever near
● Desire to create meaningful ceremony
● Praying non-stop, for self, for others, for everyone
FOR THE SURVIVORS:
THE DESCENT INTO, AND THE PATHWAYS OUT OF TRAUMA
These are normal reactions, though many are painful. Thankfully, no one has all of them, and some, such as ‘more prayer than usual’ can be helpful to many. It is important to remember that all souls have their own ways of remaining strong. Some have a lifetime of ‘not talking.” This is their way of preserving their own pace and peace.
Some make jokes as their way of remaining strong. Some weep, and in this they are cleansed and strengthened. Some work themselves to exhaustion, for this is their way of staying strong. Some want to hear every update so they can prepare; that is their strength. Some want to hear nothing more, not ever, unless solutions are also offered– and that is the person bulwarking themselves in order to strive to stay strong in the midst of all else.
The many different ways people ‘stay strong’ in their own ways ought be respected as much as possible, with invitations to join in if there is a better way to proceed in the present. Only if ‘staying strong’ is bringing real harms to the person or to other persons, should the eccentricities of ‘staying strong’ be mediated by offering other ways to move, think, see, hear, feel in attitude and action.
Going through the pattern of shock symptoms [above], trying to pinpoint each or some, and finding one’s own ways of easing these, putting first things first – health, safety, attitude – these are all part of the direct healing process.
No one can instantly cleanse these thoughts and feelings away, though I wish we could, for we know they can tear at heart, consciousness, and spirit and can make people feel half-dead or in continual dread.
But as time passes, many of these will lift more and more, and many will pass too. Especially if we hold to right understanding, right action, right thought. The most important is to know what to do for oneself to help the natural process of mending up after twists of fate that affect us so deeply.
Many years ago our beloved first-born grandson died suddenly. We made the slow painful walk back from the land of the dead. It took much time. We felt dead ourselves. A succinct truth about coming back after such trauma, eventually came through my dear daughter whose child had been lost. She said. “We never overcome profound loss: We learn to live with it.”
And this will assuredly be so for you also. You will find your way to live fully again with this time in background, not foreground.
The day will come. And you will see, month by month forward, this will occur more and more.
For some persons, after tragedy, they know immediately what they think and feel. For others who are be-numbed, they may not know where and how they stand with the events and with themselves and with others for quite some time afterward. This is alright. New life will come. Being thoughtful and watchful of one’s own processes daily is a good endeavor.
If you can’t recall the qualities, paths and sanctities most useful, ask trusted others to help you take daily steps to help yourself as needed. Just like a new garden, take one thoughtful step after the other. Assess, spade, seed, water, light, weed, tenderly, thoughtfully tend to… then one day comes the flowering and then after that, the fruits.
For those close in to the disaster, the tragedy, the numbness you feel comes from parts of your self protecting you, softening for a time, the profound overwhelm of all that has occurred, allowing you to at least go through many of the mundane motions of day to day life. For the first days after such enormous shocks, it may almost feel as though time has stopped. That all is surreal. The efforts to comb hair, shave, organize may be dulled.
You may feel as though you are no longer here. As though maybe you are dead or deadened. Even as you go about lifting, hauling, helping. This is because abject fear, horror, and/or tragedy throw us into a process and lock us in for a time – yet, our balancing pathways through difficulties did not die. We can find them and follow them again.
For most who have been suddenly beset by deep fear, and/or suddenly lost beloved persons, an animal companion, or a home place, or all these… ‘descent’ is not too strong a word for the process afterward. To many, it feels like a big iron gate has closed behind them and that life will never be the same again.
And yet, please also be assured there is an indirect healing process taking place inside you at the same time… time passing is one indirect but strong healing partner. As time goes on, there is also blessing news… and that is, that fear and horror and grief are wheels that turn. Grief has a beginning, a middle and not exactly an end, but a release from that trapped place behind ‘the iron gate’ where you may have felt burdened off and on, or relentlessly.
Eventually the sense of helplessness, fatigue, guardedness, hyper-vigilance, sorrow, blaming oneself or others, and/or ‘not knowing’ dwindles and eases. You will daily live and laugh and love life again, more and more … it will happen. Not right this moment. But it will come.
