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Trauma: our reality is tainted, our trust is shattered, and our emotions are unpredictable. Carol Caddes

June 2, 2016, just before 11:00 in the morning, my world was shattered into a trillion tiny shards.  I was slammed out of the stratosphere.  Past the moon.  Past the stars.  My whole world as I had known it for well over fifty years changed within a nano second.  My husband's heart was stopped by an intruder who surreptitiously slipped into our lives, unannounced with only evil on its mind.  Surrounded by white painted irises, my husband fought valiantly to the last possible second to protect his family from not only this intruder but from others who had cruelly harassed him with lies and deception over a concerted three year period.  

The aftermath and emotional shredding after this unfathomable happening was horrendous.  With trusted friends and some family members I was encouraged to move forward.  But how does one pick up and move forward from such an incomprehensible and traumatic assault, an assault that stopped my thinking process full stop?  Dead in its tracks.  No sounds were heard or understood.  No thoughts comprehended or mastered.  I was a walking, talking, empty shell.

It was only months later that I could begin to process and understand what had happened to my soulmate who had magnanimously protected and watched not only my back but also members of both his family and my family.  He was always there.  Never not.  Solid, upright, dependable and loyal.

From readings, when I could eventually read again, I learned from Carol Caddes that "the greater the trauma the more impact on the neurological function of the brain.  The brain is clever - it protects itself from overload by cutting off parts of the brain. Thus the imprints of the trauma are organized as fragments-sensory and emotional traces that don't make sense.  Yet the mind seeks wholeness.  Healing from trauma consists of reactivating the brain, reconnecting the disconnected parts and making the unconscious.  One way to do that is through making art."  How true.

A new studio was cobbled together by friends.  Paints gathered.  Canvases found.  A CD "music machine" installed.

Previously, when I worked in my old studio I only painted while listening to music.  Music allowed my ideas and brushstrokes to flow, to find the rhythm, the pulse of my expression.  Yet, for six months after the traumatic loss I tried to listen to music, even the softest, the gentlest of notes, but my mind would not connect, would not accept the sounds.  The notes were flat, blank, a white hard form that rejected colour.  Now, I would pick up the paint brush and move my arm around in the air trying to find the throb, the vibrations, anything.  But nothing was there.  The vessel was bare.  Empty.

Over time, without music I dipped the brush into paint and made a mark on a canvas.  Then another.  Soon repetitive marks filled the canvas.  The paint brush in my hand felt as before, good. 

I found two selections of music that my mind tolerated, Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony and Elvis Presley singing Buffy Sainte-Marie's Until its time for you to go.  Light, movement and colour ebbed it's way back into my existence.  The words, "I retreat to my gardens" which I had printed on a wall of my old studio, surfaced.

I entered my gardens.  With Lao Tzu's words, Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage," clearly echoing in my mind I started to paint again.  I was transported forward towards becoming whole by connecting and tying the drifting fragments of self with threads of shapes, forms, music, writings, poetry and colour.  The series I Rise Up is testament to art as a healing tool following the horror of a traumatic experience that radically shifted my life. 


Carol Caddes is a therapist who lives in Newport, California and is associated with the non-profit organization, A Window Between Worlds which facilitates art workshops as a healing tool in a safe and creative manner.  Her words in this writing were given with her permission.