Through Mara Moments I share my healing journey with my horse, Mara B, highlighting our interactions and promoting equine therapy. My blog and Instagram chronicles my path forward after the death of my son, Benjamin. I share the silent solitude and beauty of nature on the trails and our experiences. I want to share Mara as a companion for others to promote emotional wellbeing. I love connecting with Mara B at the stable and on the trails as we ride and spend time together. Please become a Follower and join us each day as we share our encounters with special barn pals, animals and events at River Brink Stables. I look forward to sharing my Mara Moments with you. Also follow us on FB @ maraequinetherapy and on Instagram @ Mara.equine.moments Thank you. Happy Trails to you.
May 1, 2017 Addendum
Dear followers, I thought I would share with you what’s “behind” each blog post, so you can enjoy and understand more of the horse activities involved each day. Each post represents a summary of three to four hours of Mara B/Helen time. It is the routine, rituals and rhythms of this time that proves ‘healing’ and beneficial to me.
Each trip to the stable begins with getting the clothes, outerwear and boots I need and measuring out Mara’s food supplement that I feed her …each day. The stable is a 14 mile beautiful county drive from home. Once I arrive Mara may be sort of clean to really filthy so grooming and cleaning her up may take 10 minutes to 45 minutes. I give her the daily ration booster, so feeding time is also included. Our ground work, tacking up and ride time varies from 40 minutes to 90 minutes. After riding I take off the saddle, pad and bridle, re-groom her and clean her hoofs and put everything away. Plus remember I’m taking photos when I’m riding Mara. Most photos that appear in a post are chosen from 15 to 20 photos I have taken that same day.
Returning Mara B to her paddock and saying goodbye concludes our time together. Then I have my drive home and I take care of our sweet pup Lindy B. My ‘posting’ time can take from 15 to 20+ minutes which brings me the satisfaction of sending out a glimpse of my Mara B time to each of you. Thank you for joining us as we enjoy our special human horse connection. Sharing this with others feels really great. Please stay tuned for more of our personal healing journey….
Helen’s Therapy Path
Since Benjamin’s death in 2010, my healing therapy path has included talk therapy for two years, adding our new pup Lindy to our home, obtaining a Little Free Library to “care for” in Benjamin’s memory, acupuncture for 18 months following talk therapy, massages when I could, and then antidepressants all in combination with a major retreat from life. I believe in each of these forms of healing therapy and I know that each person must find their formula or combination of therapies for their own unique healing. Another step I took to provide emotional relief was reducing my work schedule, then further reducing my work schedule and finally concluding my 33 year library career.
Now I want to share the benefits of animal and specifically equine assisted therapy with others. My Mara B time is active, outdoors and physically demanding for me. Developing my close bond with Mara and my daily horse time routine has given me strength and healing. My barn time also provides warm relationships and time with generous horse people. We purchased Mara in August 2014, which is an indication of how long the “process” can be, how much work it takes to move forward and the many therapies you may need to “try.”
The creativity of photographing my Mara Moments and sharing them through posts is another healing process for me.
Thank you for your interest and support. More thoughts to follow on another day.
Helen – May 2017
Helen’s Healing Path – May 10, 2017
The concept of ‘one’ has been a healing principle that I was introduced to in therapy. My therapist, Tom, specializes in the area of “complicated grief.” As a suicide survivor I was/am in a difficult realm of overwhelmingly complex emotional spiritual traumatic grief, and was a psychological mess. I needed his help. This concept suggested by Tom was the foundation of my healing path.
After I had been seeing Tom for some time, he proposed that I think about “adding ONE thing” to my life. This floored me; I had no idea of how I would have room to “add” anything. My head was so busy spinning in the negative. To even consider adding a new thing seemed impossible.
It took me weeks to work on this assignment, yet now I see it also pulled me away from all the nonstop negative thoughts I had swirling around in my mind. When I considered what I could maybe add, I was out of the swirl for a moment and that moment became a respite. After a few weeks I settled on attending a gentle yoga class one hour a week. I could go there, do the class and not have to talk. I could drive home after the class and be done. I started with one hour a week. That’s all I could possibly do, but it was my start.