• As time goes on, less and less will you be dragged backward in time to very briefly, but deeply, feel fearful or grieve anew. Those times will occur with longer and longer spans of time in between. Each episode of ‘sudden remembering’ will be intense, but last for shorter and shorter periods of time. Again, for most of us, we do not ‘get over’ life and death heart-wrenching events. We learn to live with them. We learn to live with the aftermath of memories of bad shocks and irretrievable losses. We learn to live with changes and losses that feel they took meaning of our lives away from us for a time, or that took our spirits from us and our desire to live life as well.
But, for all souls, like the force of energy at the base of a plant that continues to shine underground even during drought, something in us also is ever sending out strong impulses for us to live again… and well. No matter how weak we feel in the moment, this invisible rhizome, the Life Force of the true self will help us see meaning– and new calling in life sometimes too– as we gradually climb back up to our own vital and vibrant lives in every way. It will come. Like the garden after dry season, life comes back again.
AFTER THE FIRE
It roots deepest
in the places
from book The Faithful Gardener by CP Estés, in honor of the 14 firefighters who died on Storm King Mountain 1994
ACTIONS TO TAKE FOR RECOVERY
Please take up all, or any of the following pathways to add to those ways you already know, in order to help yourself. Please know too, that many strangers, as well as those close to you, are focusing in this very moment in order to support you over the miles, saying strong and ongoing fresh prayers for your heart and spirit and true self to find their ways and to be made whole again. I am but one of those multitudes who prays strong prayers for you.
EXERCISE AND REST to release accumulated stresses …► Within the first days or as soon as one can, and continuing, do strenuous exercise alternating with rest times. Continue to move daily thereafter. This will alleviate some of the physical reactions, and give your body a way to discharge additional physical and emotional reactions as they accumulate in the coming days. This is a generosity to the body.
KEEP MOVING, order will return …► REST BUT KEEP BUSY, AS YOU ARE ABLE: do not sit and do nothing. Feeling displaced, angry, sad, orphaned, and bewildered are normal reactions. Do not tell yourself that you have lost your mind. You haven’t. But a huge wind has blown through upsetting all previous order. Order will return. A new order. An order for your life that you decide as you decide it, in your own best ways.
TALK TO PEOPLE rather than toughing it out …► Talk to people — talk is one of the most healing things most can do. Tell your story as you see it. Although some have learned to keep their most precious thoughts and feelings to themselves, they may not realize that by talking some, or a good deal now, they also give others permission to talk out their thoughts and feelings too… and thus to go that much farther in healing. To talk, encourages others to talk. Though each has his or her own ways of dealing with trauma, and no one ought be forced to speak until or unless they wish to, we find that expression of one’s thoughts and feelings about one’s hopes and fears often go farther to release trauma’s after-effects, than trying to tough things out. Any kind of talk now has, as its aim, equanimity.
PAINT, TELL, WRITE, DRAW YOUR STORY INTO THE REAL WORLD….► This may be the first time some persons will receive encouragement to speak. Some will be brief, that’s alright. It doesn’t matter whether one’s talk is broken or cohesive… telling one’s own story insofar as one wishes, is what matters. People who have been deeply hurt, may tell their stories over and over again, many times before they lose their massive charge of pain. They may tell it in voice, or in poetry, in drawing, songs, music, theatre, painting, and other expressive means and then sharing these with trusted others. Making art is a form of virtue. Expressive art is very healing for many. There are across the world, tens of thousands of well trained, certified expressive art therapists to help, if you so choose.
WAYS TO LISTEN AND TO HOLD OTHERS to help them heal …► Don’t push yourself, but if you can, listen to others’ stories; if you can, reach out for those who are poor in resource, poor in spirit, poor in security, for sometimes giving comfort, words of encouragement, is a way to help healing of both teller and listener as well. There are many ways to listen, including being silent together, including a hand on an arm, an arm around a shoulder, sharing around cups of water, an embrace while the other person just leans in quietly, or weeps. This is the quality of loving kindness.
