Morning Walk


Owls often perch in this old oak.

I have to say that there was a time when I would have titled this, “Mourning Walk” because I often tried to use my walks as a time to mourn and grieve, but I discovered something in the process of trying to simultaneously walk and grieve. It was difficult to do both.  I would leave my house with intentions of being alone so I could cry, but the tears usually disappeared ten to twenty minutes into the walk. For me, taking a walk can do miracles for creating a bit of peace in my mind. Sometimes just a tiny “bit” of peace is enough.

Unless I have an appointment or need to meet a deadline, the purpose of my walks is not to reach a specified destination. The purpose of my walks is to deliberately take in each moment, to let my senses soak in the scenes, and to let my mind and soul connect with God’s grandeur. Sometimes I have to slow down my brisk pace in order to let the experience go through me. I enjoyed one of my recent morning walks so much; I wanted to share the experience with others, so I slowed down and took a few photos (Please don’t judge the photos. They were taken with my phone!).

I have many walking routes that I enjoy, but none of them have sidewalks or busy streets. I walk in the woods. I walk where I can hear the rustle of quail as they fly from their hiding places. I can smell the pungent fragrances of wild grasses that leave my walking shoes wet from their dewey blades. A breeze might gently move a wisp of hair over my face, tickling my nose. Overhead, in the soft blue cloudless sky, I often hear the shrill cry of a hawk looking for prey.

A rare close-up encounter with a vulture!

The glorious sensory experiences fill my mind and nudge the pain and realities of life into  faraway back-corners of my thoughts, giving me a bit of peace from the noise of trauma. And that is why I go on a morning walk.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

-Henry David Thoreau


My Sunday


She was sitting directly in front of me during our church sacrament meeting. She usually kept to herself, sort of quiet. Her hair was colored blond and styled simply. I don’t remember her walking into the chapel; all I remember is how the back of her head looked.

It was fast and testimony meeting day when members of the congregation are invited to go to the pulpit and share their testimonies of Christ. We do this once a month, so it’s kind of a routine thing. The meeting was spiritually up-lifting. It felt good to soak up the inspiring thoughts, stories, and testimonies of others.

I looked at the clock. It was time for the meeting to end. I picked up my hymnal and prepared to sing the closing congregational hymn as the bishop approached the pulpit to close the meeting.

That’s when it happened.

The woman in front of me stood and walked toward the pulpit. She raised her arm up toward the bishop, gesturing for him to wait. The bishop nodded his acceptance of her request and sat back down. I thought she was brave to hold up the meeting like that.

She walked to the steps that would take her on the raised platform where the pulpit stood. Then she stopped. She just stopped there. She didn’t move. She was frozen in that spot.

It didn’t take long for others to notice that there might be a problem. In one graceful motion, the Women’s Relief Society president, left her seat and approached the woman from behind. She gently rested her hand on the woman’s back and then came to her side, whispering in the woman’s ear.

At the same time, the organist quickly left her bench with an understanding smile. She was facing the woman when she moved toward her, all the while trying to reassure her with a confident “you can do this” kind of nod.

There they were in a small huddle. Three women. One was in need, and two were reaching out. The huddle lasted at least two minutes, a long time when a large congregation has nothing to do but wait.

After whispers and reassuring smiles, the two women moved aside while the other woman found her intended destination at the pulpit.

She was crying. She was embarrassed that she was crying. She didn’t want to cry and so she had stopped at the steps hoping to manage the tears. “The tears keep coming out,” she said as she broke down again.

And then her story unfolded. She used all the couched and coded messages of a betrayed wife: “alone” “family in crisis” “pain” and “hurt.” Her final statement was emphatic and her voice rang clearly through the chapel. “I am strong and I will be ok! I know I will!”

As she returned to her seat, I found myself looking at the back of her head once again. I wondered if she knew the stories of the women that came to her aid. I wondered if she knew that our Relief Society president was betrayed by her husband years ago and she now lives a life that is exemplary of the power of forgiveness. I wondered if she knew that the organist has battled depression and anxiety as she works through marital and other family issues. I wondered if she could ever guess that the sister behind her, looking at the back of her head, is also a betrayed wife. I wondered.

