EFT for Grief: Rest in Peace
Dear EFT Community,
In this moving account, expert EFT practitioner Sherrie Rice Smith tells how she used EFT to help her deal with the grief over the passing of loved ones.
By Sherrie Rice Smith, RN, EFT-EXP
Karen Marie Rice
25 June 1960–29 November 1961
William Gregg Rice, Esq.
26 September 1961–28 August 2010
July is here with all its impending nostalgic glory, or pain, depending on one’s point of view. For me, glory because I’ve been healed of my emotional pain, pain because I had to lose two of my “babies” to get here.
Tonight, as I took a walk in the cool of a beautiful Wisconsin evening, I once again slipped back into the part of me where I once lived. Oh, not entirely back, just a short distance back into that pain, or guilt, that I often identify as almost survivor’s guilt. This has to smack a bit of what our military personnel feel like when one of them loses an entire platoon, leaving the one left behind devastated emotionally, pondering the question of “Why not me?”
That question once again reared its ugly head and a few tears slid down my cheeks, as I just gently, one more time, tapped away the heart pain I feel when I again realize that I had to lose two of my younger siblings in order to find myself right here, right now, in a place I never imagined I would be, if I dreamed a 1000 years. Never could I have thought this world I now find myself in would ever have emerged out of that muck and mire.
Karen died of biliary atresia at 17 months of age; Bill was 2 months old when she passed; I was age 8. My entire life up until 3 years ago was run purely on the leftovers and buried emotions around Karen’s death. One day she was alive when I left for school and by evening I was being told by family friends she was gone. Gone? Oh, I was told shortly after she was born that she was going to die, but what did that mean to a 7-year-old? Absolutely nothing. I loved that baby as my own. I bathed her, I fed her, I changed her diapers, and I even stayed up for a few hours at night with her when I saw, as a 7-year-old, the complete exhaustion in my mom’s eyes. I would send Mom back to bed and deal with fussy, sick Karen on my own. No one could put her to sleep as quickly as I could. It was my 7-year-old claim to fame, one of the few things Mom ever gave me kudos for.
My total memory of Karen’s funeral consists of my aunt hauling me out of church because I was wailing so hard about “my baby being in that white box.”
My aunt’s words to me were “You’re making a scene.” There is a short snippet of the trip to the cemetery, a comment I made about a classmate living across the street from that cemetery. That is where the memories stop; that is the sum total of Karen death memories. There are no more. Karen was never spoken of again in our household that I remember. She disappeared forever. My baby simply vanished in that small white box.
I slipped into depression, my first, 9 years later, in nursing school when I got to my pediatric rotation. I finally was able to ascertain exactly what Karen died from. No one at home knew. And, if they did, they certainly weren’t sharing it with me. I always felt I was in the dark. No one told me anything. No one told me Karen was close to death. I blamed myself for not figuring that out at age 8.
For pete’s sake, her crib had been moved into the living room and Grandma Rice was there with us as much as possible. I assume she and Mom traded off sitting with Karen 24/7 for those last days, but why didn’t I figure that out and ask to stay home that morning? Isn’t guilt an interesting emotion? I have another memory, I think, that came out during Matrix Reimprinting around Karen’s death. Perhaps that is a story for another time. I must have buried a million memories.
I lived unknowingly in some numb, unloved, isolated limbo of sorts for most of my life. My heart was hardened. I was always crabby and defensive about everything. I had literally no friends. I functioned in some manner. I grew up in church, so getting into trouble or doing anything that would disappoint my parents or the priests and nuns was completely out of the question. I instinctively knew that would simply make my emotional issues worse by increasing the isolation.
The family always withdrew itself from any member that remotely stepped “out of line.” And so life went on—I guess if you could call it living.
I finished nursing school, found an interesting job or two, left PA for Kentucky, and then eventually moved to Wisconsin. Looking back now, as my adult self, it is amazing that I never delved into alcohol or drugs to salve all that pain, or a series of sexual encounters with a possible subsequent chain of unwanted babies. Somehow, God protected me from doing any of that self-destructive behavior. The self-destruction was contained solely in my own mind of my own making.
I entertained myself by playing those same old recordings over and over again until those neural pathways were thick and heavy. I knew well that song of feeling unloved, unwanted, rejected, guilty, and a litany of every emotion under the sun.
