Quotes of Wisdom 28 Death as a Teacher *Vicarious Trauma & Memoir*

“It is truly a great cosmic paradox that one of the best teachers in all of life turns out to be death. No person or situation could ever teach you as much as death has to teach you.” Michael A. Singer the untethered soul: the journey beyond yourself

I am writing about life, death, and the profound changes in my life as each death has touched my spirit. I am writing about how my career as a social worker and my personal life have been intimately woven.  I am writing about vicarious trauma.

I am writing about how codependency, death, infertility & high-risk pregnancy, family, love, and PTSD acquired vicariously all influenced my career decisions and in many ways inform my practice as a social worker psychotherapist today.

I am what you’d call a “micro” social worker. Helping people one on one. You may wish to go here for more info about social work: Micro, mezzo, and macro social work

When I started writing fiction and poetry last year a good friend suggested I write about my experiences.  My response? Nah, I am just an average ordinary person. There’s nothing anyone would be interested in.

The more I thought about it and talked about it with a few friends the more I realized I have something to share that might help someone else: Someone average and ordinary like me, or someone extraordinary like so many on the front lines working in roles helping others.

Vicarious trauma changed my life, but not just in the negative ways you might assume. Vicarious resilience and compassion satisfaction are large parts of my life as well.

And so, I write! 

CAUTION: The excerpt below is graphic involving the death of a child.

Nothing is black and white. Except maybe life and death.

The featured photo was taken Sunday by my kid on the way up to go skiing. It’s blurred and imperfect but I love it anyway. The snow was beautifully perfect after a good sized storm. It was a day made for playing! 

Playing is healing.  In the midst of grief, it is difficult to give ourselves permission to play. But, I know my mother. She would have wanted us to play. I imagined her approval while riding the lift. Her smile warmed my spirit, and my fingertips.

Writing is healing. Working things out through writing or the trance-like state, I don’t know which is more valuable. Perhaps it’s the chemistry of the blend. The truth emerges.

Thinking more about the title of my memoir.  Played around with a book cover idea. I am a long way from searching for the appropriate publishing route but it’s fun to fantasize and play on Canva.com. 

As I read memoirs and how to write a memoir and “Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within” by Natalie Goldberg, I am beginning to gain focus. I am making progress on my career memoir. There is a strong headwind though. Death has been a powerful force in my life. But, then again, so has love and beauty in life.

CAUTION: The excerpt below is graphic involving the death of a child.

I keep reading and hearing, “start in the middle, start in a crisis.” At the moment, these are the first few lines of Flight of a Change Agent:

Flight of a Social Worker book cover 1.1.jpg

“Curtain closed, standing near the head of the gurney, at the 1 o’clock position, I looked down at the lifeless toddler in front of me. The stark white sheet pulled up to the neck was a blinding contrast to the bloodied oversized head in view. Long curly brown hair plastered the bulge on the side of the head that shouldn’t have been there. Noticing the eyes were forced closed from swelling, I heard the EMT, “There was no pulse when we got there.” As the emergency room doctor walked around to the side of the gurney, gently pulling the sheet down to examine the naked body beneath, a cold fog engulfed me from head to toe. The child was an uncircumcised boy.”

~Bonnie A. McKeegan

Within hours of the end of my shift that day I had developed full-blown Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I have since recovered but it was a hell of a turbulent flight.

And the family who lost the child? I do not know how they are doing. I pray they’ve found some form of peace. My pain was nothing compared to their loss.

You can go here for more information about vicarious trauma: The Vicarious Trauma Toolkit

*Quotes of Wisdom – a Friday at 9am (Pacific Time Zone) series offering Wisdom, Feel Good, Inspirational and Thought-provoking Quotes. Sometimes with links and most likely, with too many thoughts of my own included.

As always, thank you for visiting! Feel free to like, comment, share, follow my journey or re-blog as your heart and mind desire. Namaste