Grief, Healing, Trauma, Trauma recovery

To Everything There is a Season

Week after week of therapy sessions. Each hour supporting healing through writing. Page after page revealing in words both pain and joy, sorrow and solace. All the while surrounded by loving writing professionals delivering suggestions with more care than critique. Revision after revision after revision accumulating into hundreds of rewrites leading to now. Filling my heart with a cascade of emotions.

With gratitude to God and to all the healers in this splintered world of ours, I officially announce the birth of my book. A Time to Mourn & A Time to Dance: A Love Story of Grief, Trauma, Healing & Faith is now available for preorder through Chalice Press at https://chalicepress.com/collections/coming-soon/products/a-time-to-mourn-a-time-to-dance.

Book Cover
Domestic Violence, Healing, Liturgy, Trauma, Trauma recovery

Litany of Mercy for the Ceasing and Healing of Domestic Violence

A litany is a series of prayer requests to God typically made by a worship leader. These requests are called petitions. The people gathered for worship respond to the offered petitions with a repeated refrain. In this litany the refrain is the ancient liturgical prayer Kyrie eleison. This litany is offered as we begin October and Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Women in posture of pain and protection.

The Leader begins.

We pray to you, oh God,

LORD, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy for the people in our prayers.

God, we pray this day for those people living with any form of past, present, or ongoing violence,

Stop the violence,

Lead all people to safety,

Provide all who suffer with healing balm.

We pray to you, oh God,

LORD, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy for the people in our prayers.

For those people among us now, in our immediate environment, our church, our neighborhood, or community who today live with the ongoing pain, fear, perpetuated trauma, and victimization of domestic violence,

Give these people the inner strength to survive,

Help them protest without being hurt,

Send them help NOW,

Keep them alive in body, heart, soul, and mind.

We pray to you, oh God,

LORD, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy for the people in our prayers.

For all survivors of domestic violence in all its evil forms living throughout the world,

Settle their nervous systems,

Calm their bodies’ racing chemicals,

Make room within their hearts, bodies, souls, and minds for healing.

We pray to you, oh God,

LORD, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy for the people in our prayers.

For all domestic violence helpers and healers such as mental health clinicians, domestic violence shelter workers, hotline volunteers, trauma-informed body healers and therapists, givers of monetary donations, police personnel, teachers, emergency medical technicians, medical doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains, pastors, researchers, and all others who provide aid, safety, and healing,

Help these helpers, healers, and those for whom we have not named to do no harm,

Send them courage, strength, and your power to both stop the violence and support the healing process of others,

Remind them to care for themselves each day so that they can fully care for others.

We pray to you, oh God,

LORD, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy for the people in our prayers.

For all people, including ourselves, who know or suspect current occurrences of domestic violence and do nothing,

Open our voices,

Project our words,

Turn our words into protests,

Pivot our protests into necessary actions.

We pray to you, oh God,

LORD, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy for the people in our prayers.

For all communities in Christ gathered around you God in Water, Word, and Meal,

Build true sanctuary within church walls for all victims and survivors of domestic violence,

Create within these walls environments for healing,

Ask all of us as Christians to participate in our own healing so we in turn provide healing for others.

We pray to you, oh God,

LORD, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy for the people in our prayers.

LORD, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy for the people in our prayers.

LORD, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy for the people in our prayers. Amen.

This prayer was first given to God on October 14, 2020 during chapel at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. My thanks go to Dr. Beverly Wallace for giving her students space for creative voice.

As with all liturgy, this litany has a life of its own. The words printed here will shift and change. Some will stay. Others will go. The litany, as is, is just a beginning. It changes to voice the needs of each context. If you use this litany in any form I ask that you attribute the work to me even if you add or modify the work. The attribution may look like: “Our litany today is based on a litany written by Jennifer Ohman-Rodriguez.” Please also let me know you are using it. Thank you.

Image by Diana Cibotari from Pixabay

Grief, Trauma, Trauma recovery

August Counting

Every year on this day when families return from vacation full of just made memories, begin readying for the school year ahead, every year at this time I count the dead. Because right about now, five years ago, we came home from vacation without one of us forever. And there was no getting ready for the start of school for any of us. There was only a funeral to plan, a death to make sense of, and life to figure out. So today I count and if possible name the dead ones. Those who in the past twelve months lost their lives in the Wisconsin River. Those who innocently were fishing, wading, or boating. Those who in trying to save the lives of others, lost their own in this treacherous river. This river with a killing history exacerbated by an ongoing sinful lack of warning signs and a state refusing to allow survivors to challenge existing laws.

Lynda Mueller, 58

Parker Kruse, 22

Unnamed man

James Dolphin, 62

And I remember Anthony D. Rodriguez who did not come home with us after the Wisconsin River took him on August 13, 2016.

Still.

