Blog

  • Hope still lives here...

    Hope still lives here...

    "Just give me a reason
    Just a little bit's enough
    Just a second we're not broken just bent
    And we can learn to love again
    It's in the stars
    It's been written in the scars on our hearts
    We're not broken just bent
    And we can learn to love again" -- Pink, "Just Give Me a Reason" 

    Today was our third day providing disaster mental health in Moore, OK to the children affected by the recent deadly tornadoes. The theme and image of hope was a powerful resonant.  

    As we were working today with the children, we noticed gradual, subtle shifts. Frenetic energies slightly decreased, hyper-arousal somewhat diminished, and a sense of trust began to permeate the delicate, newly formed relationships. I am proud of our students, Amy, Marshia and Patty, for sharing their greatest gifts today with the kids: they shared themselves. They revealed a gentle nature, and it was magnificent. The children responded positively. I went outside at one point and saw all of the children laughing and frolicking on the playground as the team showered them with loving-kindess. Hope was alive. 

    Tonight, we re-visited the memorial at the elementary school where the storm hit the hardest, and several children perished. There was a small child, just 5 years old, roaming the streets with her dad after dark. They had both barely suvived the tornado, sharing with us how their home had been destroyed. Amy and I gave the child a bag of new, assorted toys. The dad recovered an LCD light in the rubble, which was still illuminated. The child asked, "Did you see what my daddy found? He found a light." And she was fascinated: her dad found a glimmer of hope in this small light fixture that was shining brightly in the black of the early summer night sky. 

    After we handed her a stuffed animal kitty cat (she mentioned having 2 pet cats of her own), she affectionately hugged the kitty cat and thanked us. Tonight, as I ready for bed, and count the blessings in my own life too often taken for granted,  I find myself thinking about this child out in the streets wondering with her dad after dark with very little to go home to. Her father mentioned that he was the one who had created the sign on the side of what was left of his home that read, "Hope Still Lives Here." It's the picture attached to this blog. We noticed it the first night we arrived. And as they walked off, he said to his daughter teary-eyed, "I love you. And see- I told you there's hope." 

    Good night. 

  • It is only through darkness that we uncover our depth...

    "And He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes: and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow, for these things will have passed." 

    Revelation (21:4) 

    Today was our second day in Moore, Oklahoma. It was a day of unity. The team is showing cohesivenss and group bonding. The children and their families affected by the deadly tornadoes displayed strength and fortitude in coming to terms with an inconceivable loss that occurred just 2 weeks prior.  And our team sensitively accepted and honored this dynamic variable by simply being with them without trying to fix or change anything about them. 

    We set up our disaster mental health response center at a local church, a building unblemished, while just blocks away from utter destruction is visible as far as the eye can bear to see. 

    Today was a day of hope. We worked with several children who were directly affected by the tornadoes. We held a puppet show, provided biofeedabck and practised deep breathing, read stories of how to cope with significant stress and impairment, did sandplay, conducted group play therapy, engaged in expressive art therapy interventions to facilitate reslience, and laughed a lot! We saw seeds of hope germinating as the kids were playing and enjoying their day and feeling a little bit better about the world around them. 

    Today was a day of exhiliration. How incredibly honored we feel to play some small part of this healing trajectory. The intersubjective field inherent with disaster mental health affects both play therapists and children, equally. Jung once said psychotherapy is only as effective as the therapist changes just as much as the client does. A small change I noticed in my approach today was to let go of preconceived notions of how the day and the structure should unfold. We all benefited once we began to remember psychotherapeutic flexibility, and allowed the children to lead their own way to their healing. 

    Today was a day of healing. One of the young boys we were working with commented to his mother, "I want to come back every day. For the rest of my life!" Wow- what a long, firm commitment to the therapeutic process! If only some of my adolescent clients back home felt the same :) 

    Finally, today was a day of recognizing one's own religion. I'm reflecting tonight as I write this blog on the psychospirituality of trusing in the process of allowing God, or whatever one may call the Divine, to be fully present by being open and accepting to another human soul. Being fully present, today at least, meant actively listening and non-judgmentally facilitating a safe space so that conflicts and psychological contaminants could coelesce into a seamless harmony of simplicity. It is in the simple things in life, such as images from nature and echoes of a child's laughter, that move our psyche (soul) toward the sacred. We encounter the divine. 

    And as I say my prayers before bedtime, I want to thank God for World Vision, for Jennifer Baggerly, for Amy Andra, for Marshia Allen-Auguston, for Patty Boylen, for Nate Youngblood, for Carla Lafayette ,for Karon, and for the parents who are trusting us to see their children through some small part of this dark night of the soul. 

  • Carry on...

