Saturday, November 7, 2009

Like Slog

It's like slog inside my mind, when I'm thinking along and all is going smoothly. The words flow as I articulate what I mean, and then my thinking runs into a thick swamp of dead reeds, murky water, mud, and a toxic oil spill. And I must step forward and slog through, dragging myself through the thoughts, searching wildly for images within my mind, and reaching desperately for sounds to make words to string together. All the while, I push down the panic that I won't survive it. I won't survive this grief moment. Hoping the tears will wait as I slog my way through to the other side, with the sludge still clinging to my body as I open my mouth and eventually successfully speak. The damage is apparent, and it's embarrassing and frustrating. The experience resolves itself first with emotions of relief, then sorrow and anger, and finally the unsettling fear of the next swamp to come.

Another grief moment at work, that rendered my lecture a lesson in what it looks like when the mind succumbs to grief and the brain doesn't function as it should. I have amazingly supportive students, but I hadn't planned on explaining to them what I struggle with periodically. I planned on teaching them, but my stammering made me appear like someone who had no business teaching them, and so I told them--"I've experienced a traumatic event in my life that left me with symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A trauma causes very real chemical changes in the brain, and sometimes it affects how I speak." Then I said something like "Oh crap, I didn't mean to tell my students that."

A new fear is creeping in--will this grief destroy my career? Will a bereaved mother be relegated to only grief as her work? I worry. I worry.


  1. actually, it sounds like the best kind of teaching--real life. though, I'm so sorry for the grief, the trauma and the fear. they just can't be controlled as well as we wish.

  2. Thanks, Karen. This event, more than those in the first year of Caitlin's absence, seems to threaten my confidence to continue. Thanks for the support!!!!

  3. I just wanted to echo what Karen have provided an amazing gift to your students about the reality of the pain of losing someone who you will always love dearly and carry in your heart. I know you are a valued Educator with so much to still share and give to your students.
    with much love and support,
    Petryn (from MISS)

  4. I think that is a perfectly fine thing to tell your students. It's a very "real" explanation. I hope the rest of your lecture went well.


    Slogging through the muck with you and you WILL make it through, just allow the other side to look different than you imagined.

  5. I can't say it better than Karen. It is one thing to teach subjects like this, another thing to live them. But real life is the best kind of teaching there is.

    It must be very difficult to lecture about grief, when it so close to home. I admire you very much and I'm sure your students do too.

  6. Teachers bring their whole self to the classroom. We cannot hide behind computer screens or in cubicles. We communicate and a true teachers' passions, joys, sorrows...the entire spectrum is right there for the students to see...that is what helps them connect with us. In my eyes, you just became a better teacher actually :-)

  7. I am so sorry for your loss, and sorry for your grief.


  8. I have a hard time finishing sentences since Teddy died - so often I just trail off and then realize that someone is looking at me, waiting for me to finish a thought. It's brave and generous of you to be so open with your students, to let them see how real people can be affected by trauma.

  9. I also have fears about my career. I've postponed my PhD by a semester, and just can't think about interviewing at the moment. I'm hoping, just really hoping that I'll be in a better place next year, but at this stage, I'm just in not very good at talking to people. I'm just not making plans at this stage, and I'll see next year.

    It's a scary place to be in. I always had a plan. I knew what company I wanted to work for. I knew where I wanted to be. Now I just don't know anything anymore. I find it hard to motivate myself to do anything. And I'm just so scared of having a meltdown and crying in the workplace. I've cried in front of my boss in his office, but haven't done so in front of more people at work.

    I think you're very strong to be teaching again - to me that sounds so, so hard.

  10. I know the way PTSD can take hold of you mid sentence, how in a flash we are panicked, reminded of all the trauma and pain. I am so sorry that you had to experience this in front of your students. It is so hard feeling vulnerable and exposed.

    Sending you prayers for healing, and for understanding for those around you.

  11. In my mind, the lessons you teach your student, however inadvertant they may be, are as valuable as the intended lessons.

    I understand the worry, but I'm glad that they are so understanding. It's tough work, slogging through so much grief. Really tough.

  12. I don't dwell on Levi when I'm teaching but I have let my students know of my loss in moments where it's appropriate. My students have responded with kindness but also have shared their own struggles through life. There was a chapter on infant development that I knew would be difficult to get through without getting too emotional so it got divided up for group presentations.