Healing Trauma at the Beach


My son looking for rocks at Pineview Reservoir

This morning my husband, son, and I went for a bike ride down to the lake. When we got there we parked at the beach and enjoyed the first day of sunshine we've had in two weeks (at least!). My son took his socks and shoes off, waded in the water and searched for pretty rocks. He brought them to me, one by one, to show me the pretty colors and get my opinion on if they were worth keeping or not.


I was struck by this moment from the very first rock he brought to me. The rocks were varied in color from green, pink, purple, black, and white. And every single one was beautiful. But the joy in his face as he brought each one for me to inspect reminded me of how a toddler’s face lights up when they put a rock, flower, pine cone, tuft of grass, whatever it may be, into Mom’s hand to see her face light up too. They want to know if Mom and Dad will be just as excited as they were at their find.


My son is sixteen. I’ve written about his special needs on this blog in the past, but have been silent on the subject for some time. For the past year and a half I’ve been studying brain science in the hopes of discovering ways to help him create new pathways in his brain so he doesn’t have to live with extreme anxiety and anger forever. And it’s possible. With very simple exercises that I don’t necessarily have to explain to him, he can create those pathways. But he needs people to help him do it. He needs his community to help him.


I’ve thought, planned, considered, worried, stressed, prayed, and thought some more about how to accomplish this. How to get more people involved in doing these simple exercises and I thought I had found a direction until this morning, before our bike ride, when I experienced anxiety over asking my son to take a shower.


I thought I was getting beyond these moments. My son hasn’t lived at home for a year now. When we first moved him to the group home and came home to visit, it was always tense. But things got better. However, my brain had developed a fight, flight or freeze response to certain situations and I would experience anxiety whenever I perceived one of those situations might arise when our son was home. So I started using what I’ve been learning about brain science on myself and saw improvement, which was encouraging since I want to use these same techniques on my son.


However, this morning when I had to ask my son to take a shower, the anxiety returned and I felt like a failure. I thought I’d moved past this part, I’d made plans to start doing the exercises with my son this weekend and now here I was, stuck in