Finally, I found a man who, in my dad’s words, “would put up with” me. We married, his second, my first, later in my life, but that was going downhill because Brad’s issues from childhood were as bad as or worse than mine. We fought nearly constantly. Brad ended up in an early forced retirement, meaning we were together 24/7/365. It wasn’t pretty!
The impact of Karen’s death defined everything—the rest of my childhood and it shaped my adult beliefs, about me and all those around me, and still I never learned the lessons I needed to heal. Oh, I went to counseling several times, the latest was during my second depression a couple of years before Brad and I married. I even wrote my parents a long letter at the behest of the counselor about everything in my life, hoping that would heal parts of me. That didn’t go well either.
God allowed a perfect storm of sorts to simply brew. I had never recovered emotionally from Karen’s death’s, my marriage was failing miserably, I was horribly overweight, I hated myself and my life, and all of it was beginning to take a physical toll on me. It was taking a toll on my younger brother, Joe, too, the next in line to me who was an extremely brittle diabetic who’d already had colon cancer 5 or so years previously. We had no tools to help us heal. The toolbox was totally empty. We hadn’t learned a thing about coping emotionally in life.
August 9, 2008, struck. I sensed it had the potential to be the worst day of my pathetic life. Now, the pain really began; however, unbeknownst to me, this time this pain would lead to real healing and real tangible change in my life. How I longed for that!
The story is too long to tell here, so I will shorten it. I see how it all played out like it was yesterday in my mind’s eye. I was sitting at my computer, much like I’m doing right now, when the phone rang. I answered it, excited, as it was Bill, my youngest of the two brothers, an attorney, who rarely calls because he works 14–16 hours a day, and when home, spends the time with his wife and four young daughters. He lives 1200 miles from me.
We exchanged pleasantries, and then he got right to the point. “What did Grandma die from?” Bill asked. I’m a nurse. I knew something was terribly wrong. “Why, is your blood work screwed up?” I asked. I knew I had just heard some horrible news because that intuitive part of me said so and at times it seemed to be the only thing alive inside of me. The answer near killed me on the spot. “Yes,” he replied. My heart fell out of my chest, drove itself through the computer room floor, and splatted into a million pieces on the basement concrete.
My poor broken heart, dead over the death of a sister I had never recovered from, dead over the parental relationships I’d never had, dead because nothing I could do helped me lose weight no matter how hard I tried or what I did to accomplish it, dead because my only chance, or so I thought of happiness with Brad, was dying, too—that heart was simply now splintered. My heart of hearts knew he wouldn’t live through what came to be a diagnosis of ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia), the childhood leukemia that is curable about 97% in kids, but has only about a 35% cure rate in adults with all modalities of treatment, including a stem cell transplant.
I found out later only 1000 cases of adult ALL are diagnosed yearly in the US. Yes, Bill snagged himself a bad one—it completely destroyed his DNA, the core of wellness in his body. His coping skills, too, didn’t help him at all either. Were all six of us siblings doomed? I began to assume so.
A tortured 2 years and 2 weeks began its course right then and there. I spent about 6–7 weeks total of his illness with him, nursing him, caring for him, and just generally repeating what I did as an 8-year-old for baby sister Karen. History was repeating itself in a horrendous way. Bill’s family lived 3 hours away from the medical center, so his wife couldn’t be with him and still care for 4 children. My mom was well into her seventh decade of life and I didn’t think it fair for her to have to care for another probably dying child.
Once through was enough for anyone. As the R.N. in the family, this was my job. And so I did it.
Those are the memories I cherish. Bill and I spent much time alone, reacquainting, reminiscing, Bill remembering childhood memories I had long forgotten, or buried, laughing and goofing off our way through days on end at the hospital, and me just holding him, literally, as procedures such as PICC lines were inserted, the procedures that brought home to both of us the inevitability and reality that all of this was really happening to him. The tears begin anew as I type this. Today they break quickly and easily under my tapping fingers.
Then I had no defense. I just plodded on day after day, filled with worry and fear, wondering when the final phone call would come.
