The unfolding of my saga after losing almost everything to mold may provide insights to improve your emotional health: Joy, Peace, Forgiveness, Self-Acceptance, and Love. After losing almost everything, and for a time even my health, a blessing is beginning to emerge. I am starting a part of my journey I never thought possible.
Why do I use the word, saga? Because throughout our lifetime we all experience traumatic events shaping our lives:
- Separation from loved ones or isolation due to death, divorce, fear, or war
- Loss of possessions due to an act of nature: fire, flood, earthquake, or mold
- Emotional or physical injury
Fear or numbness stops us from living, from feeling joy in all areas of life. When you purposely respond, your story can make you a hero in the eyes of another. Then, your story becomes a saga. I hope that my saga shows you a path towards healing. Or reveals a need for some healing within.
Is the Past, Your Saga, Still Affecting You?
Perhaps, like me, you thought the past was in the past. I focused on the silver lining and avoided the past. Don’t bad things happen to everyone? However, losing everything taught me that I truly needed to forgive someone from my past. How do I know? Because thinking about that person always created feelings of anger, judgment, and numbness. I avoided that person. No, I am not talking about myself. However, if that is what popped in your head, I encourage you to keep reading. Remember, you still experience feelings even when you forgive.
Exactly what caused me or forced me to emotionally deal with my past?
Mold Destroyed My Family’s Portraits
Losing my only infant picture and all three of my children’s newborn and one-year-old portraits along with numerous photo albums caused me to unexpectedly feel numb. I kept telling myself that family members had these portraits in smaller sizes. But, that was of little comfort. Why?
I knew the numbness I was experiencing meant I needed to look deeper inside of myself.
What Losing Almost Everything Taught Me
Thus, I asked myself a question, “Why was I so affected by the loss of my one and only infant picture?” A picture in nobody’s possession. I focused and followed my thoughts:
I thought my most precious photos were safe. Safe. I reflected on that word. Were there times when I felt unsafe? Yes! Those memories were attached to the person I needed to forgive.
Stop Avoiding Memories
I have stayed so busy the past few months that I lacked the energy I needed to deal with my emotions. At first, there was no choice. In my blog, Why Penicillin Mold is Worse Than a Fire, I share how crazy busy we were and resources to help if you are battling mold.
In December, I thought that buying a home that required complete renovation was the answer.
Upon reflection, we were gaining back some control over our lives. After months of being subjected to other people’s decisions, purchasing a home put me back in control of my environment and safety. It was also a financial decision to purchase a home. Renting felt like money going down the drain.
Avoidance and controlling the environment or others are tough on your loved ones. At some point, you need to deal with what you are feeling.
Turn Your Saga into a Victory
How do you turn your saga into a victory? One step at a time. There is no deadline.
After Losing Almost Everything:
Give yourself permission to FEEL.
Realize that when you are talking about your trauma, you are processing what happened to you. You may need to talk about your experiences for a long time. As you grow older, your perspective shifts and changes. Thus, you find yourself revisiting an old, unwelcome memory. However, when talking makes you feel physically ill, you need to do more than talk. Yes, physically ill. A thought can cause your heart to race, your breathing to change, and your chest to tighten. In contrast, thoughts you enjoy can bring a smile, relax your shoulders and neck muscles, and help you take a deep breath.
Accept Your Emotions
Whatever you feel, acknowledge those feelings. Do not run away or push them down. Name them: fear, resentment, anxiousness, anger, dread, sorrow, loss, longing, etc. I encourage you to take time to think about what you are feeling. When I admitted that my emotions were affecting my physical and emotional health, I realized that I needed help. I prayed for insights and direction. I wanted my joy back!
What I was feeling seemed much deeper than my most recent life challenge. This time, I needed to process my feelings with the help of a trained trauma counselor.
Seek Help from a Professional
A clue I needed to talk to a professional counselor was that I kept talking about everything I lost with anyone who would listen. Self-blame started to take root. Those were very unhelpful thoughts. I also recognized behaviors associated with depression.
- My emotions were flat and numb
- I avoided talking about my feelings
- I needed too much sleep and fought to get out of bed
- Eating was a chore
- Life was missing that upbeat, purpose-filled joy
- I needed to exhaust myself physically before going to bed
The counselor’s questionnaire helped me to reflect on my past, my saga. With the help of my counselor, I learned that loss is a major theme dominating my life. During my first session, I realized that losing almost everything triggered memories of traumatic loss that occurred during my preschool years. Just thinking about the memory left me with feelings of anger, judgment, and numbness. So, what did I do? I took a trip to learn more about the feelings behind that memory. What was their story, their saga?