That one hour a week “add” became my start on this healing path. One, all I ask of myself is to try one thing or one percent more or one more time. This formula is also what I use with my Mara B horse time and our journey together, ‘one more…..’ To be continued another day. Thank you for listening.
Helen’s Healing Path continued – Thoughts on Mother’s Day 2017. (photos not included)
Mara B is a mother too, shown here with her beautiful “filly” Kona. Mara was living with six year old Kona when we bought her. Moving away and leaving Kona behind had to be a sad transition for Mara??? Certainly it was a major transition for her.
Here’s a Mother’s day photo of me before Benjamin died. Delighted to share a horse that I was leasing with my two sons. I now have conflicting feelings about Mother’s day. It’s a strange place to be, when I don’t know how to respond, how to celebrate, how to have “fun” on a day that’s so sad in many ways. The dichotomy is difficult for me to articulate. I certainly love Peter and have so much to love and celebrate as his mother. Yet the loss of Benjamin in our lives is incalculable.
Common greetings, common questions still throw me for a loop. “Do you have children?” is actually asked a lot; it brings up anxiety when I hear that question. What answer do you want? I have multiple versions of a response. If I say two, then what? I have said “one” and the person came back with “oh, you only have one?” And then I was in tears and could not handle the emotional pressure…. It’s the state of confusion and uncertainty of how to respond that creates the emotional ups and downs I work to manage.
Happy Mother’s Day ….. How that phrase impacts people in different ways is not simple to know or see for many many reasons. A lovely day to celebrate with some sensitivity in mind maybe. Thank you for listening.
Meet Mara – the other half of the therapy team – June 6, 2017
Mara has her own unique story in our healing journey. I want to share a little of her story with you to deepen your understanding of our equine therapy partnership.
Mara was raised and trained from age 4 by Lee. We bought her from Lee in 2014 when she was 12 years old.
Mara has also had difficult adjustments in her life. She lived on a farm and I moved her to a stable. She was living with only one other horse and suddenly she had to fit into a herd. Mara had never been in an indoor arena. She was unhappy having other horses ride close to her on the trail. She was very uncomfortable being put in a stall. These are just a few examples of changes Mara had to deal with.
Mara was loaded into a trailer and traveled for four hours before we unloaded her in a new place that she did not choose and did not know. She was taken from the one person she loved and adored. Suddenly Mara was mine and she does not know me. One of the most upsetting things you can do to a horse is to change their environment, which is what we had just done to Mara B.
So begins our relationship which truly took a year of hard work, tears and patience to develop. I even hired a trainer to work with her as Mara was very willing to be intimidating at the start of our relationship. Mara B is not a small horse; she weighs about 1200 pounds and she exudes confidence and power when she wants to! I knew I needed help and I am very grateful that I recognized that and found such a wonderful young gal to work with Mara and me. The firm foundation we developed and fine-tuned has brought us to the Zen relationship we have today.
In retrospect, I now see that the work and effort to make Mara “my” horse was diverting my mind from the constant negative spin swirling in my head after Benjamin’s death. I had to focus so hard, both mentally and physically, while I was with her. I sobbed all the way home from the barn that first year…. I still simply had only so much capacity to “keep it together” on the outside before the inside pain fell out….
So slowly we started to figure out our relationship, know each other and become a team.
Mara was slowly pulling me forward. I had horse issues to think about now….
Thanks for listening, more of our healing journey to follow another day.
Help Along the Way – More of our Healing Journey – June 13, 2017
I have had a great deal of help since Benjamin’s death. Help from family, friends, therapists, books, my pup and Mara B, nature, silence, travel adventures and retreating. The individuals who religiously have stayed in touch and called, emailed, sent cards and remembered important dates, anniversaries and each holiday that we were limping through are true Heroes and amazing people to have in my life.
A person on a healing path can feel very lonely, isolated and confused. I have recently really embraced a new phrase I have encountered, “Learning in Public,” that fits the path I have been traveling. I am learning as I go along day to day and my learning often takes place in public, which is not easy. As a new suicide survivor I felt “different;” not sure what I would be getting from others and not sure what I could handle or not handle in any given moment. A coping mechanism I adopted was to become quite silent and Tom, my therapist, offered phrases that I could use when I needed them. But at the crucial moment I could not remember anything so I would panic even more because I forgot what I should say….