SOFT EYES, KNOWING NODS …► There are too, those inimitable words that the soul understands perfectly, which are not said with voice, but with nods of the head and with the eyes; gentle understanding eyes. Sometimes soft looks and soft voice, the Oh, oh, and the There, there, and the Yes my dear heart and the warmth of merciful silence in the midst of din… these are some of the greatest articulations of wisdom.
THE SPIRIT IS A SACRED TEMPLE, PROTECT IT IN SELF AND IN OTHERS as much as one can …► Don’t allow anyone to push you or deceive you into anything not good for your soul. Be not led either by others who may insist too soon, “It’s over now, you must move on.” You will move on. But in your own timing. In grief and great change, one’s consciousness has entered a sacred place, one of deep learning and transformative process. The news media cycle is not your healing cycle. Exploitation is not a healing method. It’s best to protect the traumatized psyche from any intrusive anyone, including media whether in person or on radio/TV which may accidentally overwhelm your spiritual needs for privacy in groups and as individuals, because of media’s need to ‘feed the maw of the news cycle.’ Remain to yourself and in and for yourself, in the ways you deem wisest for you and your soul.
RELY ON COMPASSIONATE AND PATIENT COUNSEL …► Neither is your drummer anyone who is not well developed psychologically or spiritually themselves, nor those who become understandably fatigued with the, for now, ongoing cycle of anxiety and/or grief. Rely instead on compassionate and patient counsel. Forbearance and remaining private regarding those who seem intrusive, is one of the best attitudes.
LOOK TO THE EXEMPLARS WHO HAVE BEEN WOUNDED AND YET HAVE FOUND NEW LIFE AGAIN. You are wounded yet alive, and healing. Look to those angels and saints and good human beings who have gone before you and suffered so, but come back to full life again …► Listen to yourself and to wise others who have come through ‘a great something’ themselves, and mostly recovered or are making definitive progress. It is a paradox and an issue of compassion for self and others: To tend to what is wounded til healed ‘well-enough’, while going on with new life as well. Yes, ‘life goes on,’ as some will say, but the emphasis should be on Life! not on hurrying. A wound to the spirit is like a wound to the body. It takes time to heal from the bottom layers upward.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE: SEEK THOSE ‘WHO KNOW’ THE WAYS THROUGH… ► Feelings of loneliness and deep feelings of worry, or longing toward loved ones injured, or now gone, or a way of life gone for now, can be partially mediated by being with those who understand from the ground up, that is, other people who have walked the path similar to the one you are walking now. Though it can seem like this never happened to anyone else and you and those with you are alone, there are others in the world, in your village, on the internet, within certain groups– who know exactly what you are experiencing, and they can be of great comfort. Seek them and take what they offer in goodness. It is there for you. In this way, we allow others the honor of loving us via kindnesses offered.
CEREMONY, SYMBOLIC ACTS, RITUAL, MEMORIALIZING, BLESSINGS …► Each time you tell your story partly, or fully, each time you create a symbolic act, participate in healing ceremony, rituals that call the Magnitude to oneself as one knows/believes, note the best of what once was, memorialized now, each thoughtful new barrier set to help prevent ever again whatever twist of fate or tragedy occurred in your world insofar as you can, each time you think back to the disaster in order to analyze and learn something valuable, each time you receive someone’s caring, each time you reach to comfort others, to bless and be blessed by others, you will be healing yourself. And others. This is the quality of mindful effort and ceremony.
LIFE-LESSONS FROM TRAGEDY …► Try not to cover up your feelings by withdrawing or by using alcohol or drugs or other excesses. Talk your feelings out as you can. As many times as you need to. There is no shame or selfishness in this. You have been through alot. Sometimes after a sudden shock and tragedy, some try to self-medicate with whatever is close at hand. But this is not a time for negating feeling. One’s striving for consciousness is stronger than most realize. This time, despite the horror that began it, will be a time that will bring much to you, much that will be useful for the rest of your life. For many, it will be a time of complete maturing in unforeseen and good ways. We cannot make tragic or profane events go away, but we can make them in some way holy. We can, insofar as we have sight and strength, make our actions and reactions holy.
