|Northwest Coast Travellers|
I was chatting with a young cashier as she was processing my items for shipping my Christmas gifts to my children and grandchildren. She said the best part of Christmas for her was being able to purchase the gift that made her family member surprised and happy. For some in our communities, Christmas is time to give the gifts they never received, to give gifts because of their absence, to give gifts because of their habits that cause suffering. Sometimes, the giving is an attempt to bring balance, to bring a sense of worth for the giver. To find space where we are okay with all that we’ve done and all that we haven’t done, to give to ourselves the beauty of Christmas lights within the heart is to create spspace for compassion, kindness and gentleness for ourselves, we create that space for others. In this sense, Christmas needs to be every day and not limited to one season.
Working in our coastal communities, I noticed the space between the trigger (an immediate loss through a traumatic event) and memory (past losses through traumatic events) was very small or non-existent. This means that when there is a traumatic event that happens in the community, an individual remembers the trauma-loss from last year or previous years and the current community event simultaneously. Holding the past with the present creates overwhelm. Overwhelm is to be overloaded emotionally, mentally and spiritually, a reality that can impact our physical health–our nervous system.
When a person is in overwhelm, or immersed in memory, it does not allow them to be fully in the present moment or to think of what needs to be done to change repeated overwhelm for themselves and for others.
The space between an immediate traumatic incident and memory is the personal work of healing. The person who experiences loss needs the support and guidance of others. Support to: i.face the loss; ii.accept that the event happened; iii.come to understand; iv.accept limitations and shortcomings; v. eventually, forgive self and other(s). Forgiving does not mean the event was okay, it simply means you let go of the impulse to hurt the other or cause the other to suffer and no longer hold judgement over self or the other. These general points are merely guides, there may be more or there may be less to face.
Increased space between immediate loss and memory reduces the state of overwhelm. The less overwhelmed the person, the greater the ability to be present through times of loss and sadness. The ability to be present in the immediate moment enables the person to give understanding, support and compassion to others in a state of grief and loss. The ability to be present in the immediate moment also enables the person to see a clear pathway for the future.
This is the Christmas Season. A time when families gather together to give and receive gifts, share meals and perhaps speak of the past. Wherever you are on your healing journey, may this Christmastime be a time of creating space for yourself, creating space for the willingness to understand yourself and have compassion for yourself. May this be a time where you know the most important place to feel and be at home is in your own body and soul. And may it be a space trimmed with the lights of Christmas.