Faith, Grief, Love

STUFF

Last week I dropped off another load of stuff. Made a donation of sorts to an organization assisting people in need. My stuff helps make their programs happen. I’ve been doing this kind off-loading a lot lately as I forage through item after item in our home looking to toss, keep, or give away.

Of course each item is infused with memories. As I throw out a broken Tonka truck I hear the traffic sounds my young sons once made years ago. As I load up a box with books I remember my beloved career in early care and education. As I sort through old picture frames I remember life as it once was and is no longer. Our stuff holds memories just as the walls of our homes and churches seem to do. As if these inanimate objects and structures infuse our lives with living breath. Memories however are not alive. Yet they are within us functioning as internal containers of the past, ones full of emotions. Some memories, wonderful and loving. Others reminding us of past tragedies, regrets, and unfulfilled dreams.

In December of 1995 I said goodbye to a room full of three, four, and five year old children and their parents and guardians. Most of these families were immigrants. Some from Palestine and more from Mexico. Many families were in Chicago illegally having fled war, hunger, and disease. Even the three year old children showed visible signs of where they came from: Large crusted scars from untreated pinworm, PTSD from witnessing violence, and visceral memories of being hungry. Saying goodbye to these children was painful. I loved them and they me.

Through tears during one last circle time I reached my hands and arms out wide as if holding them all. Then I gathered the air in bringing unseen molecules toward me. My hands resting on my heart as my words spoke my truth: “I will always be in your hearts and you will always be in mine.”

And I have. Held them in my heart for almost twenty-seven years. Their faces, laughs, smiles, and tears rest within me. Surrounded by circles of hope. Well wishes for them and our shared world as prayer for something greater than we can imagine.

My heart, your heart, all hearts expand, make room, welcome. So that when the mementos break, disintegrate, take up too much space, or our beloved church decides to change, combine, or close, then we have what lives on in our hearts, souls, and minds. And we can remember that’s where God lives as well. In us, wherever we go and whatever we do. Always finding new life when what lives in us meets what lives in others. Reminding us that it is not the stuff stored in our closets or the beloved physical places holding our lives. It’s the relationships we grow with God, ourselves, and others.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Grief, Healing meditation, Trauma recovery

OUT

Psalm 130

“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
    Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
    to the voice of my supplications!

 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
    Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
    so that you may be revered.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
    and in God’s word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
    more than those who watch for the morning,
    more than those who watch for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
    For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
    and with the Lord is great power to redeem.

It is the Lord  who will redeem Israel
    from all its iniquities.” ( NRSV)

Reflection

Psalm 130 belongs to a group of psalms called “the ascent psalms.” Psalms sung as pilgrims made long journeys to the temple in ancient Jerusalem. Once at the temple, weary  after walking so far, pilgrims may have chanted these words while climbing the many steps leading into the temple. Bodies moving with lament and hope. Arms reaching for God and God’s redemption.

Ascent. A word associated with goodness. We think and speak of going up or moving forward as the best way. Moving downward, not as acceptable or desirable. As in God is up not down. Up in heaven not down here on earth. Not deeper down in the pits of our despair and pain.

Up, down, ascent, or descent are neither good nor bad movements. All movements depend on context. In the context of pain and despair we often move away from God. We turn away from all goodness because we are unable to fathom God moving with us in any direction. 

Yet God always promises to accompany us. God goes with us into every place, including life’s pits. Maybe a better directional word is out. Easing pain moves us out of despair into the experience of joy. Healing uncovers God’s ongoing presence with and in us.

Spiritual Practice: Moving

Read aloud the first two verses of Psalm 130. As you read, reach your arms out in all directions. Reach out and down. Reach out and up. Reach out and to the side.

 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
    Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
    to the voice of my supplications!

Read aloud verses three and four standing or sitting still.

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
    Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
    so that you may be revered.

Read aloud verses five and six while breathing the words in and out. As you breathe listen for God within you and all around you.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
    and in God’s word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
    more than those who watch for the morning,
    more than those who watch for the morning.

As you read aloud verses seven and eight, move as if you are moving toward God’s hope living within you.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
    For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
    and with the Lord is great power to redeem.

 It is the Lord  who will redeem Israel
    from all its iniquities.

Prayer

Ascending and descending God, move your Spirit within and around me. Move me with your energy. Create healing as we dance. Amen.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Healing meditation, Revised Common Lectionary Text, Trauma, Trauma recovery

BR O KEN

“Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;  my eye wastes away from grief,
 my soul and body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my misery,  and my bones waste away. I am the scorn of all my adversaries,  a horror to my neighbors, an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me;  I have passed out of mind like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel.”
Psalm 31:9-12 NRSV

Reflection

Words from my own journey through trauma recovery: I want to lose myself in movie after movie. Curl up in bed, eyes staring at the blank wall. Drink the leftover wine in the fridge until I no longer feel anything. Buy another dress online. Only to send it back again. Move to an island far away from all who know my story. Numb myself in anything taking a layer of pain away. Not even asking for it all to cease. Just shed the top portion of what I endure. Maybe just for an hour. Giving me a break from my broken body. From trauma’s relentless monotony.