I tapped her on the shoulder. I swallowed the lump in my throat as I leaned forward  and whispered in her ear. “You are not alone.”

We, none of us, are alone. We are in the company of many good women that have walked through the refiner’s fire and come out on the other side with more resilience and strength. We can stand together with confidence. We are strong and we will be ok.


Post-Trauma Growth


Was I asleep during the lesson on post-trauma growth, or what?

I’ve been traveling through this healing process armed with a load of information on post-traumatic stress disorder. I have done my homework for LifeStar and I’ve added additional work for my individual therapy. I’ve had a laser-like focus on kicking betrayal trauma in the butt and not letting the sinful behaviors of one individual, my husband, destroy who I am. Honestly, if I hadn’t worked so hard, I would have ended up in a mental ward somewhere because I was a big terrible mess. No exaggeration. The sudden discovery that I had been deceived for thirty-seven years hit me like a nuclear bomb. It’s been two years and there’s still some fallout from that nuclear mushroom cloud.

nuclear mushroom cloud
Photo Source: US Dept. of Energy/

Maybe my focus was too narrow. I don’t know. There were many times that I read how people were blessed and found even greater happiness after trauma. I had faith that what I read was true, but it all seemed so subjective. At times, I thought the promises of a better life were reserved only for the recovering addict. After all, he was finally free from the prison of his secrets. It seemed absolutely possible that his life would be much better after finding recovery.

I, on the other hand, thought my life before the nuclear bomb was pretty awesome. So, maybe the promise of a better tomorrow, for me, meant that I would finally live with more clarity and a better understanding of who my husband really is. I would finally live without his emotional brick wall that so often separated us.

In the end, it didn’t matter. Regardless of  the potential for “better tomorrows” or an “improved and better marital relationship,” I just marched forward on my focus of becoming healed and whole again. Post-trauma life seemed like a far-away land that existed in some faint dream. I operated on pure faith that my post-trauma life would be worth the work I was doing. I operated on faith because I didn’t have enough concrete evidence to do anything else.

So, what the heck? There IS concrete evidence, folks! There’s actual scientific research on post-traumatic growth or PTG. Hey, if it has its own acronym, you know its legit! Maybe the dark fog of trauma caused me to ignore this stuff. For whatever reason, as I begin to step into a post-trauma life (I like to call it “the after-life”), I’m now bumping into all kinds of verifiable and credible research on the subject of PTG.

For all of you that are still trying to find your way out of the dark hole of trauma, the hope for a better after-trauma life is real. Keep clawing your way out, because the light and sunshine ahead can actually be brighter than you’ve known before. You have to walk through a sometimes fiery path to healing before you will understand how this can even be possible, but it’s true. I’m beginning to see a new brightness of hope and joy. And . . . studies give some proof that this is possible. Check out Google Scholar for the research like this one from Jenna Van Slyke, M. S.

Although traumatic experiences can sometimes result in severe psychological distress, they can also result in positive psychological changes as a result of the trauma survivors’ struggle with the trauma. Also known as post-traumatic growth (PTG), these positive changes may include the development of new perspectives and personal growth. Current studies have shown that 30% to 90% of people report some positive changes following trauma.

. . .  One of the better known scales, the Post-traumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI), measures five broad domains that comprise a significant amount of the variance in PTG: a greater appreciation of life, closer relationships, identification of new possibilities, increased personal strength, and positive spiritual change. Greater appreciation of life following a traumatic event can be represented by a shift in priorities and taking pleasure in aspects of life that were once taken for granted. Trauma survivors may also experience increased compassion and empathy for others, which allow them to cultivate deeper and more meaningful relationships. Identification of new possibilities and increased personal strength can also be seen in trauma survivors who display high levels of PTG. For example, an individual may display higher levels of self-efficacy or a stronger belief in his or her ability to overcome obstacles. The same individual may experience a change in values post-trauma and find that he or she is able to identify a more fulfilling path for the future. Finally, trauma survivors may also experience a positive change in spirituality, perceiving themselves as being more capable of connecting with something greater than themselves (God, the universe, nature, etc.), regardless of religious affiliation.

I will now keep a summarized list from the PTGI on my bathroom mirror. New work. New life. New focus.

post trauma growth new

Click here for printable PDF of Post-Trama Growth seen above