“I’m on the edge” became a favorite response to “Hi how are you?” actually, because the “I’m good or I’m fine” answer made me scream inside. My silence was the most powerful way to communicate back and express what a crazy question that was to even ask me. I mean let’s be real and authentic.
Today I want to acknowledge my biggest helpers of all, Jay and Peter, who now continue as major Mara Moments helpers for me too! They both support and assist me in this blog, Instagram and this FB Page. Jay is my editor and technical assistant. Peter is my in- the-field photographer, and they are both cheering me on as I “try” to voice my healing equine assisted therapy path, as I continue to learn in public and share it with each of you.
My thanks to each of you reading this today. Thinking about what I can post for you at the end of each day is enriching as well as healing for me at this point. I appreciate that you look for my posts so I can create and continue on my healing journey with you.
Helen’s Healing Path continued – Routine Contributes to my Healing
June 29th 2017
My daily horse time provides a structure and routine that I need. My time with Mara and being around the barn provides something I love and something I’m good at – being half of the Mara B and me team.
Having been broken and feeling very vulnerable, abandoned and confused by Benjamin’s death, I had to practice over and over surrendering to the possibility that maybe I could eventually breathe again.
Healing for me has been trying, really just by the seat of my pants, to get a handle on my trauma loneliness and overwhelming state of confusion that I have felt. Dealing with Benjamin’s death had shattered all of the routines I was accustomed to.
Before I decided to buy my own horse I was meeting with an amazing intuitive therapist who helped me clearly see that I had buried myself under grief, then heaped on shame and added in guilt and I simply could not find my way out from under the weight of it all without slowly and painstakingly unraveling the confusion and working very hard to put aside the nonstop negative thoughts and conditions that consumed me. As the years and months have passed, I now realize that Mara’s physical presence and the commitment of caring for her has been a powerful piece of moving to a better plane.
Making the decision to have my own horse was a big move and commitment. Horses are very time consuming. They are physically demanding and require a high skill and confidence level. This I already knew, so saying “yes” to horse ownership was a giant step to move forward on my personal healing journey.
Caring for Mara, putting in the physical as well as emotional work of making her my horse provided a framework to slowly start letting go of some of those heavy negative threads that held me down. I could spend my daily horse hours away from the confusion and negative thoughts. Just long enough to find a respite. A respite that I still seek and value and one that has provided me some strength, courage and a positive healing activity.
My daily routines and relationship with Mara and the positive relationships around my barn time including each of you who read these words help with healing. I thank you for listening and for providing your support as a follower. More another day.
Reading horses, reading for healing, reading Mr. Rogers: Helen’s healing path continued July 6, 2017
Reading is a big part of my life; I’m a reader, a librarian, and I’m an introvert.
I also “read” horses which means by closely observing horse I have learned much about them. What seems natural to me in my horse reading is actually the result of hours, days, months and years of watching and listening to the horses I’ve been around and interacted with.
I love to observe horses. It took a solid year of work for me to “read” Mara, a year that propelled me forward after Benjamin’s death. Figuring out her unique horse personality to blend with my human personality required learning from mistakes, tons of patience and plenty of time. Reading Mara B provided a diversion from the overwhelming negative cloud I was buried under. We have formed a mutual understanding and strong bond that I now say is Zen.
I am a reader and I could not read after Benjamin’s death. I wanted to read for some healing support but lack of focus, mental and emotional confusion, a heavy fog, my swirling negative mind, exhaustion and who knows what else did not allow me to read for many many months. Another loss for me. Slowly I made my way back to being a reader.
Mister Rogers was part of our family when the boys were growing up. His show before nap time was a positive pattern for us. We even used a Mister Rogers quote on Benjamin’s funeral program “We cannot truly understand a person unless we know who that person has been, what that person has done and liked and suffered and believed.” (Thanks Mr. Rogers)” So wouldn’t you know it was our Mr Rogers books that got me back to reading. I had “The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember” and “Life’s Journey’s According to Mister Rogers: Things to Remember along the Way” which I had given to Jay, Peter and Benjamin for Christmas in 2005.
