Ten years after my mother’s death, I was 27.
Still at that point, the word ‘mother’ spoken from anyone, I would crumble, overwhelmed with grief and emotionally wrought. A close friend of mine said to me that you could see on my face that the grief I had was still so raw, it was as if my mother had died yesterday.
At the time I was working in partnership with psychologists with my clients and one of them came up to me one day and gently told me that she thought I had PTSD regarding my mothers illness and death, and she recommended an EMDR therapist for me. I decided to take her advice.
My step into therapy was a game changer. I remember one of the first things I asked my therapist was, “Can these feelings really be changed? Is it possible to really feel differently?” She looked at me with such deep compassion and said, “Yes, Stephanie.” I hadn’t yet known that the neural pathways in the brain could be re-routed. What an extraordinary discovery! What freedom. There is always then hope for change.
My therapist was trained in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy and she asked me if I felt comfortable starting with pre-birth explorations. I looked at her quizzically. Pre-birth? How is that even possible? Turns out, it is, and for many, it can be the key to understanding their trauma.
The aim of EMDR therapy is to re-route memory pathways in the brain whereby the memory can be recalled by the logical brain, thereby avoiding the flight or fight response when and if the memory is triggered again. When starting pre-birth, there are no conscious memories, so they need to be conjured. My therapist does this by reading the stages of development of “Stephanie” in the womb. Now, wait for it, because her first sentence - the FIRST SENTENCE! - in this pre-birth process broke me down to the truth that set me free like no other therapy has, regarding the loss of my mother.
Here is where we begin.
Before the embryo (zygote) attaches to it’s mother it is floating alone. We could say floating in space - eventually to find it’s resting place in the uterus to begin it’s growth. BEFORE the embryo attaches - before the beginning of our beings attached, they were alone! I wept. I wept and I wept, and here is why. Two significant beliefs or ideas were obliterated. One, the idea that I belonged to my mother, or we belonged to each other in a way that separation was losing a piece of myself. How could I go on without my mother? I came from her! It seemed impossible. And two, I would often say about my mother’s death, “I have lost the greatest love I’ll ever know.” This is very beautiful and dramatic and may or may not be true (how could I ever know). But, you see, I have been told that there is nothing like a mother’s love. (Since that time I have been reminded that this “universal truth” has been debunked time and again from mothers who simply could not mother, or did not mother the way their children would have liked, or could not love like they wanted. In short, they could not live up to this ideal we’ve given to mothers, and in believing this ideal, we suffer). This belief lead me to hold onto my mother as the last glimpse of true love I would ever know.
And then, I was alone.
How could I ever live without this ‘true love’ that I had since the beginning? I was doomed - until I learned the truth that before I was ever attached to my mother, I was not attached - I was alone. Floating around with all the potential that would become me. Just me, that’s all. Perfectly safe, perfectly held, perfectly ok. Can you see the significance of this?!
I was alone from the beginning!
Since that realization that day, nothing has been the same. This may be the biggest lesson we learn as humans - how to be alone and know that you are ok - more than ok! Because somehow, in the darkness, the abyss of our aloneness we are always, without us seeing or knowing how, still held. My mother then, and everyone else, is simply and significantly, a gift.