The conversations around my house for weeks were centered around Prom. You can blame Disney, social media, or our culture, but being a pretty princess is somewhere in our DNA or at least part of our little girl daydreams. The talk was on dresses and shoes, clutches and nails, dinner and transportation, make-up and hair. What we should have discussed with my introverted daughter, was skills for feeling overwhelmed when 250 teenagers are bumping and grinding in a dance circle. All and all she did well, she spent more time in the bathroom than the average teenager, but she went, she took pictures, she talked to the people she felt the most comfortable with and next year when she goes again, she’ll know what to expect. She will have ideas on how to navigate the dance circles and awkward conversations. Honestly, the most difficult things in life are the unknowns.
The day after prom I found a post in my feed about grounding. It was called, “Tips to Help with an Anxiety Attack. Look around you and find Five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. The post continues to say this is grounding. It can help when you feel like you have lost all control of your surroundings” -The Anxiety Therapist. The first thing I thought was the person that wrote this has never had an anxiety attack. When you are feeling anxious, your body gears up for a fight or flight response, your heart beats faster, you can be agitated or restless, and mostly you have impaired concentration where your mind goes blank. Not to mention in an actual attack, your vision can become narrowed and your hearing can feel overstimulated. This made me chuckle to myself. I just envisioned myself at nursing school breathing heavy with my head down asking, “I’m supposed to touch something, or smell something? Five of what and four of what? I’ve only had a couple of these anxiety attacks, one in nursing school many years ago, and the other when my daughter passed unexpectedly, I do, however, see the merit of teaching yourself or a friend the concept of grounding, taking your shoes off or holding an inanimate object. It is supposed to help with bringing you back to the present moment. I think that might be a teachable concept that someone can remember when they are feeling anxious if you keep it simple.
Later I was dusting and noticing how the dust was everywhere. It was on every crevice, top, bottom, sides on all the knick-knacks on my shelving unit. Two analogies came to mind. First, dust is like a loss. It is everywhere, there is no hiding it. It touches everything, every part of your life is touched by loss. Second is that loss and grief scatters a person like dust in the wind. I have never felt more fragmented than the months following the loss of my daughter. My thoughts were scattered, my emotions were scattered, and the concept of time was also scattered. I am just now slowly piecing myself back together. The concept of grounding comes back to me and I think about different forms of grounding.
Months ago I noticed some people, that were years out from their loss, seemed to be doing a tiny bit better than others. There were some that were still having a hard time functioning on a day to day basis and others that struggled but seemed to be functioning. I met with a few of them trying to understand what it was I was going through, reaching for someone who understood the terrible pain. I started to notice a theme. My one friend and husband organize a charity for children with the same disease as their son, Another set of parent went on to battle in courts to change a law that would save other children, and another couple works around the clock running a non-profit for wilderness therapy. A father, I haven’t met in person, collects books annually because his child loved to read. These people were also still married to their spouses after suffering such a loss, I believe the father was a single Dad before the loss, but he was writing and functioning a few years outside of the loss of his child. One study indicated that divorce rates among bereaved parents are as much as eight times the norm (Lehman, Wortman, & Williams, 1987). What did these parents have in common? A sense of purpose, a focal point, a different form of grounding to the here and now. Their pieces that had been broken and scattered to the wind brought together for a sense of purpose they had found.
Sitting in my Sunday morning coffee bible study group, somehow the subject of grounding came up, (probably I brought it up). One man discusses the importance of using grounding wire, it keeps you from blowing your circuit and from the electrical current being scattered everywhere. We talk about how having faith is like being grounded. Faith helps keep a person from being scattered, it brings light to the darkness.
Our group leader then reads Psalm 119 verse 105: “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.” Without anyone near the light switch that we could see, the rest of the conference room lights, at that same moment, turn on. Luckily, this time, it was in a room full of people, and one of my friends that was with me the last time I had a similar experience, was there. God has such a funny way of getting my attention, I felt like I got a “right on” and I can’t help but think my daughter’s sense of humor could also be at play here.