Being Grateful for Post-Traumatic Growth

©Jane A. Simington PhD.

During the month of October, many of us who live in countries of the Northern Hemisphere will gather in celebrations of gratefulness. For those who are newly bereaved, these days can add to their sense of loss and feelings of injustice. I clearly recall the first Thanksgiving celebrations after my son’s death. The closer the holiday came, the louder my inner voice chided, “What do I possibly have to be grateful for?” Now years later and only after much sorrow and having left few stones unturned in search of healing, I am aware that there are two aspects to grief: the destructive aspect, and the transformative aspect. While those who are now still in the early stages of grief, do not want to hear that their suffering will change and transform them; many who remain committed to achieving healing; and while it may take a long time, will at some point be able to acknowledge the personal and soulful transformation that resulted from their tragedy.

jane gratitude centre 1

Empirical research demonstrates that many people experience personal and spiritual growth following extreme trauma and bereavement circumstances.1  My own experiences and those of many I have helped through their grief and trauma, parallel the research findings. For most of us, the struggles to cope with the tragic events changed our priorities. What was once important became unimportant and what was once of no importance had become paramount. This shifting of importance seems especially true related to an increased appreciation of meaningful relationships.

For some of us, the shattering of specific religious beliefs was replaced with the acceptance of a broader and more flexible spirituality. For many, the need to rebuild shattered assumptions created an enhanced sense of the meaning of life and of the need to fulfill our life’s purpose. This ever-growing existential awareness led, in turn, to an enriched relationship with the Divine in self and in others; and after an initial period of being angry at God and feeling a deep sense of injustice, many developed a deeper and more personal relationship with the “God of now.” For many, this resulted only after there was a major reshaping of long-held ideas of God, of the Universe and of the Universal Order. In my particular case, the shifting and reshaping of these views deepened my sense of belonging within the greater plan of life.

After a time most who stay committed to their healing, recognize that the journey has changed them in many positive ways. Many report that they would never again want to go back to being what they were, personally and soulfully, prior to their tragedy; and while most of us wish we could have achieved the same personal and soulful growth in any other way, we are extremely grateful for all the experiences our suffering and healing has brought.

During October celebrations, many altars and table-centers will be decorated with fruits of the season. Prayers will be recited in gratitude for the abundance of the harvest. This Thanksgiving, let us also raise our voices for the greatest gifts we have received. Let there be songs and hymns of gratefulness for the post-traumatic growth and healing that we and each of our loved ones have received.

  1. Shaw A, Joseph S, Linley PA (2005).Religion, Spirituality and Posttraumatic Growth: A Systemic Review of the Literature, Journal of Mental Health, Religion and Culture, March, 8(1):1-11.

Celebrating the Autumnal Equinox

Celebrating the Autumnal Equinox
©Jane A. Simington PhD

Summer has ended and during this week we are in the energy of the Autumnal Equinox. Since ancient times, the Earth’s Peoples have re-enacted rituals to draw in the energies of these days believing that during the equinoxes, the universes are more directly in line; and thus celebrations of gratitude as well as rituals for supplication were more likely to be received and responded to by the heavens. According to NASA, there is indeed a change in geometric activity that takes place during the September Equinox. These changes actually increase the chances, for those of us who live in the higher regions of the Northern Hemisphere, to view the Northern Lights.


No matter how far removed we are from the soil and the smells and colors of this beautiful season, each of us is affected by the movements of the planets; and thus each of us can purposefully harness the energies of these days for our own life shifts. Here are some ways to draw into your own as well as into your groups, the power available to each of us during the Autumnal Equinox. Remember that rituals and ceremony do not have to be observed following any particular tradition or religious ceremony. In my experience, the best outcomes of any ceremony are achieved when they result from actions based on pure intentions that flow from my own Spirit to serve my personal needs and those of my groups.

 

  1. Examine the Balance in Life

This year the official day of the Autumnal Equinox is September 22. On that day the hours of daytime and nighttime are relatively the same. This has long been interpreted to mean that during this short period of time the world is in balance. Metaphorically, we can use this time to determine and re-establish the balance in our own lives.
 

  • Purchase two candles for each person who attends your equinox ceremony. Select one candle for each in a bright autumn color and the other in a dark color. During the celebration each person in turn, lights first the brightly colored candle and speaks of how and in what ways, since the Spring Equinox, they have been able to balance their soulful and personal needs and desires with their commitments to the outside world. The colored candle is then placed on the centre altar and the dark candle is lit. As the dark candle burns the person speaks about what actions are needed during the upcoming dark days and nights, so that the balance that is already achieved can be maintained; and so that there can be, by the Spring Equinox, a celebration of having achieved an even greater balance, between soulful and personal needs and desires, and their commitments to the outside world. The dark candle is then placed on the central altar. When all members have spoken and all the brightly glowing candles are on the centre altar, lead a group prayer in which you honor the balance in the universe; express gratitude for the balance each member has found, and request that each receive whatever they require to achieve the further balance they seek.

