16 February 2015

Grief, Self-Love, and Healing Emotional Trauma with Food, Yoga and Art.

By Heather Jo Flores
February 2015


For many years of my life, I thought I had depression. I would spend days at a time crying, eating, sleeping and hating myself for having no control over the process. I sabotaged relationships and hated my family and the world for what had been done to me. I tried different kinds of therapy but held a general disdain for it. I never tried pharmaceuticals, but I dabbled in many forms of self medication.

Grief, by Heather Jo Flores. Oil on canvas.
And then a few years ago, I did some reading about Complex PTSD and a lot of what I read lined up with what I had experienced. I realized that I wasn't suffering because of a chemical imbalance in my brain, I was creating the chemical imbalance through denial, negative thought patterns, self-abuse (weed, binge-eating, bad boys). And when I finally identified the cause, deeply rooted in a failure to properly grieve several traumatic losses…I was able to begin a healing process.

A big part of that process was about learning how to grieve. My grief wasn't associated with the death of a loved one. It was associated with the loss of other things:
  • My opportunity for a peaceful childhood (absent father, negligent mother, you know the story.)
  • My wasted time spent screwing things up for myself as a young adult.
  • My failed relationships with lovers and friends.
These things, compounded by my years spent as an envrionmental activist and the pain that comes from witnessing firsthand the devastation of the planet, had sent me into a downward spiral of grief, and I had never taken the time to really deal with it.

And so, since I had just started grad school when these realizatons occurred, I focused most of my MFA on using art, music and movement to overcome trauma associated with loss. I learned a lot of amazing stuff. If you can relate to my story, perhaps these suggestions will help you. I will just give you a handful of ideas so please, don't give yourself any excuses not to try them!