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How I Used Neuroscience, Gut Intelligence & Old Fashioned Community Connection to Build a Beautiful Life After Tragic Loss.

 

There are two areas of my life that have caused great suffering. Fibromyalgia and the death of my only child. 

I thought I knew pain already but nothing prepared me for the physical and emotional experience of traumatic grief and the PTSD that couples with it. 

My natural instinct is to find answers, I've always been that way. In my youth, I was a curious girl. As an adult I have a dedicated stubborn resolve to find answers and developed an ability to keep pushing forward after others slam doors shut.  


I never accepted the idea that I would always hurt, that losing a child resulted in life long suffering or that there was nothing to be done for the extreme pain, fatigue or migraines that fibromyalgia and grief delivered. 

There must be different answers, pieces to the puzzle that haven't yet been connected... or even found. 

I made it my life's work to discover answers, no matter how unlikely. No matter how many professionals told me there was nothing else to be done. Eventually, I found a way and that's what I want to share with you. 

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Kitty's Journey

 

I've lived with physical and emotional pain for most of my adult life. Life has a way of sometimes getting even harder and in 2008, it did for me. 

My son Tristan was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia. Rather than being home together for Christmas after a successful treatment, as was suggested by the oncology team, I went home alone and planned his funeral. 

It was a devastating time. I asked for help and got access to what was available but it was not enough. 

The doctor prescribed pharmaceuticals. The therapist kept asking how I was doing (awful). The psychiatrist had me fill in paperwork every session to determine whether or not I was suicidal. 

Not one of them provided actionable advice for how to reduce the emotional pain, how to find purpose, how to plan my life without my son or how to share my child's story.

I even went to the local bereaved parents support group thinking there must be answers there. Instead I was further traumatized by the stories shared every week by the other parents. Not only did I carried my pain, I now knew theirs as well. 

This system provided no actionable answers. I needed skills and tools that would improve my emotional and physical response to this pain and suffering. My research lead me to a new system, one that worked for me and hopefully others. 

"It was impossible to accept that I would always be broken, that there was a life of only suffering ahead. 

In researching unlikely places; productivity, neuroscience, gut intelligence and personal development, I found answers.

I found freedom from pain. I discovered my beautiful life."

-Kitty Howard
 

The Major Problems I Overcame

I began by separating the different areas of my grief. There were sleep disturbances including too much sleep, nights of insomnia and nightmares. That was one area. Creating a bedtime routine, incorporating sleep hygiene practices and reducing alcohol brought peaceful sleep. 

Depression was another area. I learned that I wasn't clinically depressed, I was naturally grieving. Depression is a mental health disorder. Grief is not a medical disease, it's a natural human response to loss.

While researching I learned that processed foods including starches, carbohydrates, chemical preservatives and sweeteners can increase symptoms of depression and anxiety. Whole, organic produce and clean, well-farmed proteins can improve symptoms. There is actually a gut biome test that identifies what you should and should not be eating for your personal optimized health. 


Mental focus and cognitive functions were reduced. Although a natural response to grief and trauma, both can be improved through specific nutrition and a mindfulness practise that is more like watching Netflix than struggling to find silence.

Recurring flashbacks terrorized me during the day. My doctors didn't share the simple 3-Step method I discovered. Within a month of beginning the new practise they stopped, after years of suffering. 

Was I still a mother? I didn't know how to define myself. My role and how I spent my days changed completely. By asking the question, "Who am I now?" I realized I could be anyone, any version of myself I wanted. Brave, alive, successful. And I could be happy. 

It was then I thought back over my life and remembered the type of person I had wanted to grow into. Writing out a list of all the goals I'd dreamed of as a child gave me the insight to how I would live my life. Here I found my new purpose. 

Having lived my greatest fear, the death of my child, there was nothing left to be afraid of. This is a choice; to be afraid of everything or nothing. Bravery takes work, just ask Brene Brown. There is a vivid freedom in stepping into one's self fully. It took some convincing to believe it and let go of old ways. 

Productivity training earned me the skills to put the new decisions and practises into action. I reduced my time with things that weren't helping my bottom line of purpose and happiness while I prioritized the things that did bring positive change. 

Nothing was by chance. Everything had to be learned.

Making these positive changes in my life transformed a desperate, heartbroken mother into a happy human who has lived many of my dreams fully. What I am most proud of is being able to help others learn how to survive life's tragedies. 

 

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In 2019 I co-hosted the first Honor Your Loss retreat. One attendee shared openly that she was deeply depressed, had lost any sense of purpose and was actively suicidal.

If by the end of the retreat she had not discovered a new reason to live, she would return home to begin to put her affairs in order. 

After a sleepless night of praying for an emergency answer to her pain, I was given a streamline version of the lessons I'd learned through years of struggle. The next morning I conducted a writing assignment. 

These were the rules. No one could talk. I would ask one question and they would write down the answer that God, the Universe or their own subconscious provided. Once all pens were down, the next question would be asked. There were twelve questions in total. 

Once complete, everyone shared their answers. These answers became their personal roadmap to follow to their future. The attendee I mentioned did go home to put her house in order but not to end her life. She had discovered her new purpose and set forth to live fully and follow her dreams. 

-Kitty Howard
 
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Life is still worth living

Honor Your Loss. Honor Your Life.

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