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Parenting with PTSD: Surviving the Intense Waves of Grief

“Mama! Mama! Mama!” I hear my two-year-old call, but I’m lost in my thoughts. She has just come out of the closet wearing her big sister’s pink floral boots, it triggers my PTSD and I am instantly transported back in time…

PTSD

…“I love them,” my six-year-old says with a smile on her face as she dances around her room. I am so excited because these pink floral boots were a Goodwill find, adorable and they go with everything. She tells me her new boots are her favorite and will be worn all the time. I remember my heart being full.

My PTSD caused the memory to shift without warning. I could feel a wave of intense grief start to consume me. I live with grief all of the time but this wave, if not careful, could drown me. 

The same boots were in a bag on the table, dropped off earlier after they were no longer needed for evidence. Those boots, her favorites, were on her feet the day she went to Heaven. I took them upstairs to her room and pulled them out of the bag. I sat on her bed and sobbed as thoughts of the worst night of my life flooded my mind.

I feel like I’m drowning. 

These moments come and go frequently now. When triggered, my trauma takes over and the memories that come are gut-wrenching. The hard memories of “what happened” take my breath away, and leave me frozen unable to move. These symptoms, along with others, are the cause of my PTSD diagnosis. I have learned through counseling to stay present and hold onto the memories that bring my heart joy. There are so many more of those memories.

Quickly, I take deep breaths, pray and remember that my girls are safe. My girls are safe in Heaven. 

“Mama! Mama! Mama!”

I shake my head to bring myself back to the present. In front of me, where she has been all along, is our youngest. She is now on the floor trying to get the boots off, and rapidly getting frustrated. To her nothing is different. I take another deep breath. 

“Mama, help please.”

I wrap my hand around my Goodwill find and pull. She smiles in gratitude and then grabs the nearest book. I get up, holding the boots close to my chest, and put them back in the closet until the next time she decides to be like her big sister. 

I continue to breathe deep and ask our littlest if she wants me to read to her. With book in hand, she falls into my lap and enthusiastically says, “yes!”

The wave is over and I survived.

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6 Responses to Parenting with PTSD: Surviving the Intense Waves of Grief

  1. Nadia January 31, 2018 at 6:17 pm #

    Oh Susan. What a beautiful post to describe the parallel between your present and your past. Thank you for sharing something so personal and raw.

  2. Jackie Mraz January 31, 2018 at 6:22 pm #

    Yes, Susan, you are a survivor. Your faith, your
    strength, your loving heart inspire me to be a better person.

  3. Jojo January 31, 2018 at 6:54 pm #

    Oh, this breaks my heart. Through your stories, I feel like I knew Anna personally. Your descriptions are so loving and vibrant. Your little one is lucky to have you for a mama.

    I wanted to share a type of treatment for PTSD that has helped some people with their traumatic memories. My cousin witnessed her husband’s unexpected death and has struggled in the 8 years since then. She got a new therapist and now she is using EMDR eye movement with her, and it has eased some of the intensity of her symptoms and flashbacks.

    I wish you and others who are struggling with this pain of loss a sense of healing and peace. Hugs to you.

    • Susan
      Susan February 2, 2018 at 5:07 pm #

      Thank you for your comment JoJo. I am currently about to start a second round of EMDR with my counselor but thank you so much for sharing this advise. It has already done a lot for me.

  4. Paulette January 31, 2018 at 7:15 pm #

    My heart absolutely aches for you. So thankful God’s love and grace have carried you through, and will continue to carry you and your family until God reunites your family. <3 Thank you for sharing your heart and your thoughts with all of us…we are blessed. <3

  5. Natasha February 1, 2018 at 5:12 am #

    Friends through Jesus , through His design and our journeys…thank you for your willingness to bless others and myself with the gift God gave you ….to be raw and real with the waves that threaten to drown….you my lady , remind me that it’s real what we go through. Those boots on your little honeys feet remind me of my Wolf child’s jean jacket and hoodie…..love you my friend….

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