Slowly I could read the one or two page thoughts from Mister Rogers and then I was able to add more reading over time. Reading for recovery is a source of healing for me still today. Mister Rogers was always everyone’s friend and helper, he certainly has been mine. Mister Rogers understood loneliness. In thinking of what Mara Moments could be, I thought and hoped that Mara could be a friend to others too… a friend to share nature, horse sense and equine assisted therapy. A Mara Moment arriving in your inbox from a sweet horse, a bit of comfort from a friend, a ping against loneliness maybe.
Thank you to each of you reading this, for listening and for riding along with Mara B and me today, I appreciate your support. More another day. Helen
Thread of Three: Helen’s Healing Journey on the way to Dallas July 13, 2017
We were the classic foursome; mom dad and the two boys and it felt perfect for me. Benjamin’s death left just the three of us…. It’s been a major adjustment. Four is so fun. Three can feel slight to us, just the minimum required to have an “immediate” family. Jay, Peter and Helen, plus our adored Lindy B and Mara B.
You see, the B is for Benjamin.
So I feel I’m in a world of threes now. My family of three with Benjamin off on his own.
During the day it is me my dog and my horse. Plus a daily thread of three activities I focus on these days; Mara Moments, Suicide Awareness and Prevention and Little Free Library.org
Each of these three projects has become an area of focus in my new evolving world. Slowly, they each revealed themselves to me and then grew into a major activity of my days. You’re part of Mara Moments if you’re reading this post, so you get that.
In the area of suicide awareness, we have been part of supporting some grassroots efforts. Jay and I support The Jed Foundation. We support Regions Hospital “Make it Ok” campaign. I post with hashtag #projectsemicolon #semicolonproject and #suicideprevetion daily on Instagram @ mara.equine.moments And a major issue I work to address is to correct the terminology around reporting and speaking of a suicide death. Please please please stop saying a person “committed.” This only makes it sound like a crime and perpetuates the negative stigma. Whenever I hear or read the negative statement of “committed” I call radio stations, I email reporters and I write letters begging people to start referring to a death BY suicide. I state that Benjamin died by suicide. Tom, my therapist, said that I could also say that Benjamin died from an undiagnosed brain disease. I may start saying that too.
Suicide survivor is a group no one wants to join. Having been catapulted here, my brain is still scrambled and I feel a tremendous weight about all there is to do. That is why I’m starting to “try” to communicate about my suicide survivor status, grief and my healing journey.
The third thread of my path forward has been Little Free Library.org Early after Benjamin’s death I heard about Little Free Libraries from my college friend, Mary, and we got one as a memorial for Benjamin in 2011. Jay and I have slowly increased our volunteer relationship with this incredible organization. Benjamin’s Little Free Library is a positive, active and always evolving memorial that I love to nurture, care for, and share with others. It’s a positive in a very difficult and sad reality.
I’m explaining this thread of three this week in advance of sharing with you next about our upcoming trip to Dallas. Jay, Peter and I will be in Dallas on July 22, 2017 to dedicate five Little Free Libraries that our family and some extended family members have sponsored in memory of the five Dallas Police Officers who were ambushed and killed in Dallas a year ago. The Dallas Daily News did a story on our donation last September if you wish to read the background. (Article by: Kaitlyn Martin on the DallasNews website)
More after our trip to Dallas. To each of you reading this, I thank you for following along on Mara Moments and for your friendship and support. Helen
Taking Action, Dallas (7/22/17) – Helen’s Healing Journey continued July 29, 2017
Depression, anxiety, grief and trauma are heavy and weigh a person down so you feel like you are moving through quicksand. It may appear that the way ahead is clear and that it should be easy to move forward, however nothing is the same after a traumatic death and forward motion is difficult for survivors.
I have learned that positive action helps me feel better. Acting on some of my ideas has given me forward movement; not always straight, clear or easy, but the movement itself feels helpful and healing.