Today I decide instead to bake. Satiate my craving for spice cookies. Or maybe just the sugar as temporary antidepressant. But also need some sort of small movement. Like smashing butter, cracking eggs, measuring vanilla, mixing it all together. Watching the separate parts form a whole. Liquid acting like glue. Bringing it all together.  

Movement grows a young child’s brain. Neurons reaching out into strings of pathways. Maybe movement can grow my brain back? My stuck, middle-aged, traumatized brain. Showing it a path out of this muck. By molding ingredients together. Making sticky cookie dough. Mending what is broken.

Healing Practice: Collecting Ideas

Buy a pack of recipe cards. Or note cards. Any size.

Write down one idea for healthy movement or action per card, thoughts nudging you in some way.

One card may say, “jump rope. Another may say, “go dig in the dirt,” or “remember to sketch the big oak tree in the park,” or “paint the office wall marine blue.” Collect these ideas for times when you want to run away from the broken pain playing havoc in your soul.

When next you want to escape, take a deep breath instead. Let it out slowly while you pick out a card. And then try it. Just try it. For five minutes. Maybe longer. Give yourself permission to only make the dough but not bake the bread. Or dig a hole without planting something in it. The point is to move just a little bit toward healing. Toward reconstructing our broken vessels.

Prayer

Send me ideas, God. For healing me. For healing those I love. For my brokenness to slowly fill in with life again. Amen.

© Jennifer Ohman-RodriguezJennifer Ohman-Rodriguez and Jenniferohmanrodriguez.com, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jennifer Ohman-Rodriguez and Jenniferohmanrodriguez.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Image by SEBASTIEN MARTY from Pixabay

Pandemic, Trauma, Trauma recovery

Sitting Lonely, One Year Later

One year ago I wrote this post. At the beginning. Of the unknown. Now one year later the pandemic continues to impact us. Layered upon what has already occured.

With measured step we attempt move out into the world. Yet as some return to what once was, others cannot not because of the lingering after effects of Covid-19 in their bodies. As some plan gatherings, others mourn the loss of those they once gathered with. As some return to the workplace, some have no workplace to return to. As some receive vaccines, some are denied because of poverty and systemic racism. Others live in self-denial.

As the fear of the virus subsides we discover something unexpected. We still sit in loneliness. A new kind of loneliness. Not the loneliness of the beginning or middle. But one which will take time and ongoing healing to mend. This loneliness is the kind born of having endured. Survived. Which would not seem so lonely if others did not pretend that all is once again well.

Embracing this reality of the loneliness of ending, I share again my post, essay entitled “Sitting Lonely.”

How lonely sits the city that once was full of people!
How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations!
She that was a princess among the provinces has become a vassal.

Lamentations 1:1

Walking my normal route. On a Sunday afternoon in early spring. Temperature in the fifties. Slightly overcast with sun flitting in and out. Air smelling of trees swelling into resurrected life. And soil. Soil pining to be planted. So much so I must breathe in its scent as breezes brush against my face.

I see no one. No people. No one out. No children playing on the playground.  No families strolling by pushing baby carriages. No runners. No other walkers.

Cars roll by slowly. No longer in a hurry. But not many cars. Cars resting. Found parked in driveways, garages, and along the streets of my neighborhood. As if it is Thanksgiving or Christmas day. Everyone home on forced holiday.

Back home my son reports the store shelves are bare. He returning from stocking up on a few items—toothbrushes, acetaminophen, milk. Tells me this news as we make a list for my grocery run the next day. Writing down what we really need. What we can do without. Thinking ahead for a future we do not understand and cannot predict.

Like most of my friends, I spend time on the phone with loved ones scattered in other places. Feel a need to connect daily now. Check in. But also to help convince or plan. For my oldest to leave Mexico amidst flight cancellations and possible border closings. For my mother to stay south as long as possible instead of coming home to community spread.

When not on the phone or email or text, check the maps. The ones telling me the latest reports. The ones showing the growing numbers. In between checks trying to study, answer emails, read the latest update from seminary, reschedule my life as meetings, events, and deadlines change hourly. All part of my new job as home manager of crisis’ constant change.

The writer of Lamentations imagines or looks out over an empty Jerusalem. After war’s sieges took lives. Captured prisoners. Enemy conquering, creating new reality. Forcing residents to move far away. Emptying a city. Leaving smoldering bits of a recent past. Only seen by those remaining. A desecrated temple. A destroyed way of life.