 

  1. Make a Wreath
     Invite each person to pick a piece from the bowl that you have previously filled with items representative of nature in autumn. After each person has picked their item, ask each in turn to speak of the significance of that particular piece to them and what drew them to select it; and to then place the item on the empty wreath (which you have earlier either purchased or created from willow, grape vines or birch bows). You will want to have a good quality glue gun available for the purpose of gluing the items to the wreath. Once all of the items are secured to the wreath, place it on the centre altar. Invite members to join hands and form a circle around the altar and then lead a closing prayer of gratefulness for the gifts of the Earth; acknowledging that as we celebrate the gifts of the Earth, we also accept that Her growing time is dying. Pray that each member of your group is able to embrace the dark times ahead as opportunities to be more inner-focused and from that, to place their newly gained strength and renewed purpose in readiness to meet the light of the Spring Equinox.

The Earth grows cold.
The soil lays barren. Six months of dark
Without dark we do not know light.
 Without barrenness we do not know growth.
Without death we do not embrace life
Without sorrow we do not appreciate joy
Great Mother, in your dark time, support me in mine.

Threads of Gratefulness Woven within the Fabric of Life

©Jane A. Simington, PHD., October, 2014

“It is not a matter of brain damage; it is a matter of life or death.” Bill signed the consent; I was unconscious. The fall had fractured my skull and thrust my brain forward crashing it against the frontal portion of my cranium.

Post surgery, during moments of semi-consciousness, I became increasingly aware of my inability to see. Each time I slipped back into unconsciousness I begged three large Beings of Light to open my eyes. Weeks later, Bill told me that my failed attempts to force my swollen eyes open had caused me to become more and more agitated, to the point of where I was pulling out life supporting chest tubes.

jane gratitude centre 1

Those events occurred three years ago. While it took months to heal the many symptoms caused by a brain injury and the psychological effects of the trauma, today I am grateful for life and for a body and brain that function well. Every time I run along the lakeside, I recall the days when I had to be aware of the exact placement of each of my feet so as to ensure I would not fall. I am grateful to have regained balance. Each time I answer a student’s question, I breathe a silent “thank you,” knowing that both my long and short term memory are once again intact. I am thankful for my sight and hearing, especially because the location of the damage to my skull and brain makes the retaining of those senses a miraculous gift. I am grateful for my husband Bill who held and stroked me for three days and nights, assuring me he was there, and knowing his touch and reassurance were the only things that would calm my anxiety enough to keep me from pulling out tubes, and keep me from causing permanent damage to my eyes from my attempts to force them open.

As a nurse, when I worked with an unconscious patient I always believed that an unconscious person could hear what was being said to them. While I have little recall of most of my unconscious days, I do have some memory of Bill’s supporting words and because of my experience I will continue to encourage people to speak in loving and caring ways to those who are unconscious and to those who are dying.

I am grateful for what my time in the realm of the unconscious taught me about the Spirit World. For much of my life I had a belief in Spiritual Helpers. That belief has been substantiated and has become a knowing for I witnessed and was cared for by Spiritual Helpers when in a state of unconsciousness and I witnessed them once again after I gained consciousness. I now know, not just believe, that I have help and support from a spiritual realm.

October is the month when we pause to take stock of our abundance, and in turn give thanks for all we have received. I share my experiences and the gifts I garnered from those experiences trusting they will inspire you to reexamine your own difficult life events. When you do so, I encourage you to recognize and share with others all the golden threads of gratefulness that because of those events, are now beautiful parts of the wonderful fabric of your life story.

 

Giving and Receiving Appreciation and Gratitude

A Grateful Response

© Jane A. Simington, PHD

One Canadian Thanksgiving weekend some years ago, my dog Buddy, and I walked farther and lingered longer than was usual. Mesmerized by the magic photoand beauty of the season, the colors and fragrances were too delectable to turn from easily. The scent of overripe cranberries, wafting from a nearby grove, prompted memories of other Thanksgiving weekends. The tartness of those savory wild berries had enhanced the festive bird during many celebration times in my youth. Taste and smell memories of cranberry jelly spread thickly on warm homemade buns stimulated my gastric juices, reminding me that lunch had been hours ago.

Movement on the path ahead, where no movement should be, drew me from my reverie and from its source. Although the dimness of the twilight made it impossible for me to determine the circumstances, I realized that something black and white was struggling in a frantic effort to free itself from some entanglement. Inner twinges, not of fear but of urgency, jostled me forward. The nylon webbing from a once-round bale of straw had imprisoned a young magpie.