Listen to Their Story, Their Saga
In just a few sessions, I realized the importance of listening to the person who left me with feelings of anger, judgment, and numbness. I decided to listen, not talk about myself. I worked to ask open-ended questions, avoid interrupting, and listen without judgment. Life is messy! What was their story? Their saga? What I learned was life-changing bringing a sense of peace and sadness. Sadness is a powerful emotion!
Listening Turned My Loss into a Victory
As I listened, I heard about this person’s childhood filled with challenges and feelings of rejection. I began to understand why certain actions were perceived as normal. To admit otherwise meant they would indirectly admit the wrongness of their actions. When we are no longer able to justify our actions, feelings of guilt can bury us unless we forgive ourselves. Equally challenging is to ask forgiveness from others. I no longer need to hear, I am sorry. I accepted what happened and recognized we live in a very imperfect world.
Even when not asked, simply saying I forgive you helps everyone.
Intergenerational trauma affects more than a family. It affects your friends, community, and even your country. Each one of us can work to stop the transfer of intergenerational trauma upon others. This topic needs a blog all by itself.
The Blessings of Reflection
Unknowingly, I stopped the transfer of this trauma onto my own children and found joy. How? I reflected upon my behaviors and owned them. Then, I worked to change my behaviors that negatively affected my friends and family. Realizing that everyone has an opinion, I stopped listening to others and started listening to God. It is amazing how many times I found answers in the Bible right after pouring out my thoughts to God. And, there were times He spoke as I sang what was on my heart to Him.
What I learned in college through special education instruction and teaching preschoolers provided me with a huge head start. What a gift! When I disliked my knee-jerk response regarding my children’s behaviors, I read and attended a parenting support class.
Make a Decision & Stick With It: Tenacity
I have found that many mistake tenacity for stubbornness. When you work hard towards a goal despite obstacles, you have tenacity. Stubbornness is deciding to resist something or someone to avoid change.
I decided I wanted a home full of joy!
A tough resource to read at any stage of parenting are the No Greater Joy parenting materials. The answers to letters in the No Greater Joy books filled me with hope and encouragement. Mr. Pearl’s words were often difficult to hear, but he spoke about the heart, the root of the issue. Typically, it is the parents’ own unresolved issues from childhood or trauma affecting their relationships and parenting beliefs. I am forever thankful for the sweet neighbor who handed me the No Greater Joy book, To Train Up A Child, as I freaked out over the coming birth of my third child with an almost 2- and 4-year-old. What was I thinking?
My most memorable lesson came in the middle of my own melt-down looking at my three sweet preschoolers. I remember one of Mr. Pearl’s truths ringing in my head, “Your children are not responsible for your emotional response.” They may be the trigger, but not the cause. If you do not model self-control, how can your children learn self-control?” Wow, all I was seeing were three faces with wide eyes. They had no idea how to respond. My response to my emotions and their behaviors is my responsibility.
Grief After Losing Almost Everything
In hindsight, I am amazed to learn that for fifty-three years the thoughts of my preschool years created feelings of anger. I am a joyful person. I simply pushed all thoughts of my preschool years deep inside. There were few pictures of those years and nobody talked about our experiences. So, it was easy to bury these feelings, and forget them.
Did you know that anyone can become stuck in a stage of grief for a lifetime? You don’t have to lose almost everything to enter the cycle of grief. It is a process that is oftentimes part of our lives more than we realize.
Are you in one of these stages? If so, focus on your thoughts and ask for help.
Denial occurs when you refuse to talk about the past. Here is an example: “Oh, It wasn’t that bad, everyone has experiences like this. I will get over it.”
Do you feel anger towards an event, a person, or a company?
Bargaining is the belief that if you do this or say this, then everything will be fine. You try to maintain control.
Depression occurs when you fail to accept or acknowledge the feeling. Going through each stage of grief is natural and healthy. This issue is getting so stuck in sadness that you lose your joy, appetite, sleep too much or not enough, and isolate yourself.
Acceptance does not mean forgetting. You will remember and experience feelings. However, they no longer throw you on the back of a wagon being driven out of control down the road. A wise college professor taught me to name the emotion and express my feelings about the emotion. She encouraged me to,
The Gift After Losing Almost Everything
After 50 years, I finally moved out of the stage of grief called anger over the loss of my childhood. I am no longer stuck, just a little sad. As I reflect on our mold saga, I consider this a gift. I am healing emotionally and my joy is returning.
Auditory and Visual Processing Difficulties Can Trigger the Cycle of Grief
When hearing loss, sound intolerance, auditory processing, and visual processing go undiagnosed and untreated, I have found that counseling fails to fully improve emotional health. Why? Because the person is still experiencing the constant stress of sound intolerance, distorted listening, communicating, and remembering what was heard.
Medical-induced anxiety from sound intolerance, hearing loss, and visual processing difficulties are real. Take the next step in improving your emotional wellness by scheduling a twenty-minute free phone consultation.