BLESSING SELF AND OTHERS …► Reach out to others for help. They really do care. This is a way of allowing others to bless you. Be good to yourself and let others be good to you too. Often, the most healing comes from just allowing others to bless your life anew, and you theirs. I tell the people I meet with– who have suffered great tragedies, but who often ask what they can do to help others. I tell them, ‘Be kind.’ People who suffer greatly will most often forget all the “expert” words or techniques that anyone ever said or did during these first days and weeks, but what will remain forever engraved in memory, are the kindnesses others offered during those first few days and weeks and afterward. Kindness somehow seems recorded by the body internally and externally, by the conscious mind, by the heart, and the spirit, the soul, in ‘sense memory’: Every part of the human being registers kindness.
SOLITUDE, REFLECTION, AND SOCIALIZING …► Spend time with others. These may be times of reflection and solitude. But, do not isolate yourself. You may also find yourself laughing sometimes, even as you grieve. That is not the potter’s wheel screeching; this is the potter’s wheel being glad to be alive and useful again. It is alright. True mirth is a healing virtue.
REACH OUT TO OTHERS, TOO …► Ask other people how they are doing. Remember they may be shy to tell a stranger, or even a friend or relative, of their burden unless they are asked, and often. Respect boundaries, but also a soul may need to be asked more than once in order to gain more of an answer than just ‘Fine,’ when in fact, they are somewhat — to a lot— less than fine. My rule is, as with raising children, ask three times, and likely each answer will be more in depth… and then pressures can be released to the good.
REST AND TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY WHO HAS NO ONE BUT YOU TO CARE FOR IT …► Adults can become fatigued from this business of remembering and grieving. Grieving is hard work, and as numbness wears off and the mind delivers back images and impressions of the original traumatic event, it can burn up much energy. Rest, take good care of your body. Feed it as decent food as you can. Soothe and energize your body in ways you have always known work for you in ways that add to your life rather than take from your life.
GIVE YOURSELF “TIME OFF” FROM TRAUMA …► It’s alright to take time out. It is not negligent to not want to listen anymore. It is alright not to read newspapers or watch the news. It’s alright to never again go to a film that is about shock or loss, in order not to stir up what is now healing or healed. It is fine to protect the wound, even when ‘well enough’ healed, for now, for a while, or forever. Everyone reaches capacity in the grieving process, in recovering from great shocks, in being near the still open wounds. Pay attention to what your body and consciousness, heart, soul, and spirit need, and secure it for them.
HEALING FROM SHOCK IS NOT A STRAIGHT LINE …► Healing from shock is not a straight line: It is a zig-zag line, sometimes two steps back and three steps forward. Stay with it. There is no one right way nor perfect progress. There is your way. There is your striving to progress. Trust these. You have old knowings that work. Angels and others may offer ideas too. Consider, take what you need, and leave the rest.
TAKE TIME CHOOSING LEGAL HELP …► If this is part of the scene, take time to think things through carefully if you are approached by persons offering legal help. For persons who are badly injured or survivors of a family member who died, or those who have lost much, legal support may be considered. But, also be aware that in some instances, involvement in years’ long legal pursuits can thieve freedom to live life again as you please… instead one’s highs and lows dictated by how the legal case is progressing each day. Consider carefully. If you need a lawyer, it is best to seek your own referrals from trusted friends rather than respond to lawyers who contact you. At every disaster site, there are charlatans who pour in to take advantage, along with the larger mass of helpers pouring in who really will and do help. Be wise in your considerations.
THE INNER CIRCLE: SURVIVOR SUPPORT GROUPS …► It is true that some of your friends and relatives may never understand what you, the on-the-scene person, experienced …unless they were there too. Sometimes the ones we want to turn to for support, cannot grasp all that occurred. That’s alright. That’s why there are often survivor groups formed also. The people in ‘the inner circle’ understand one another innately. The groups are often formed in prayer, in whatever shelter is left standing, in sharing what little resource there is, tending to the worst of the wounds first… and evolving from there. You can be part of such group or start one. There is no right or wrong way. Only the way of the Heart.