The stem cell transplant held for a few months, and then the leukemia came roaring back with all its fury. I made 3 long trips east during this time. Brad was wonderful to me through it all. He simply allowed me to do what I had to do. The last trip with Bill alive was 3 years ago this month. He simply refused to give up. No one wants to give up when all treatment options are gone, but I couldn’t seem to make him understand the need for hospice (and I promised him if he wanted home hospice, we would do that—I would stand with him every moment).
He simply wouldn’t sign the DNR, making the doctors continue every treatment option right until the end. Perhaps, another piece of my guilt was, I couldn’t take much more. I had little help, except for Mother, in caring for him, and she had my dad to take care of back home, 6 hours away. Everyone else had families to care for. I’d call, asking for some relief from my sisters. Return phone calls never came—they couldn’t deal with the illness either. I just kept going, somehow by God’s grace.
The last 2 weeks of Bill’s life, and, of course, I didn’t know it was the last 2 weeks; I finally just went home to Wisconsin, telling Bill good-bye for what I now know was the last time I saw him alive.
Within 3 days, the crisis came. Mom had to deal with him. She phoned me and I made phone calls for her to get her the help she needed to make decisions for him. Bill was readmitted to Hackensack University Medical Center where he stayed until 36 hours before he died when he was moved to a hospice facility. I was no longer there with him. No one could make any decisions, as I could well understand. To this day, I have no idea who finally put him in hospice where he should have been all along.
I knew I had to grieve. I always told patients’ families, “You grieve now or you grieve later, and later is usually worse.” I took my own advice. Amidst that grief I learned about EFT. I downloaded the EFTUniverse mini-manual, devoured it, tried it, got a couple one-minute miracles, and I was hooked! I knew it was my last chance at healing, or I was next to follow Bill to the grave. I lived with 6 months of the world’s worst chest pain. No doctor was going to fix the pain.
My heart was simply broken. Other people died of lesser issues than this.
I took Dawson Church's Minneapolis EFTUniverse classes Levels 1 & 2 the following April, and the rest is history. I quickly did my EFT-INT certification, and began working on my EFT-EXP certification soon thereafter, tapping with anyone I could find, and all the while tapping furiously on my own stuff, never realizing how much there really was that needed to move. I solicited Irene Baum, EFT-INT, in Milwaukee, to help me. I have no idea how I would have done it without her! I sit here today a candidate trainer for EFTUniverse, amazed and emotionally healthy.
And I mean emotionally healthy, complete, peaceful, the chatter of my previous life gone from my subconscious, free at last, our marriage mostly healed (we’re married, remember, we still have “words” some days!), thanks to Kim Eisen, EFT-INT, in Minneapolis, who tapped with Brad, discharging his hate for his abusive, now dead parents.
Not having dealt with Karen’s death, it simply led from one thing to another. That early cognitive learning just compounded itself event upon event until I lived in an overwhelmed state of emotional turmoil. I have with tapping pulled out two events/memories from when I as 18 months old that I know shaped everything from that moment on. They were awful memories. It was no wonder I could barely function in life.
Without sounding non-empathic, I want to encourage anyone reading this that no matter what your issues, no matter how long you have endured them, no matter how painful, no matter anything, persevere through them. I’m here to tell you that you can heal. EFT will work. Do not give up hope; just keep tapping every minute you have to spare. TAP! And find a certified EFT practitioner from the list on this website to help you, if you feel stuck or you feel you cannot go on. Call someone. Reach out. Save your life.
If I can do it with childhood PTSD abuse stemming from at least 18 months of age on, so can you!
Today, I stand here, with a tiny bit of sadness remaining, knowing I’m so very alive and Bill and Karen are so very dead. But the realization dawned on me, causing some tears, that I cared for them all of their lives, at least Karen’s short 17 months of life, and Bill at the beginning, as he was 9 years younger than I, and again at the end when he needed someone to care for his every need. I have no regrets at all about the time I gave both of them. It was my pleasure to do it. The sad pain comes in knowing that in their deaths they returned the favor and cared for me.
It was their deaths that was instrumental in my healing, my rebirth of sorts, by the grace of God, through EFT. My new life now begins, as I open this chapter in continuing to serve humankind, as God so deems, through the healing mechanism of Emotional Freedom Techniques. I have to make Bill and Karen proud and allow them to see that their early deaths were not in vain.
It all served a much higher purpose than any of us could have ever imagined. I stand amazed.