Sensing my approach, the frantic bird escalated its attempts to gain freedom, only to entangle itself even further in the mass of green fibers. Kneeling, I examined the fragile wings, legs, and claws. How I wished for scissors or anything sharp or knife-like. Checking my pockets I noted with gratefulness that, although I did not have any such object, I did have gloves. They would not be of help in removing the webbing, but they would certainly protect my hands from the magpie’s beak and claws.

As a child, when I helped my father relocate the mature hens to make room for new chicks, he would encourage me to cover their eyes as I carried them from one pen to another. I recalled how this had often put them in a sleep-like state. Trusting that if this procedure had worked for the hens, it just might work now, I reached with a glove-covered hand and secured the head of the captive bird. It was then but a simple maneuver to slide the other glove over the magpie, hooding its eyes. Whispering, I assured the frightened creature I would do all I could to free it from its prison. The reassurance and the glove-hood trick worked their magic! In seconds the frantic bird calmed, and although I could no longer see its face or eyes, its stillness and lack of movement indicated that the procedure had produced a sedating effect.

There was much to do and time was of the essence. I needed to take full advantage of the remaining light, for whereas at dusk this task was going to be difficult at best, in darkness it would be impossible.

As I feverishly set to work, it became obvious that, in its struggle to free itself, the young magpie had become more entrapped with each movement. Its razor-like claws had badly frayed the twine, causing its legs to be tightly bound in a gnarled mass of twisted fibers. Methodically, I unraveled the web, one frayed thread at a time. The last flush of lavender was barely visible along the western horizon when the final ragged string dropped from the young bird’s claws.

For the first time since I had discovered this captive, I remembered Buddy. He was a hunting dog. Why had he not paid attention to what was unfolding in this straw pile? The dim light, his failing eyesight, and his chance to linger in the gopher mound had certainly been in the bird’s favor. Yet now, and as though my thoughts had aroused his curiosity, he appeared. His approach quickly brought the dazed bird to full alert. What if its wings, its legs were broken? What if it could not fly? I had been so intent on the task at hand, so focused on freeing the magpie from its captivity, that I had not paused to wonder about the effects that the tight bindings and its own struggles might have had. Recognizing that magpies need to fly to stay alive, I questioned whether I had spent all this time freeing a magpie that could not survive.

My doubts were short lived. Free from the glove and its bindings, the alarmed bird, wobbling into a hop-like gait, quickly gained enough flying ability to land safely on a nearby fence post. Relieved and satisfied, I turned homeward. I went only a few steps when the young magpie circled above me three or four times before flying off into the darkness. I knew I had been given an expression of gratitude.

Since all birds are considered to be symbolic messengers from the Spirit world, I accepted that I was receiving a soul lesson. From the magpie I learned to be more aware of gestures of appreciation and to recognize that appreciation and gratitude can be expressed in both verbal and nonverbal ways. May this time of Thanksgiving be a time of both giving and receiving appreciation and gratitude.

thanks*Excerpt from Simington, J. (2013). Through Soul’s Eyes.

 

 

Gratitude

Gratitude means thankfulness, counting your blessings, noticing simple pleasures, and acknowledging everything that you receive. It means learning to live your life as if everything were a miracle, and being aware on a continuous basis of how much you’ve been given. Gratitude shifts your focus from what your life lacks to the abundance that is already present. Research has shown life improvements that can stem from the practice of gratitude. Giving thanks makes people happier, more resilient.  It strengthens relationships, improves health, and it reduces stress.

Let me start by expressing my gratitude.  Thank you to all who have supported my work, my husband, my daughters, my staff, all who have read my books, taken my training and used my resources. Each has helped to move forward my desire to make this world a more healed place. For that I am thankful.

The Miracle of Gratefulness

When thou dost ask me a blessing, I’ll kneel down and ask thee forgiveness.”
                         ~William Shakespeare- King Lear

“Give us this day our daily bread” had, for me, always been a prayer of both requesting and of gratitude. Among my fondest memories of childhood are my memories of smell. Primary of these are the aromas that wafted from mother’s homemade bread. Enshrined deep within the recesses of my brain are the sights and sounds that encompass those delectable whiffs. Growing up in a large farming family, we had limited material wealth, but of bread we were assured. Bread filled the Roger’s Golden Syrup pails that mother secured into the little red wagon to insure their safe delivery, by my brothers and me, to our father and his harvesting crews. Bread, which filled those same Roger’s Golden Syrup pails, fed our hungry bellies during school days. And warm newly baked bread greeted us as we arrived home on frigid prairie winter afternoons. Bread was central to our survival, and it was central to our celebration. While bread graced every meal, and the numerous snack times between, special breads announced festivity. Sweet buns awaited the Christmas Eve or the Easter Vigil mass. Their appearance indicated the time of fasting and abstinence had ended. Continue reading