IF YOU FEEL STUCK IN DEEPENING OR CHRONIC HIGH DISTRESS …► If you find at any time that you feel stuck in endless anger, or want to isolate yourself without cease, or have unabated high anxiety, or continue to be hyper vigilant, have intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, thoughts of hurting yourself or others, nightmares or other sleep distresses, over-reactions to run of the mill events, begin to destroy your most cherished relationships… don’t put it off … seek help with those you trust, those known to help others to heal. It is often only one tiny thing that needs to be tightened or loosened in consciousness or heart or mind or body; not a total reconfiguration of the entire psyche. Seeking aid when needed, is an ancient spiritual tradition wherein one goes alone to the teacher for counsel, thereby exercising the quality of compassionate effort… in your own behalf.
POST-TRAUMA RECOVERY THERAPY …► It is not a character flaw nor a failure of the person to seek psychological, physical or spiritual wisdom. Please understand that severe, sudden shocks to the body and consciousness can throw off chemicalogical balances in the body. Sometimes the body needs medicine to help to recover the chemical equilibrium that influences sense of self, evens out mood, and sense of ease with the world. Listening to the teachings of a helper, healer, therapist trained in resetting one on the path again, or in post-trauma recovery is useful to untangle thought processes that often become jammed by prior pressure to respond to too many sudden and strong stimuli all at once. The remedy is concentration, immersion in one’s best spiritual and psychological and bodily practices in order to cleanse, strengthen and free the true self again.
CONSIDER TRADITIONAL GATHERING AND/OR ALTERNATIVE …► Sitting with a trusted person is also a place to speak the thoughts you would prefer not to speak more publicly or to friends or family. It also is a place of learning to create new life as you now wish it to be, with insight and vision. Some might choose EMDR, an eye-movement therapy that reduces the anxiety of trauma for many; some choose talking; some analyze dreams, looking for symbols which free them when understood; some also take specially compounded medicines and herbs; create ceremony; cleansing rituals in dance, art, song, writing, painting, as well as practice meditation, sit satsung, go to Mass in the ruins, keep journals, do yoga, meet in small communities, bless one another, pray together, laugh together, go fishing more often, take up new skills that relax or go back to those that once did … and many use expressive arts to come to terms. Use any and all and more that honor the soul, as you see fit.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO TALK TO YOUR OLDER CHILDREN ADULT-TO-ADULT …► If you are a parent, help your children, and any child who no longer has able parents, by listening, listening. Just because young children, or young adult children are silent, or just because they laugh or ‘go out’ to work or wander about with friends or say everything is fine, does not mean they are without need of your special regard.
Consciousness often splits in two during eye-witness and/or sudden trauma. This is a healthy and temporary adaptation to shock. One side goes on functionally, seemingly unaware of the travails (but psyche records all) while the other side may be, for a time, drowning in bewilderment, helplessness, a sense of the surreal, and sorrow. The two ways of seeing and thinking will come back together again more and more, and with a united vision eventually… be present and aware, blending both realities as one.
“BEING WITH,” undistractedly, heals the duality between the mundane and destroyed world, and the unruined world that one holds sacred. Don’t be afraid to talk to children mind to mind, heart to heart, spirit to spirit, soul to soul, and with bodily comforts if a child indicates so: soothing sounds, embraces, songs, comforting foods. The child will tell you what they would like, if you suggest things of comfort rather than ask what the child needs.
Do not hesitate to consult the steady and wise for good advice, and to gain spiritual insights, body work, psychological therapy, ceremony, healing circles, both for yourself and for a child if you think it useful and/ or needed to learn… and to process what one is learning. Children are observant and wise too. You may learn much from speaking to children after a collective trauma.
CREATING GROUPS FOR CHILDREN TO PLAY AND LEARN, creating groups for children to play in some peace, and to learn under loving guidance, to shelter able creatures under the children’s care if possible, no matter what else, can provide a much needed sense of belonging for children who have lost so much. For all of humanity, one can get through most rough roads if one can feel a sense of belonging—to Creator in a way that matters to each in their own ways –and to other people who care. And we find it so, that even if a person does not find belonging with the greater or with humans, then they will find it in their admiration and love of creatures, and if not with creatures, than to all of the beauty of the sun, the stars, and the sky. Each will find their own belongingness. Thus, offer many and any safe places, no matter how or where, so the young especially, can belong to that which finds them sacred.
