I’m in awe of a recent experience that brought my classwork alive.

The week before Thanksgiving, a speaker in my class was discussing how children deal with trauma.  She was explaining how the brain works and what needs to happen for them to process trauma.  It was a lot of interesting theory.  Until she said something that really hit home.

“Children need to tell the trauma story over and over and over.  This is how they metabolize, process, and heal from it.” 

One of my most traumatic stories is one that still has an emotional life of its own.  Every time I think about, talk about, or write about this event, the feelings are still incredibly raw.  I thought about how I was never allowed to tell my stories, let alone repeatedly.  In fact, this story remains mostly untold.

Contrast that with a recent opportunity I had to see how the healthy version of this process works in real time.  My almost 3-year old grandson is allergic to soy.  When we hosted Thanksgiving dinner I read and reread labels and made sure he knew what foods he could not have.  I was diligent about everything, except for the frosting I made for the kids to decorate cookies with.  Shortening has soy.  Not just a little soy.  It’s the first ingredient.  I didn’t remember this until after he’d already eaten one of the frosted cookies.

I admitted my mistake to my grandson and daughter, and we all prepared for the dreaded side effects. He has had more than his share of medical issues, and some terrible allergy symptoms. The suspense was very stressful. For reasons unknown to us all, he ended up not having any significant physical effects.  Nevertheless, he was quite distressed that Nana had fed him soy.  He asked multiple times that weekend “Nana, why did you give me soy?”  I repeated my apology and explanation that I forgot shortening has soy in it.  My responses didn’t resolve his anxiety before they left for home Sunday. At the time, less than a week after my class, I didn’t connect the dots of what he was doing. I just thought I wasn’t giving a good enough answer.

My daughter told me he continued to ask them why Nana gave him soy once they were home, too.  I drove down to visit two weeks later and it wasn’t long before he asked me “Nana, are you still sad you gave me soy?”  Suddenly I realized I was a witness and participant with him healing from this traumatic experience.  We talked about it some more.  Later, my daughter apologized for him continuing to bring it up.  But I explained what I’d learned in class and that I was excited to see how this came to life in front of my very eyes.

She expressed relief I wasn’t annoyed with him for the questions. She also reminded me that there was a time I would not have been so patient, let alone excited for such an exchange.  She was right, and I imagine it is bittersweet for her.  I am different with her children than I was with her.  It is an area of tenderness we will need to continue working on healing between us.  In the meantime, I am honored to also have practiced rupture and repair with my grandson.

This experience has fueled my passion to learn more about healing and growing.

How about you?  What fuels your passion?

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