Trauma & Grief 25 Years On From The Good Friday Agreement – with Nuala O Connor @RetuningME
Do you remember what you were doing, on the 10th of April 1998 when the Good Friday Agreement was being worked out?
1998 – A Huge Year
1998 was a huge year for me. I lived in a small Religious Community in North Belfast. I was preparing for my Final Profession with the Sisters of Mercy – Northern Province (August 98). I was also just months away from my 30th birthday. I was teaching in a primary school on the Newtownards Road, East Belfast.
The Agreement Took Years
There had been failed attempts over the previous years, I have memories of going to Stormont and standing at a gate on the perimeter of Stormont, on the outskirts of Belfast. I wasn’t alone. One of the sisters in my community was a member of an inter-faith and justice group. She had received a call for help. There was a possibility that the Agreement wasn’t going to get over the line. The Inter-faith community group wanted to mount a prayer presence at this Gate.
So we quickly got into our car and went to this meeting place. We had banners to encourage all those entering and leaving Stormount. We wanted to remind all participants that they were making decisions that would bring peace or disaster to all of us in the North and beyond!
The Way Forward
There was no way back – there was only a way forward. We all prayed in our own way. It didn’t matter whether you were Catholic, Protestant, Greek, Jew, Muslim, Hindu or of no faith background. What mattered was the right decision was made that day – and it was, but not that particular year. It took a couple of years of talks before there finally was an Agreement.
As you know, that event was called the Good Friday Agreement. Next week I hope to travel to Belfast to see a play written by my cousin Owen McCafferty, recounting those historic days – also called ‘The Agreement‘.
An Agreement Doesn’t Take Away Trauma
While The Agreement (Good Friday Agreement) was a key turning point for the people of Northern Ireland. I can’t help but think of the unresolved trauma that many may still have in their cellular memory.
Even though it’s been 25 years since the agreement was officially ratified, I always have to ask the question; how many people still have no peace in their hearts even 25 years on? How many people still live with disharmony and trauma from consequences and fallout of the troubles. Given what I know about energy, stress and trauma, I would think that there are lots of people who have undiagnosed and unresolved Post Traumatic Stress and as a result unresolved grief as well.
My Own Trauma Story
I was born into The Troubles in 1968. I grew up in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh. I remember trying to lessen my trauma load by thinking; Enniskillen wasn’t Belfast, it must have been worse in Belfast! So perhaps my experiences weren’t so bad! I forget that I spent ten years living in Belfast. I have a very vivid memory of walking home from College along the upper Falls Road right into the immediate after math of a fatal shooting of John Hughes, a family barber. That memory will never leave, just like many other memories I have.
Trauma Lodges In Your Energy
Having spent years trying to resolve my own trauma fallout from my lifetime of The Troubles, I have come to a place where I don’t think anyone who lived through the troubles can ever belittle the effects of the trauma, murder and mayhem of all those years.
My family were subjected to constant harassment from the security forces as well as death threats from loyalist groups. I thought it was normal to check under a car before driving it. Our front door was never opened until we spoke through an intercom system to check who was there.
My father was arrested and interrogated at Castlereagh Holding Centre on two different occasions. The first of these was when I was 8/9 years old. That arrest and torture changed our lives as a family, forever. My father took and won a case against the state after that event for brain damage. But it didn’t stop there. He then became a physical aggressor against his own wife and family from this time on.
This is what happened within our house. This in no way encapsulates the effects of the many shootings, bombs and constant harassment that also went on before and after my father won his case.
It was one trauma after another, with events that happened compounding my trauma even though I wasn’t even physically present when they happened.
Past Trauma Is In Your Cells
Each person will have their own unique view of a trauma time, given your history, environment and your education. Just like I have mine. I call this my ‘bias’ because my history shapes my choices and my reality, as does yours shape you.
Over the last number of years thanks to my training and insights, I want my bias to inform my living and decision making rather than control me. This is something I tap on all the time. I believe that once I resolve and retune those past trauma energy blips, I will calm my automatic hyper-vigilant stressed energy state and then I will be more able to live my best and most successful life.
The Grief Energy
Last year I did a bit of online study on grief. The programme I followed was called Shapes of Grief. It was created by Liz Gleeson, a grief therapist. In this programme Liz outlined various Types of grief.
Types of Grief
- Anticipatory Grief – you anticipate the death of a loved one due to their terminal illness or life-style. IN the case of living through the troubles, I would think there were lots of us who genuinely feared that our loved one might not come home from their days work – such was the threat on all sides of the divide.
- Ambiguous Grief – someone is presumed dead, but there is no body. I think here of the disappeared (again on both sides) and wonder does this grief ever end.
- Complicated Grief – your grief gets stuck in time and you can’t seem to integrate the experience over time.
- Compounded Grief – there are multiple losses that pile one on top of the other leaving you unable to separate them in order to grieve. I think most of the people in Northern Ireland who grew up through the Troubles will have had compounded grief. There were so many deaths and trauma events that people had their grief compounded all of the time. even if you didn’t have a personal relationship with the deceased.
- Delayed Grief – you can’t grieve at the time, you have to get on with your life… or shock sets in and you can’t distance yourself enough to grieve. Again I think pretty much all of the residents of the North could fit into this bracket.
- Disenfranchised Grief – the loss you feel isn’t recognised by others. I think this is the key form of grief that many of us have. I’ll talk to this again in this post.
- Traumatic Grief – the person didn’t die of natural causes – they died too young, suddenly and their death was traumatic.