WITH CHILDREN, DO YOUR LOVING BEST …► Healing from trauma is at its most useful, also educative. Healing from trauma teaches about how one’s consciousness, behavior and spirit actually work together, or don’t– but can… with a few adjustments and conscious good will. Children look to and often follow the mindful tones their parents and elders take about such matters.
If you made an error of under or over reacting, just back up, say so to your child, say you know how to do it better now. Children learn so quickly, they will most often back up and follow your new and better mindful lead. Perfection in grieving, perfections in coming back to life, is not the point. What counts the most is that you just do your loving best. This is a stable attitude: “doing best” – but not without also ‘doing love’ even more so. You know your child best, and know the ways to love and tend to– that children can most easily understand, and take in as nourishment for their healings also.
DECIDE TO LIVE FULLY …► In the ensuing days, find things to do that feel rewarding, meaningful or refreshing. These need not be big things, but events or endeavors to offer small balances to the tragedy and overwhelm you have been through. It is alright to live fully, even though precious others have been suddenly injured, harmed, or died. In fact, many of us hold that it is exactly right to decide to live fully in honor of those who currently cannot or could not. There is to be no guilt for moments of happiness or celebrations. Nor for sudden sadness, either. Yet, moments of happiness are, again, the force of the living plant blossoming again. Your life blossoms again. And this is just right.
THERE ARE TIMES … THAT ARE WORTHY OF SPEAKING ABOUT …► When you feel bad, find a person to talk to, and to cry with, to tell of your anger and other helpless feelings. Don’t keep it inside. If you think you’re ‘bothering people,’ or being’ weak’, remember people who love you will wind up spending much energy being even more worried about you if you go mute. It’s alright to talk, even if it’s not usual for you. There are times of life of great consequence that are worthy of speaking about. This is one of those times. We are what we are, it is true, but also now there are new ways for fine-tuning true selflessness, which includes helping oneself so that one can guide others in wisdom, by saying, ‘Yes, me too, I have suffered also and that is why I know a bit of the way forward, and so here’s my suggestion, with caring, to you’… It is true that those who appear to be most in need often cause the enlightenment of others. These are times that are worthy of speaking truthfully and openly about your own highest knowings.
TAKE CARE NOT TO OVERINDULGE NOR SELF-MEDICATE …► You are vulnerable in some new ways when recovering from shock; take care to not over-indulge or self-medicate with substances, or other consciousness-numbing addictions, or trying to lose oneself in unprotected sex, or ongoing bitterness, or know-it-allness, or rages, as defenses against feeling vulnerable. Regarding effective anger: Anger is energy to use in controlled and reasoned ways to get things done. It is a fire with a hearth, ought not be an unbanked fire without guardian stones around it.
SEEK PEOPLE OF SPIRIT WHO LOVE THE SOUL, THE TRUE SELF …► Your spiritual beliefs will definitely help you through. Cleave to them in full. For those who have been dispirited by some inhumane ‘religious’ person long ago, do not hold yourself away from this kind of healing for your spirit now. Instead, consider seeking people of spirit who love the attitude of generosity; there are many of them in the world, some in organized religions and spirituality communities, and some who wander freelance in this wide world. Ally with them. They will have special balm for you.
MAKING SENSE OF IT ALL: “GOD’S BUSINESS,” “CREATOR’S BUSINESS,” “SOURCE WITHOUT SOURCE”…► I would offer this to you too, a personal philosophy I carry. . . Some may be helped by knowing it is good to develop a category in one’s consciousness called something like “Creator’s Business,” “God’s Business,” “the business of ‘Source without source’”– for some things will never make sense. Some things one cannot ever control or ever understand. Accidents are incomprehensible. Twists of fate often have little ‘rational fact’ to them. Evil things are, by definition, insensible. And some things, some events, some outcomes, will forever only be “God’s Business,” Creator’s Business,” The business of ‘Source without source…’”
THE DIGNITY YOU DESERVE …► We all wish to be brave and strong in the face of sudden upheaval and disaster. We all wish to be looked up to for our endurance and our efforts to help others. If you truly care for humanity, then too, be sure to include yourself in their numbers, by giving your own inner feelings and thoughts the voice and the dignity they and you so deeply deserve.