The prophet looks out over what once was and is no longer. Allows the scene to enter his body. For woe to fill his heart.With scene in mind, heart, and body, calls it like it is. Words allowing the sharing of sorrow with other mourners. “How lonely sits the city…!”

We live in a new form of exile. Not exile like those escaping war or political persecution or famine. Even a pandemic does not compare to these atrocities. Yet there remains a flavor here of exile now. Of being refugees. Even if our camp is in our own home. We are torn away from loved ones, work, friends, activities, faith communities, and school. Separated from routines, predictability, and calm.

So I sit at my kitchen table. Stare out the window. Watch a dog and its person walk across the field. Track their progress. Become aware of my held breath.

Begin to breathe. First in, then out. Again. Again. Deeper. Fuller. Breath reaching behind tired eyes. Loosening jaws. Unfurling forehead. Finding shoulders through collar bones. Down arms into fingers. Belly filling up. Hips letting go. Breath running down silent legs. Into ankles, toes. Eyes closing. Mind blanking. Body breathing into prayer spilling out.

Be present, God. Here. Everywhere. Make your presence known to all. Heal us with holy breath for this day. And tomorrow. And the days already on their way. Strengthen us. For the work to be done. The decisions to be made. The sacrifices we must make for neighbor and stranger and self. Fuel and refuel us with your Spirit each hour, day, week, month. Grow Spirit’s compassion in us. For each other. Amen.

~~~

Scripture quotation from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

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Healing meditation, Trauma, Trauma recovery

Goodness

“The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good…God saw everything that [God] had made, and indeed, it was very good…” Genesis 1:12; 31 NRSV

Reflection

Healing, a form of creation. Re-covering of our torn parts. Re-solving our mysteries, maladies, aches, behaviors related to trauma’s initial wounding. Re-generating our minds, bodies. Freeing us from cyclical thoughts, emotional triggers, felt sensations, and ongoing replays. Re-newing our hopes and dreams. Re-viving our souls. Re-storing us into life itself through re-juvenation of our inner human fullness. God’s creation re-creating us. Moment by moment. Minute by minute. Healing action by healing action. Re-storing us with goodness.

Healing Practice

List what is good. Name six like the six days God created. Name more if you get on a roll. Or use the ones written here. Speak these small goodness’s aloud.

Today I cried and felt that it is good.

Today I watched the sunrise and saw that it is good.

Today I baked bread and tasted that it is good.

Today I opened the window and smelled that it is good.

Today I called a friend and heard that it is good.

Today I smiled and felt that it is good.

Prayer

God of creative goodness, help me see goodness through my eyes. Help me feel goodness through my skin. Help me hear goodness through my ears. Help me taste goodness through my food. Help me smell goodness through my nose. Amen. 

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Trauma, Trauma recovery

Crying Joy

Tears flow as December sky melts into dusky greys, pinks, and Advent blue. Illuminated within window’s frame. Accompanied by bubbling pots. Air filling with dinner’s smells as soft white lights twinkle on tree, in star, from candles.

I stand in the middle of our kitchen. Stopped by resonating sounds of Pachelbel’s Canon in G Major. Since seventeen knowing every single note of this piece. Phrases allowing my thoughts and sensations space. To fall into shaking, trembling tears. Today, tears filled with joy.

This day at dusk,

~Four years and four months since we lost Tony,

~Four years and four months from when my body filled with cyclical, raging chemicals,

~Four years and four months since I vowed to Tony, God, and myself that we could and would heal,

~Four years and a few months since I began documenting our experience,

~Four years and a few months from my decision to be transparent about the pain of healing grief with trauma,

~Ten months since the last of these life or death bodily chemicals transformed fully into living,

~And in the last ten months of my seminary studies,

My dream of a sharing our story and in doing so continuing Tony’s healing work reaches fruition.

I humbly announce our journey through grief and trauma recovery becomes a forthcoming book to be published by Chalice Press.

And in celebration of healing and dreams, my literary agent Kate Sheehan Roach and I smiled and giggled our way through the contract signing! Knowing this moment, while brief, overflows with days, months, and years. Contract signing.

Advent, Healing meditation, Trauma, Trauma recovery

Advent Mirror

And excerpt from my recent blog post for Faith + Lead.

A young woman hurries. Looks ahead, behind. Scans the surrounding hills. Startles as birds squawk overhead. Tightens her cloak. Covers herself with her arms. 

Something in her body propels her forward. Away from the unknown. Away from the incomprehensible. Away from what feels like possible death. 

In a town she finds the door. She knocks but cannot wait. She enters. Calls out to make sure. Latches the door behind her. Breathes. Someone within the house stirs. Calls out. Approaches. Greeting her with warm words like a loving mother. “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb,” Elizabeth exclaims (Luke 1:42 NRSV).

See the full post by clicking the title below.

Image by Lucian Aeris from Pixabay