August 31st 1997. Who were you with? September 11th 2001. Where were you? March 23rd 2020. How does that make you feel?
Memory. A feeling I’m struggling to find words to describe. My little Awena is approaching her first birthday and I absolutely can’t believe it. Nearly a year on, I am feeling such a mixture of things. Pangs of pain, flashbacks, nostalgia, gratitude, joy, sadness…the list goes on. So many of my friends have had new babies in the last month or so and seeing their tiny little faces throws me right back to Awena’s arrival. Smelling the wild garlic out and about reminds me of numerous lockdown walks with Poppi whilst still pregnant and in ignorant bliss of what was to come. Cycling past the hospital makes my heart sink as it did each time I left my little darling. As I type this even now my eyes are filled with tears. Yet, here we are, a year on. Memory is so powerful.
Many of us think time will cause us to forget, but our bodies sure as heck hang on to things. We are sensual beings and sights, sounds, tastes, smells and the feel of things will launch us right back. The smell of Dove soap always makes me think I’m in my Grandma’s bathroom. The song Accidentally in Love takes me to that moment I walked back up the aisle having said “I do”.
Many of the children I work with in play therapy have sensual rather than visual memories of things that happened in their past. We may think that children are too young to remember significant or traumatic events, but create the same situation and it will evoke something for them which they may not be able to describe, but they can certainly feel it. During the winter of September 2018 – May 2019, Poppi had four admissions to hospital due to low oxygen levels and difficulty breathing. She was at her worst during the evening. Poppi used to be a 7 pm – 7 am sleeper, no probs. However, since these episodes, she has really struggled to go to bed in the evening. Ask her what’s keeping her up and she doesn’t really know. But the body keeps the score. The traumatic memory and the bad dreams that followed her time in hospital have caused her to become anxious about going to bed. This is why it is so important that we process and talk about our memories and feelings. If we trap them in they become stuck and we end up forming patterns we don’t necessarily understand.
If you’ve got 2 minutes and 41 seconds take it to watch this little clip from Inside Out. Although an animation it’s pretty accurate when it comes to thinking about how memories are formed and stored.
I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to be on Awena’s actual birthday, but I have a feeling it is going to be quite an emotional rollercoaster of a day. I’m not entirely sure how much I have processed my own trauma of having a baby in NICU. However, one thing I do know is that I will make sure I have time to talk (something constructive), walk (something physical), and most of all feel (something essential).