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Early Grief ExperiencesThe child's sobs in the silence curses deeper
than the strong man in his wrath.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
The death of a loved one reactivates our very first experiences with separation and grief. People who grow stronger during times of loss are willing to explore their early encounters. Therefore, in this chapter we will examine five events that continue to influence us into adulthood: prebirth sensations, the experience of birth, attachment and loss, the introduction to the concept of death, and, finally, beliefs about mortality that were formed during childhood.
Early on, psychologists disregarded prebirth recollections, insisting that fetuses were too underdeveloped to carry repercussions from intrauterine events. Numerous claims, however, have brought the issue forward. Mothers who were grief-stricken during their pregnancies attest that their children were born sorrowing. Other family members, and sometimes the children themselves, have made similar claims. Jenni's case carries reliable evidence that prebirth sensations can extend well into adulthood.
"I feel myself in a deathly dark room" Dianne's Story
For as long as she could remember, Jenni, a successful New York model, had carried deep-seated sorrow and fear, which she tried to resolve for many years.
It was midsummer, 1988, and everybody who could had deserted Manhattan except Jenni. "I'mdetermined to resolve my emotional difficulties," she said when we met. "I've tried every kind of counseling, even hypnotherapy, but every time a therapist told me to go back in time I felt myself in a deathly dark room and became hysterical. I still feel this continuous nagging restlessness in my heart. I don't know where it belongs, and I'm tired of it complicating my relationships. I'm concerned about what I might uncover, but I have to do something. Dianne, will you help me?"
Our two hypnotherapy sessions produced the same results. "I'm in a completely blackened room," Jenni relayed. "I have no hint of light in here. Voices...I hear loud muffled voices outside. Now I hear someone screaming...it sounds like my mother's voice. I'm being tossed around. I'm so scared in here. Someone...Mother..."
Jenni was wincing and squirming; therefore, I reminded her, "We are in this together. You're safe." After she settled down, I asked, "What's going on now?"
She tried to identify what was happening outside her confine, saying, "I can't tell. I think...someone...someone is hurting my mother...now I'm...I'm in danger...all alone in here...in the dark...tossing around...everything is..." and, with that, Jenni's body collapsed into her chair. Her breathing slowed.
"What's going on now?" I asked.
"I'm just in here," she answered.
"How old are you?"
"I don't know. I'm little, very little."
"Who else is there?" I asked.
"I'm trying hard," she answered, "but I can't tell." Only vague, isolated noises penetrated her motionless boundary. Then stillness, quiet, and finally an eerie peacefulness comforted Jenni as she rested inside her small enclosure.
"Wow," she said, opening her eyes. "Whatever happened is stronger in my mind. I felt like I was a young child, maybe two or three years old, and hiding inside a closet. I was helpless, listening as someone was trying to hurt my mother. But how could I, inside a closet, have experienced jostling like that? It doesn't make sense. I have to find out what happened to me."
The following week Jenni flew home to Asia to ask her parents about her childhood, but when she began to inquire, her mother uncontrollably sobbed. Her father scolded, "Don't you ever bring that up again!" After that, she approached her maternal grandmother, who disapprovingly dismissed her as well.
"My trip ended in disappointment," reported Jenni, "because I had to leave without answers to my questions. But at least I know there must be a story." Haunted by her memories, Jenni was driven to uncover her past. Patiently, she waited for a family gathering.
Sometime thereafter, she was certain that her cousin's large wedding was the perfect place for her to approach family members. With the flow of alcohol-fueled reminiscences, her questions seemed part of the fun. Jenni's aunt, at last, revealed the troublesome event.
Many years ago, her father's jealous mistress had broken into their house, taken a butcher knife from the kitchen, and proceeded toward the bedroom with murderous intent. Jenni's mother, eight months pregnant with Jenni, awoke from a nap to see a figure creeping toward her. The mistress jumped onto the bed, cursing and lashing at the mother-to-be with the knife. Jenni's mother struggled desperately to defend herself and her unborn child, fending off her crazed attacker until her husband rushed into the room. A large muscular man, he grabbed the other woman from behind and was able to subdue her and drag her from the bedroom. Alone and too debilitated to move, Jenni's mother thanked God that the episode was over.
The attack explained the sensations Jenni had felt during her hypnotherapy sessions her feeling of being tossed around while inside a dark enclosure, the loud and muffled voices, her sense of terror, and then, finally, a holy stillness.
"That was a miracle," Jenni wrote in an e-mail to me ten years after our sessions together. "I know that Divine Providence presented those events my restlessness, the therapy, the vivid flashbacks, and then the family gathering. The experience taught me that God does not give us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound mind, and that has become my life theme. I went back to college and am now a licensed clinical social worker. I develop spiritually based programs for children in the United States and abroad. I've never before been this peaceful and happy."
Clinicians and researchers have gathered a great deal of evidence that suggests...<!CX001>
Life After Loss. Copyright © by Raymond Moody. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.