     

    "Cause we are 
    We are shining stars 
    We are invincible 
    We are who we are 
    On our darkest day 
    When we're miles away 
    So we'll come 
    We will find our way home" 

    Today our disaster mental health team arrived in Moore, Oklahoma. It was an unseemly sight- miles of destruction and obliterated neighborhoods, homes as far as the eye can see reduced by the tornado to heaps of rubble. It was almost overwhelming. Our team made it to the site where the elementary school was completely destroyed by the massive tornado, and 7 children lost their lives last week. There was a memorial with crosses planted in the ground and candles lit to honor the souls of the departed. While we were visiting with other disaster volunteers at the site, two children and their father came riding their bikes past us. We ended up talking to the family for a while, and I ended up playing with the kids. The young girl was inside the school house when the tornado struck. Her father said her brother (they were about 5 years old) was so worried about his sister when he saw the tornado on the news and knew she was trapped at the school, that he cried out for God to save her (both children survived). 

    I share this story to honor the resilience of these children. It's also a narrative way for me to process or resolve the difficult or big feelings I'm having myself as we are now here on the ground. The child asked me if we could play. So, I gave her a tiara and a wand I had in my trunk, and she proclaimed she was a fairy princess! She then quickly returned to petting the therapeutic dog nearby, but her older brother showed us how he could ride his bicycle in circles without falling off- he was very proud of his achievement! The resilience of these children is remarkable. And I share this not to wrecklessly or inadvertently exploit their tragedy, but to sensitively honor and marvel in their courage and strength through the most harrowing of life's ordeals. The spirit of these children appears unbreakable. 

    My fellow team members, Jennifer, Patty, Marshia, and Amy, were all taken back as well by the images of mass destruction. It was difficult for us,  even being seasoned veterans of disaster work, to canvass the area and imagine what these children and families went through to survive.

    Tomorrow, we will set up a play space at a church and will work with the children. We will be providing psychoeducation to the parents, as well as normalizing the aberrant thoughts and feelings following this life-altering traumatic event as well as providing coping skills. I'll be working with a family who lost two of their young children during the storm. 

    This song, Carry On, kept playing in my mind as we started visiting and relationship-building with the community here in Moore. Please keep them in your prayers tonight. And may God's countenance shine upon the souls who perished during this tragedy. 

    Carry on....carry on. 

  • Carousel of Dreams

    Carousel of Dreams

    As we are on the eve of our departure to Moore, OK to work with the children affected by the tornadoes, the image of carousels and their delight keeps appearing. Children deserve the right to believe in dreams again, especially in the aftermath of life-altering trauma. Carousels and their lore represent the magic and the moment when childhood is imbued with the salience of freedom that comes with wonder. It is a metaphor for our developmental and archetypal imagination: that as children, we enter the mandala of hopes and dreams, riding through our fears and apprehensions. We rediscover the beauty of creativity and how the mind and our fairy tale fantasies often save us from the garish light of this sometimes harsh reality. Let us all provide a carrousel of dreams to children and each other: so that we may recall the soul's stirring as we ride horses and sleighs surrounded by the magic and music of the archetypal fairground. For it is within the imagination that children rediscover laughter and joy, and ultimately healing, particularly in the wake of unimaginable loss. On the carousel of dreams, we whimsically watch the world go by, in all its dark yet resplendent wonder.

  • “Kindness’ covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.”

    R. Ebert, "Life Itself"
  • more prepping for Moore

    more prepping for Moore

    Dr. Jennifer Baggerly and I have assembled a small team of UNT Dallas Master's counseling students and recent graduates (big thanks to Amy Andra, Marshia Allen-Augston, & Patty Boylen!). We've been invited by World Vision, a faith-based group who deploys volunteers following a crisis, to conduct disaster mental health counseling with the children affected by the recent tornado in Moore, Oklahoma. 

    Currently, I'm preparing for our trip by organizing toys and materials. I've also been sorting through hundreds of pre-printed mandala drawings to bring for the kids to color. We're also bringing 4 sand trays, sand, and miniatures to let the kids create sand pictures if they choose, or perhaps do some group work. I'm also bringing the bubbles! I've purchased several bottles of Super Bubbles(!). We'll be bringing "the bubble on." 

    So far, we've received a couple of donations. We want to acknowledge the generosity of ChildTherapytoys.com: they are mailing us $350(!) worth of needed toys for our upcoming trip. Also, Ashley Gordon at Gables Corporate in Dallas has sent out a note to its residences of their properties to solicit donations for the team to purchase additional toys and supplies (Thank you, Ashley!). 

    As for content preparation: Jennifer is holding a team meeting next week so that we're all aligned with best practices in disaster mental health. Jennifer is leading the team, this time, and I'm thrilled!

    We've been monitoring the news recently: our U.S. president seems to have made an encouraging visit  in-person to the families devastated by the tornado.  

    And while the details of this disaster are quite difficult to comprehend, especially the lives of all the young children lost, we hold on to one basic core belief and value as mental health practitioners ascribing to the humanistic perspective: the human spirit is often capable of enduring every torment and tragedy; and, given the right conditions and possibly predispostions, eventually finds it way back on the road to resilience. The events that unfolded over the past week from the deadly tornado have many of us reflecting on the preciousness of life and how it can be cut short unexpectedly and abruptly.   

    So it is with a slightly heavy, but hopeful heart, this blog is written, knowing we're about to humbly embark on a new journey.  Will write again once we're on the ground. Sending prayers and healing thoughts to the children, families and larger community tonight in Moore.  May God's peace and light surround you during this dark hour.