My horse time requires that I use mental and emotional energy and it is a very physical activity. Mara B time provides my own form of equine therapy which definitely is empowering. I promote equine therapy experiences through my Mara Moments posts because connections with horses are powerful and fulfilling and I like to share them.
Another positive action I have taken is the Little Free Library Dallas project in memory of the five Dallas Officers who were killed one year ago. That project required that I exert emotional and mental energy in a constructive way. The dedication ceremony for these libraries in Dallas last Saturday that Jay, Peter and I attended was active, positive and emotional. Also, we were able to distribute many Benjamin coins and that was special for the three of us.
Our day with the volunteers and stewards in Dallas who contributed so much to making this project a reality was very positive. They committed their time energy and creativity for the better part of one year to design, build and place the five libraries in the Dallas community. Their active personal service and giving attitude was so beneficial to observe. We were able to express our concern about the traumatic impacts of gun violence on families, communities and our country to those in attendance and now we are sharing it with you.
We talked to the assembled group at the dedication reception and concluded with the poem “Kindness” by Naomi Shihab Nye. It powerfully describes the need for kindness following a tragedy such the Dallas shootings. I hope you will find it and read it.
After our remarks a volunteer told me how much she loved that we ended our comments with that poem and that she did not know it. However she loves Naomi Shihab Nye’s poems and thinks that I am the person who Naomi is talking about in her poem “Famous” which I did not know. Now I like “Famous” and want to share it with you. Let’s all try to be famous to others in this way
By Naomi Shihab Nye
The river is famous to the fish.
The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.
The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.
The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.
The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.
The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.
The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.
I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.
I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.
For your support of Mara Moments, I thank you – more another day.
The power of social media – Helen’s healing path continues. September 4, 2017
It’s been a while since my last “personal message.” I’ve been feeling like I was on hold, so I felt silence and waiting was for the better. I was trying to find a peaceful rhythm without pressure, which I do not want or need. My daily ride and my daily post felt like enough for now. However good things have been developing behind the scenes and I want to share them with you today.
I have been able to quietly communicate about my healing path with Mara B through social media. By quietly I mean I have not talked to people individually. Instead I have posted my thoughts on my blog and FB Page, a process that is all new to me. It’s been challenging, frustrating and sort of thrilling all at the same time. I have a story and as my heart and voice became stronger I felt drawn to share my personal experiences since Benjamin’s death with those who may be interested. I want to express how real the trauma, anxiety and depression is and how difficult it truly is to “move forward” and “move on” to manage the grief and pain of a suicide death.
I started the Mara Moments blog almost one year ago, and then I added an Instagram account and a FB Page. Through this powerful communication of social media, I connected with Equusdocumentary via Instagram. EquusDocumentary is a team of two creative people, Anastasia and John, who are filming a groundbreaking documentary series highlighting different ways in which people work with horses in a healing context. They and we are supporting mental health initiatives and horse therapy and healing is one method we are trying to shine more light on. Please follow them on Instagram @equusdocumentary or their website @www.equusfilm.org.
Anastasia and John are currently here to film and interview me for their project. This is an amazing and validating opportunity for Mara B and me. Jay and I strongly support their work and this project. We invite you to do the same if it speaks to your heart too.
To my followers and to each of you reading this, I sincerely thank you for your support, interest and engagement as I continue to walk my healing path with Mara B. I’m passing on the title of a wonderful book to you today too, “There is no Good Card for This: What to say and do when life is scary, awful, and unfair to people you Love.” By: Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell. Emily McDowell has an excellent online presence. Maybe this is another resource for you to embrace; I found it to be very well done.
Happy Trails to you. Helen
Recap and review of my Equusfilm.org interview and filming experience; Continuing along on Helen’s healing path – September 21, 2017
Anastasia and John, the healing with horses documentary film project team, have been here and are now on to their next visit. They left me with a tender heart and a renewed desire to continue to share my mental health challenges, issues and experience with depression and guilt, shame and anxiety as well as retreating from daily life experiences.
They were with us for ten days and it was a privilege to get to know them and to participate in their documentary film project. We needed time and space to communicate and share some of what has happened to us since Benjamin’s death, living as suicide survivors and sharing some of the “before” and now the “after” since his tragic death.