Trauma Leaves A Trail Of Grief
You might see yourself in one or more of the types of grief above. When I think back on my own trauma history of Northern Ireland, I can relate to many of these types of grief. Grief can also be experienced due to loss of your home, your friends who moved away, or can be due to being part of the community who experienced the loss.
I truly believe that every single person who lived through the years of the troubles has a huge grief and trauma legacy in their energy system. Some may have worked on resolving their grief while a lot may have not.
For me, I have many, many experiences that would lead me to say yes, I have compounded grief, trauma grief, delayed grief, disenfranchised grief, anticipatory grief and complicated grief.
Trauma and Grief Cost Me My Childhood
I truly believe I lost my childhood to trauma. I genuinely thought it was normal and natural to always be on the lookout for terror and trouble. I never really felt safe. I was a Catholic girl, growing up in a part of Ireland where I was educated to protect myself and always be on the lookout for threat and danger.
When you live in a state of fear, you will always be hyper-vigilant. This means your stress reaction will be always on. When your stress response is always switched on, other systems in your body will be reduced and in some cases switched off. These include your digestive system, your conscious and logical thinking and your immune system.
Being in an over-stressed state for years and years will take its toll on your health and wellbeing.
One Trauma Memory
On November 7th 1987 I had been away with two bus loads of Beaver Scouts and other Leaders. This was the evening before the Enniskillen bomb. The building where the bomb had been left was used my the Catholic Scout Association for some of their troops. We had departed from and returned to that building on the 7th of November, going about our business as normal.
The Tradition Of Standing At That Building
It wasn’t my tradition to be standing out side that building the next day, as wreaths were placed at the cenotaph to honour those who had given their lives in World War 1 and 2. But it was my tradition to gather at that same building on 17th March each year with my Scout Troop, before parading to and from Mass to have Shamrock blessed, as well as attending Scout meetings in the building.
Two different traditions that were respected in the community. This is probably the reason why every single person in Enniskillen, Fermanagh, and perhaps the world was shook to its core that 8th November on Remembrance Sunday when sheer horror was inflicted on an unsuspecting community who were remembering their dead.
This one aspect of community grief. One that we all experienced whether we were physically standing there on that day, or not. One that took life in a callous way and caused trauma to every single cell of every single person. Not to mention the survivors guilt aspect of it all.
Survivors Guilt, Grief And Trauma.
I think every single person who survived “The Troubles”, has survivors guilt and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. You see I wasn’t there at the cenotaph the day the Enniskillen Bomb went off. But I was in Enniskillen. I was a catholic living in Enniskillen. I had nothing to do with that callous, cowardly and barbaric act, yet I felt so much guilt.
As I said, I wasn’t there the day of the bomb, it will always be etched in my memory. I had friends killed that day and on many other days over my life time.
Getting On With Life After Trauma
Like me, many people had to get on with life after the many atrocities experienced. We do this in spite of what happened.
In 1999, after the Good Friday Agreement, I got diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress and a Post viral Illness State. As part of my recovery, I was moved from Northern Ireland to a community in Southern Ireland. I went through years of therapy for post traumatic stress.
I think everyone who grew up and survived “The Trouble’s” has past trauma in their energy system. Even 25 years on – I know all the programmes on television have definitely re-triggered some of those trauma vibrations that are not yet fully retuned in me.
Your Past Trauma and Grief Shapes Your Present Reality
Your past experiences have shaped you just as mine have shaped me.
I am stating my bias. What is your bias? What has shaped and formed your thinking? Do you need to retune parts of their energy vibration so you can perhaps come to an ‘agreement’ within yourself, which will help you tune to vibrations of peace.
Such agreements are only the beginning. I have chosen to be so honest in this blog purely to honour that every single person will have a bias – and that is okay. I might agree or disagree with the bias of another. That doesn’t mean I have a right to hurt or harm that other individual in any way.
Your Grief And Trauma
I have no doubt that you’re reading this and perhaps there are things in your past, things in your present that have maybe caused you pain, upset, worry anxiety and most of all grief. Everything that happens to you, that has happened to you, shapes you and in-forms your energy vibration. Just as everything in my past has shaped me and in-formed mine. This is my vibrational history.
Even Through Trauma – Choose LIFE
I acknowledge that while there has been a lot of trauma in my life, there’s also a lot of wisdom through that trauma. The words that come to me as I conclude this post are from Christian scripture from the Book of Deuteronomy, chapter 30; verse 19 (New International Version)
19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.
That’s the challenge and the choice for all of us every single day. That’s what I work to help people do – when they get up every single day – to choose life
Trust me, that has not been an easy journey for me all of the time. But in spite my past and even because of all of my past, every single day I get up and I choose life.
Choose Life – Every Single Day
This week, after the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, choose life that you and your vibrations may live your best life. You are here to live your best life inspite of and inspired by all your experiences. That’s why you’re on this earth that’s why we’re all on this earth. If we have been lucky enough to survive our past, regardless of what is in it, we have an obligation to live our best lives.
Retune Your Trauma – By Choosing Life
Maybe you need to visit a good friend, do some tapping, some walking, … do something that will help you invest in yourself because you are worth it.
Choose life, every single morning when you wake. Choose life with every single breath that you take so you and all of your vibrational energy can vibrate at your highest frequency of wellness and that is your greatest success.
As I Conclude
As I conclude this post, I would like to honour all those who lost their lives through the years of conflict on this small little Island of Ireland – north or south. I pray that everyone will respect the gift of life as pure gift and peace and healing become your vibrational core from this time on.
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