As we shift from summer to fall each year I can feel November approaching with weight and a stirring of restlessness. The weight of longer nights and dark skies, cooler air and a deep craving for sun-kissed skin to return already. This time of year marks the anniversary of losing my mother so many years ago. Some years are so filled with joy and so full of life that I barely sense the dark recesses of those memories. Other years they are more present, and I have to tend to them with a gentle hand and clear intentions.

What strikes me the most is that the experience of losing my mother was so completely mirrored between my internal feelings and the dark approach of the season – beautiful and crisp, inescapably real and oppressive. We lost her at a time when the entire earth went to sleep … leaves down, decay, lack of color, lack of life. So much less sunshine. These feelings still weigh on me at times because though I have healed deeply, this dark recess still has a tiny trail to it inside my mind, one I have to tend to with great compassion and kindness.

We know that the more we travel down a memory or a thought pattern, the deeper the gouge, the more readied the trail. This is one of the beautiful tenets of gestalt – to reshape our thinking and feeling of something that has the power to haunt us so that it takes on new meaning, and we are able to take on new ways of perceiving it. Healing through gestalt allows for incredible transformation so that we are no longer locked inside the prison of our past.

I can still remember the reality that surrounded my life all those years ago, but they don’t quite undo me like they used to. They show up more like whispers, and I can honor the memories now without living inside of them. There was something deeply feral about that time in my life, and I realize now that I grew almost comfortable in this kind of discomfort, that I grew to understand survival – how it ties into basic needs and safety, a sense of hyper-vigilance to the world, and for me, a complete inability to feed myself.

Healing doesn’t mean that pain is no longer part of us. I can still feel the pull sometimes this time of year, a calling of some sort to travel back into that very dark and lonely feeling, a time I felt like my whole life and being were held together by a tiny spiderweb, suspended above nothingness. For months we spent long days at the hospital, oddly happy that at least we were together even though the reality of the situation was becoming clear and grim. At least we got to leave at the end of the day, the tug at my core leaving her behind each night, how badly I craved to stay and sleep at her side.

The dark nights in the farmhouse we grew up in became more challenging as time went on, how strange the house felt without her in it, the core of our home not there to fill it with laughter, the kitchen cold and empty. The restless nights I would wake up and press my face to the cold window panes for relief, or sneak downstairs for a sip of vodka and to sleep on the floor with the dogs, that one warm spot above the furnace where the slate tiles were always warm. A dark time that will always be a part of me, one I have to tend to carefully so that I can honor these memories without letting them stubbornly move back in.

A friend once told me, “Once a trauma has taken place in life we can never live like it didn’t.” We must still tend to the mind, body and heart with care and diligence to potential triggers. Healing helps us reshape and move forward. It is a continuum, not necessarily a destination.

As November approached this year I also realized how many celebrations have coincided with this sometimes challenging month. Two years ago I incorporated my LLC for Seahorse Healing, a part of my life that is beyond dear to my heart. Two years ago I also went to meet a horse named Magic, and two short weeks later I brought him home to Wisconsin. These huge milestones could have occurred any time of the year, but they happened to coincide with a time of year that can sometimes entice me back into the shadows of my mind. Perhaps it’s because over the years I have healed and grown.

Perhaps it’s because I take the time to talk out loud to those who have passed before me – my mother, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, my father-in-law. Sometimes it feels as though something so much greater than me heard my cry, primal and desperate, a cry to change the tide of this season. And sometimes it feels more simple than that, like I went inward so deeply to heal that I came out the other side asking for what my soul was brought here for – a softening of the pain, a path towards inner peace and wholeness, one that allows others the very same. 

What I know for sure is that Magic is a gift from beyond. That opening my heart and mind to dreams bigger than my wildest imagination has allowed me to move towards joy in a way I hadn’t in a very long time. I still honor the waves as they come in November. I honor them, say thank you, and stand as best I can in celebration for what more has come to my shore.