Mara B and Equine Therapy and healing with horses brought us together. Our shared passion for speaking up about suicide and suicide prevention, suicide survivors as well as suicide attempt survivors was a topic of much conversation and connection. However, mental health and wellbeing and supporting others dealing with mental health issues were also a major focus of our conversations. I am learning that many people desire communication and solid support in their own individual struggles, confusion and difficulties with mental and emotional pain. I appreciate hearing from readers through my blog, by email, Instagram ( @mara.equine.moments ) and LinkedIn.
Trauma has put me on this path and now I desire to be a voice and an advocate for others who suffer in silence. I had years of my own silence but now for some reason I’ve gained an interest in speaking about my personal journey of trying to heal, trying to move forward and of trying to enjoy more of daily life. Equusfilm.org provides a powerful avenue to do so.
To those who are reading this, I thank you and want you to know I appreciate your interest and support. More another day, Helen
November 7, 2017 Helen’s Healing Journey
October brought the seventh anniversary of Benjamin’s death. Now it’s the seventh of November and I want to share seven concepts with readers who ride along on Mara Moments and who are interested in my unique healing path.
1. The “share your story” theme has evolved internationally as a way of helping others to know that they are not alone, to offer ideas and to provide words of support which is motivation for me to share my healing path via the Mara Moments blog. From Prince Harry speaking about mental health issues to the #metoo hashtag, I find positive support from voices of others who share their truth and experiences. I hope my posts sharing my experience will lighten that burden for some others. If we are going to make the world better, kinder, safer, more inclusive we need to be better at listening to what hurts. Hurts are like a hidden disability.
2. Hearing from numerous readers who express their gratitude for my words and thoughts is helpful and supportive for me. This encourages me to continue reaching out to others in this small way. I am continually motivated by the thought – “what it someone would have helped Benjamin?”
3. The continuing number of tragic suicide deaths in the news and the current reality of special friends who now face the future as suicide survivors motivates me to continue talking about this complex mental health crisis and to ask others to be aware of the difficulties many people endure. A special focus for me is to change the language around the use of “committed” with a suicide death. To use that term perpetuates the negative stigma of a death by suicide and makes it sound like a crime. I always say “Benjamin died by suicide” which is accurate without inserting a negative connotation when one is not needed. Please join me in making this important communication change and to educate others.
4. Animal assisted therapies are gaining more headlines, recognition and appreciation. Specifically, the use of equine therapy continues to expand and from my own positive experience I want to be a voice for the benefits it can provide and advocate for the value of this form of therapy. Through my posts, I want to share my equine experiences and provide support for people who do not have easy access to horses or who do not know about equine therapy.
5. Retreat, rest, calm, quiet, nature, solitude and healthy therapies continue to be critical for me each day. These are themes I try to emphasize for others to consider and to embrace. Healing is slow work and I promote slowing down to allow the healing process to progress at each person’s own pace and capabilities. Pressure from others to just “fix it” or “move on” is not helpful.
6. Routine, even what may sometimes look like a boring routine, has been helpful and healing for me. Walking, reading and grooming are daily repetitive routines that may seem simple, yet in practice they bring me comfort. Being physically active and outside in nature, spending my days around animals and animal lovers is healing and helpful. With Mara Moments my intention is to share a moment of that routine as a type of peaceful supportive friendship and is my low key creative and simple way of sharing the routines that are so helpful for me.
7. Shift to rebuilding – Year seven and I’m just trying my hand at “rebuilding” (for which there is no set formula). I share the concept of rebuilding because folks need to know that there is no predetermined time limit on how long “it takes” to rebuild your future after a great loss. Give yourself time and please give others all the time they need to heal or find their way forward from trauma, grieving and sadness.
Again, if you’re reading this, I thank you, (I’m not a great participant in daily reciprocal social media communications, sorry) Happy Trails and more another day. Peace, Helen
Helen’s Healing Path – December 20, 2017
The Balance of Holiday Cheer
We have arrived at the Winter Solstice 2017. I always like this, because I love the natural light and it starts increasing tomorrow. And next it’s the “holidays.”