THE WORLD KNOWS OF YOUR PLIGHT AND IS WITH YOU IN VIGIL FOR HELP FOR YOU, FOR YOUR RECOVERY, FOR KEEPING YOUR NEEDS ABOVE THE WATERLINE. Please remember, worldwide there are strangers who are industrial-strength praying men and women. Who are strong thinkers and conveyors of goodness in many ways. We have you on our radar and have already called forth all Good and Great, asking that you be watched over and guided into fullest life again. We’re asking that you and all your loved ones be kept safe, that you see miracles during this time, that you ever know that Creator and the angels are near you, touching you gently, and guiding you to ways and means that are helpful and useful to you, guiding you into meaningful life again.
Please lean on our prayers for you,
and with love,
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés
THE ‘REFUSE TO FALL DOWN’ PRAYER
Refuse to fall down.
If you cannot refuse to fall down,
refuse to stay down.
If you cannot refuse to stay down,
lift you heart toward heaven,
and like a hungry beggar,
ask that it be filled—
and it will be filled.
You may be pushed down.
You may be kept from rising.
But no one can keep you
from lifting your heart
It is in the midst of misery
that so much becomes clear.
The one who says nothing good
came of this,
is not yet listening.
The blessing poems, “After the Fire,” and ‘The “Refuse to Fall Down” Prayer” [originally titled “A Prayer,”] are excerpted from The Faithful Gardener, A Wise Tale About That Which Can Never Die, by C.P. Estés, HarperCollins, ©1995. Reprinted by kind permission of publisher.
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés is Mestiza Latina [Native American/ Mexica and Spanish], presently in her seventies. She grew up in the now vanished oral tradition of her war-torn immigrant, refugee families who could not read nor write, or did so haltingly, and for whom English was their third language overlying their ancient natal languages.
She is a lifelong activist in service of the voiceless; as a post-trauma recovery specialist and psychoanalyst of 48 years clinical practice with persons traumatized by war, including exilios and torture victims; and as a journalist covering stories of human suffering and hope.
Diplomate psychoanalyst [Certified by IAAP, Zurich] who developed an international psychological recovery protocol for, amongst other traumatic disasters, the Armenian earthquake rescue; The Mexico City earthquake, the Los Angeles earthquake, The Rocky Mountain and California forest fires and floods, and their aftermaths. She served at Columbine High School and community for 3 years after the massacre; and works with 9-11 survivor families on both USA coasts.
You are holding the complete protocol in letter form — addressed to the inner circle of citizens, victims, survivors, eye-witnesses, their families, workers, helpers, elders, rescuers, relatives and other affected persons. This letter offers from direct clinical practice, useful, effective, and time-tested steps for recovery from trauma.
If you have questions on-site where you live, also please apply to the first responder groups, such as the Red Cross and other trained groups, who will often have up to the minute information for you.
—–CREATIVE COMMONS COPYRIGHT NOTICE for Post-Trauma Recovery Protocol by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, post-trauma specialist, certified psychoanalyst ©1970, 2017, All Rights Reserved under Creative Commons Copyright: This Protocol is educational, and may be utilized in full for non-commercial purposes under the proviso the entire Protocol is kept intact in full, and not added to nor taken away from.
The Protocol is not psychotherapy nor medical advice and is not a substitute for seeking psychological and medical advice. For those endeavors, please seek the wise and qualified persons of choice in your community.
The image is of Holy Mother and her Radiant Child in a darkened scraggly wood with hard scrabble ground beneath her feet. She carries the lamb of innocence, the calm Jesu, who sleeps under her protection, the Child of Light. She is protectoress of all human beings and all animals, and all rocky roads and dark nights. Holy Mother hear our prayer, that all at Mati, Greece and elsewhere in the conflagrations in Californian and elsewhere, be helped, comforted, sheltered, fed, clothed, tended to medically… as they bury their dead and cleave together in good will. May the governments remember that humanity and humane treatment are twins –and fiscal-risk fears, or judgementalness, ought never overwhelm the carrying of the sacred Heart, which is love, and more love. And more in both reason and mercy.