Why Does My Mind Keep Replaying the Trauma?

Dear Jack, 
My cat died somewhat suddenly last night. Everything was fine and then it was 45 unanticipated minutes of struggle and racing to the Emergency Animal Hospital. I am trying so hard not to cry today, to celebrate his life rather than to dwell on last night. Why is it that my mind is on constant replay of the horrific way he struggled and passed?  I so want time to hurry up, to be next week or next month so I do not break down. No matter how many one loses it does not seem to get any easier...

Dear Sue, 
Please go easy on yourself. You have lost someone near and dear to you. It is totally natural that you would need to shed tears, cry and weep over your loss. If you restrain your tears, it could make you sick. Your tears need to be released.

Remember there are Five Stages of Grief that we travel through when we lose someone.

The "Replay Phenomenon" that we all tend to go through to one extent or another is our mind's natural way of processing trauma and loss. It is natural to replay in your mind the details and circumstances of any kind of trauma that changes your life. Deep in your heart you know what is true. Your mouth speaks the truth, "My cat has died." but you still don't want to believe it. You go over and over and over it in your mind because you are in the stage of denial. Your heart replays the scene for you, for the express purpose of teaching you to accept what has happened. While your heart tries to "rewire" your mind to accept and understand what has happened, your mind keeps looking for a different answer. It doesn't like the truth. Alas you keep getting the same answer; the scene always ends the same way. Every time you see it replaying, you say to yourself, "No. It cannot be true." Replay. Replay. "No." "No". Every time you argue, "No". Much of this you aren't even conscious of. You just know you feel terrible, tired, lost and confused.

The grief process includes this complex defense mechanism of the body's heart and mind. The trauma is simply too much information to process all at once. Just like when you are learning something that is complicated, you need to read it over and over until you understand it. You need to take the course again. You need to watch the video one more time to grasp the lesson. You finally learn. One day, in a time that is not predesigned, you have to admit that, "Yes" it is true. What happened is true and your loved one is gone. They aren't coming back to this place. Once you comprehend this, you can move forward with acceptance in the deepest part of your mind. 

The difficulty arises when you get stuck in the saying, "No, no, no, no..." and "No" becomes a habit. The head and the heart become disconnected. You get stuck in your head and you forget about your heart and what it knows to be true. You make what your head is saying stronger than what your heart is saying. 

Your head is not necessarily your friend. It does not tell you to forgive yourself. Your head will tend to tell you that you are guilty; that you must have done something wrong. When you are stuck in your head, you cannot access the love in your heart that is forgiveness for all (including you) and belief in the love of everything. The heart is your true strength, but your mind thinks that it is the stronger of the two. When you are stuck, the bridge between your head and your heart needs to be reconstructed.

If you are stuck in the replay groove of pain and need to join your head back with your heart, focus on your heart. Give it some attention. Treat it like a very dear friend whom you have neglected. Stop crying for just a little while. Breathe deeply. Clear your mind. Lay your hands upon your heart and feel its strength. Ask it for forgiveness. Ask it to bring you the peace of truth. Some people are in too much pain to be able to quiet their minds to do this. They may need the help of a professional or hospice counselor to get unstuck from the continual replaying of their grief.  

In the meantime, go easy on yourself. Give yourself permission to replay it a few times and then allow yourself to move ahead towards true healing. When you move ahead, you are one step closer to the Rainbow Bridge and one step closer to the one you love who resides there.   

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