For many different reasons people experience the dichotomy of trying to have some festive fun with season’s greetings and Christmas Cheer while encountering periods of depression or anxiety from the thought that “What I don’t need is the pressure of social cheer.” For me, emotional pressure rises as the Holiday Cheer intensifies.
I’m still trying to figure out Christmas. I have distinct “before” Benjamin died feelings about Christmas and an “after” he died approach to the holiday season. They are very different feelings. Our family “leaves” and we travel. We do Christmas different from the years before Benjamin died. That eases the impact of his absence – it “helps” somewhat. And I know many others are also at various points of the Holiday Cheer spectrum.
What I do have in my life today is wonderful, but without Benjamin I can also feel that I am not truly whole. Other people who are carrying a similar private weight of loss or poor health, trauma or various heavy burdens probably understand what I feel when I refer to the loss of the “whole.”
Due to the loss and emotional trauma I have suffered, my view of life is more focused and intense now and I am more easily and frequently impacted by the pain and suffering that’s all around. So, during this holiday season I simply wish to express – Let’s balance the Holiday Cheer with our personal emotional challenges the best that we can. Often the most meaningful things we do for others are simple, thoughtful actions; gestures without a lot of words.
Suicide continues to be front and center in the news and to devastate families; depression and loneliness are very real and the effect of trauma is long lasting. When you have suffered such a blow, it is hard to display a phony smile when the devastation of your reality is usually on your face. That’s what I’m pointing out here – a tough spot to be in any time, but especially with the expectation of Holiday Joy and Cheeriness. Let’s simply be mindful that some struggle to feel and express the Cheer of the Season, and that’s ok.
I also want to share the resources listed below for any reader who wishes to understand these thoughts further. I found them helpful, and I value that emotional issues are being more openly discussed, explained, supported and shared.
I am working with a new therapist in Somatic Experiencing (trauma resolution) and Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy. It’s been a very positive and interesting experience.
“A Blue Christmas,” Wall Street Journal 12/5/17
Survival Lessons by Alice Hoffman
And just for a light read that was emotionally comforting at the same time –
The Story of Arthur Trulove by: Elizabeth Berg
Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice and I value the additional light that will come our way. I wish you light, calm and peace for your Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or other Holiday celebration. I appreciate each of you who read these words and maybe you will explore some of the thoughts or ideas I shared and hopefully find them helpful.
To my family, friends, readers and followers, I thank you for riding along with Mara B and me. Mara and my world of equine therapy is a strong positive experience in my day. We continue to evolve and expand and sharing a piece of our time together with you feels good. Happy trails and blessings to you in 2018.
MLK Holiday weekend – More reflections on Helen’s healing path 1/15/18
I remember the terrible day that Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated. Now fifty years later, society continues to struggle with gun violence and the trauma caused by gun violence. Whether homicide, suicide, or accidental deaths by gun, today I must speak to this topic because of my personal experience as a suicide survivor.
Usually I promote equine therapy which is so valuable and I do love my horse time and sharing Mara B with others. However, today it is more important to remind people of the lasting effects of trauma caused by guns. Healing for individuals, families, communities and our country will be an impossible hurdle until those who have no personal loss due to gun violence or concern about the issue of gun violence are educated about its deep negative impacts. Suicide can be prevented and not having access to a gun is a critical factor. I pray we collectively can move in this direction.
Mental health issues, gun violence and suicide prevention are now intertwined in my personal life story. This is not a fun, happy, upbeat topic that most people seek, but I need to voice it and we need to address it. Today as we celebrate the life, and reflect on the tragic death, and courageous work of Martin Luther King Jr, let us also think about life without gun deaths and work toward that goal. For Benjamin and for other parents, I will continue to share my voice and my actions to try to nudge us to advancements in understanding this issue.
I follow and support Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence (https://giffords.org) Gabby Gifford’s has the courage to fight gun violence, and Gun Violence Must Stop. Here’s What We Can Do to Prevent More Deaths | Prevention Institute (https://preventioninstitute.org).
