The intense emotional pain, grief, and trauma can be overwhelming when you lose your spouse, and the journey towards healing and recovery can feel never-ending. This is where Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy comes in, as it has proven to be a valuable tool in helping widowers to overcome the trauma of loss and grief.
EMDR therapy is a form of psychotherapy that has been extensively researched and proven effective in the treatment of trauma, anxiety, and depression. It involves the use of side to side horizontal eye movements or other forms of bilateral stimulation to help a person reprocess traumatic memories and emotions in a safe and controlled environment.
When faced with a traumatic event, and later traumatic recall and feelings that are just as real and present as when faced in real-time, the amygdala activates into one of several responses. As a widower, you might recall the trauma of experiencing the one you love dying in your arms, taking that last breath together, or countless other times of stress through the loss and grief process. There are responses as a result. For some, it can be Flight, running away from the trauma and diving into “busyness”. For others it can be Freeze, curling up in the fetal position and crying in your room alone.
For others, it can be Fight, and in certain instances, this can be constructive. I see this as the basis for how and why EMDR works. Neuroscience studies have shown that when threatened, if instead of running away or playing possum, instead we move towards the threat (as long as it won’t kill us), taking a couple of steps forwards in the face of danger we can actually overcome the fear.
When it comes to trauma, facing the feelings the trauma recalls can create a healing path – activating a portion of the brain responsible for positive, growth and winning mindsets. When we walk forward towards an object, the bilateral eye movements are the main mental cue. and EMDR activates a “face our trauma” portion of the brain. the bilateral eye movements or stimulation is used in the therapy to simulate forward movement towards the trauma.
When it comes to widowers, EMDR therapy can be particularly effective because it provides stimulation which activates this portion of the brain, one which helps us to address and overcome our fears. The therapy helps the individual to directly face and reprocess their thoughts and feelings around the loss, ultimately helping them to find a sense of closure and move forward in their life. During EMDR therapy, the individual is guided by a trained therapist to identify and focus on specific memories or emotions related to their loss. while using bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements or tapping, to help the individual face the trauma head on with a new, fear-overcoming / winning attitude, reprocessing these memories and emotions in a safe and controlled environment.
Through this process, the individual can begin to work through the intense emotions and trauma associated with their loss. They are able to process their feelings in a way that allows them to move forward with their life while still honoring the memory of their loved one.
One of the key benefits of EMDR therapy for widowers is that it provides a safe space for them to process their grief and trauma without feeling judged or criticized. The therapy is client-centered, which means that the individual is in control of their own healing journey, and the therapist provides a supportive and non-judgmental environment to facilitate that healing.
In addition, EMDR therapy is typically shorter-term than other forms of therapy, with some individuals experiencing significant improvements in just a few sessions. This is especially important for widowers who may be struggling with new responsibilities, financial burdens and logistical challenges that make it difficult to attend long-term therapy sessions.
Outside of the therapists office, as a similar form of healing, I leveraged long walks in nature to accomplish similar results. Using the walks and active recall of the traumatic events to overcome my negative feelings and activate transcendent, positive pathways,
In conclusion, EMDR therapy can be a valuable tool in helping widowers to overcome the trauma of loss and grief. It helps transcend trauma by activating positive pathways, providing a safe and supportive environment for individuals to reprocess their thoughts and emotions, ultimately leading to a greater sense of closure and healing.
If you or someone you know is struggling with the loss of a spouse, EMDR therapy may be an effective treatment option to consider and discuss with your mental health professional.
Developed in collaboration with ChatGPT and Midjourney