TOOL 1: THE RABBIT HOLE
There are very few of us that don’t go down the Rabbit Hole of grief. We don’t want to but sometimes the pain and loss take us to places we’d rather not go emotionally, physically or psychologically. What this exercise hopes to do is to anticipate that we will have very rough days or periods of time and that if we can set up a support system of some kind, then we have a safety net of sorts so that we don’t travel so far down we scare others and ourselves.
When someone we love dies, everything feels empty and desolate. It often feels like most everything is out of our control. One of the major focuses of this program is to find ways to take our grief, feel it and allow whatever processes we need to go through, and then allow our grief to transform into HONOR. We still have grief but we allow it to show itself in a different way. The Memory Tree is a way to write these feelings down and remind ourselves of what honoring our loved one might look like.
TOOL 2: MEMORY TREE
So, think of the things that trigger you into a deep sadness…seeing other families or children? Each loss will have its own triggers and each person will feel them uniquely. That’s ok. Just name them and then think about a tool or someone or something that might help you pull out of it after you have felt what you need to feel.
Allison's Experience: "I lost my brother to suicide and every time I watched a movie that had a death or suicide with a gun I would get sick to my stomach and feel panic inside. Most times I never knew when that moment would come because I hadn’t seen the movie or show. My tool for that became asking people who had seen the film if there was any violence so that I could just know ahead of time and see how I was feeling on that day—and I also stopped watching the cop shows that I knew might have suicides or gun violence in it. After a few years, I was able to handle all of this better. It just helped me to at least “feel prepared” and know what I was getting into. It didn’t stop the feelings, but I felt more in control about what I was able and strong enough to watch."
It is painful to actually write down the many things the person gave to you through their “being,” and even more painful remembering all of the things you will miss about them.
Allison's Experience: "When I did my memory tree on my brother, one of the things I put into the roots was that I would miss him never getting to meet my children and husband, I would miss not sitting next to him during a movie and listening to his infectious, raw laughter. I named all those things. When I started filling out the branches I thought about how he would stop and give a homeless man the jacket off his back, how he would not use the air-conditioning in his truck (during hot Texas summers!) to save gas and not pollute the environment. When I began to take my honoring into the world for him, I began helping others in need, I turn off my heater or air conditioner at times when it is uncomfortable and I think of him and talk to him the entire trip. Ultimately, I became a counselor in order to honor him by serving others as he did with his life.
Do I still miss him? Yes! Does it still hurt deeply? Yes! But I can honestly say it has shifted my own grief to focus on the good I can do through his memory."