On a lighter note my current book that I wish to share is from the equusfilm.org folks, Anastasia and John. Journey to Softness by Mark Rashid is a wonderful book for horse people and all people to understand “softness of heart” as a way of life and as an important universal theme. Moving towards softness as a goal may help us all, and is one to embrace on MLK Day.
Thank you, readers and followers. Mara Moments is not just horsey fun and I appreciate that you will stop by and listen and engage on these tough topics too. Sincerely, Helen
Happy trails to you in 2018.
“21 to 29” Note from Helen May 25, 2018
Its Benjamin’s birthday and he would have been 29 years old. Today I reflect on all that has been missed during his 20’s; a decade of such change and growth for many people.
This year I’m thinking about the concept of “To Recognize.” To recognize means to detect with the senses, to discern and to spot.
Through all of the ordeals with Mara B this Spring including the whole paddock change, saddle fit issue, foot problems and diet changes, I have realized that one of my jobs is “to recognize” subtle changes and communications from Mara. Questioning things at times and dismissing intuitions or observations at other times, I had been somewhat stumbling through my duty “to recognize” what impacts Mara’s comfort and overall health. Fortunately, receiving clear and direct guidance and advice from Maura G. put me on a focused path to acknowledging and then addressing these issues for Mara B. I am grateful that I picked up some of the issues myself but more grateful to Maura G for delivering her insights and opinions about them.
Which brings me to Benjamin on his birthday and the themes of emotional wellbeing, mental health as well as suicide awareness and suicide prevention. It is so important “to recognize” when help is needed, to learn to ASK for help and to be willing to offer help to your inner circle even though these are often seen as delicate and sensitive topics. I want to remind us today “to recognize.” Not easy, not always comfortable and not always well received. I respect and value the folks along the way who have offered me insights and ideas, even those who at the time I did not “get” or act on or even acknowledge, but now I recognize the loving guidance that was provided. We offered loving guidance to Benjamin for 21 years too. To us, Benjamin did not exhibit signs of someone who would take his own life which makes this topic so complex and difficult. I know this is not simple and it is not easy for me to keep talking about this. However, we cannot dismiss the reality and the need to make people aware of mental health issues and suicide.
Now every day I think “What if someone had helped Benjamin?” Maybe we wouldn’t be sitting here without him. I’m hoping we may all find a clearer understanding of the complex challenges of experiencing, diagnosing and treating mental illness and that we come to see past the social stigma to the individuals and families who are suffering. MPR had a wonderful program on May 21, 2018 that I want to highlight “Call to Mind: Innovative Approaches to Mental Well Being.” a conversation hosted by Tom Weber Also please be aware of “Note to Self” a current exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota. These are examples of great programs that are thankfully becoming ‘common place.’ Looking back to 2010, I was not aware of such mental health topics and suicide awareness initiatives. Thankfully, society is slowly making progress, yet so much more is needed. Let’s not stop.
In conclusion I’m sharing a powerful quote that dearest friend Nancy gave me:
Thank you for reading. Sincerely, Helen
June 9, 2018
Summer Notes from Helen – thegoodhumanexperiment.com
Today I want to say Thank You to “The Good Human Experiment” site for publishing my horse therapy story. I hope you will take some time to look at this wonderful site and even consider following along and participating. This is the form of positive social media I personally value, appreciate and support. The Good Human Experiment emphasizes acting with goodness, empathy, compassion, courtesy and patience, which benefits our own emotional well-being and those around us.
This has been an overwhelming week of high profile suicides in the news; tragic reminders that mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, really matter and they are often hidden or not recognized. We must not wait for the next celebrity suicide before we reach out.
I will continue to voice my concerns about this uncomfortable subject, because I’m thinking of the next 123 people who take their own lives each day and their families, as well as Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. I ask readers to have a caring conversation with a loved one or friend about mental health, depression and suicide. Go ahead and tell them about Benjamin. You will probably feel uncomfortable, and that’s ok. It’s better than being a survivor of a family member’s or friend’s suicide. Remember that all of us need the help of other people when we are unable to help ourselves.
Thank you for reading this and thank you for engaging in this touchy, difficult subject. The best way to talk about mental health and suicide is openly and honestly. Believe me, we never thought suicide would happen to our family.