Wednesday, January 27, 2010

On PTSD, Therapy, Questioning and PAGL

It's no secret to anyone who reads this blog that I go to therapy. Losing Peyton was really hard on me, not just the trauma of having a sick child, or the trauma of watching her suffer. Not just the trauma of making very tough decisions, or the trauma of watching how they played out. Not just the trauma of losing my child, or the trauma of watching her struggle and die in my arms. All of it. The guilt, the grief, the anger, the questioning, the loss of my sense of self, the PTSD, the depression, the insomnia. All of it came down like a house of cards over the month of Peyton's life, and death, and I feel grateful to have recognized that it was too much for me to do on my own. I am not advocating for therapy, I just know that for me, it was the right decision.

I speak with a woman who deals specifically with traumatic loss and PTSD, and it has really, really helped me. I feel no shame in sharing this because there is no shame in seeking help when you need it, and anyone who makes you feel that there is, probably a) has never walked in your shoes, and b) is not a healing person to have around you at this already difficult time. Honestly. This world that we have been thrust into can feel so big, so impossible to conquer. If there is one thing I am proud of myself for in how I have handled all that has happened (miscarriage, child loss, subsequent infertility) it is that I knew I needed help, and regardless of what I thought people might think, I got it.

Throughout the last year plus, my therapist has brought many little tidbits and techniques to my attention to try out. Some of them are pretty involved, and difficult to explain, but on my last visit she shared a technique with me that I thought might help you too. It is called PAGL, and I am going to give you the Reader's Digest version below.

I read alot of babyloss momma's blogs talking about how tough certain decisions can be to make.

"Should I go visit my child at the cemetery?" 
"Should I not?" 
"Should I try to conceive again?" 
"How do I know if it is the right time?" 
"Should I return to work?" 
"Should I move and start over somewhere else?" 
"Should I continue this friendship with someone who I have known for years but really hasn't been there for me since my loss?" 
"Should I share the news of a new pregnancy?" 
"Should we wait until the baby is here and alive to share the news?"
Etc. Etc. 

You get the point. As if grief weren't messy and difficult enough, it sometimes feels so magnified by the questions that swirl in our heads, especially if there is the added burden of feeling pressure to do what those around you think you should do. Or, what you think they think you should do.

What my therapist shared with me is called The PAGL Technique. It was developed by Dr. Thomas Hora, and I am sure what I know about this technique is very basic, but if you go and google it, you can get more in depth information.

PAGL stands for Peace Assurance Gratitude Love.

Basically, the way it was explained to me, is that PAGL is a way to pray on each of these issues and come to a decision that is right for you. When I say prayer, I don't mean religious prayer, more of a meditation, however if doing this through religious prayer helps, by all means do what feels right.

When an issue plagues your mind, for instance
"I just lost my child, and we have been invited to a party where there will be other children..."
close your eyes, think about the situation at hand, and pay close attention to how your body and mind respond to it. If it is the right thing for you (and the right thing to do by society's standards, and the right thing for you are two totally different things and that is okay, this is about what is right for you) so if it is the right thing to do, it should bring into your heart a sense of Peace Assurance Gratitude and Love. The idea being that if you feel PAGL about a certain decision you are making, you can feel confident that it is the right one for you. If you don't feel PAGL, something in your body, the universe, your mind, I don't know, is telling you to move in a different direction.

Since entering this new world of IVF, alot of questions have been thrown our way.
"What to do with frozen embryos?" 
"Would we be willing to freeze embryos?"
"Would we be comfortable with assisted hatching?"
"Are we comfortable with the process of IVF itself?"

Each of these questions/situations can veer off in several different directions, and I have been quietly, prayerfully reflecting on each, closing my mind and body off to what I think others would think of them  (whether they would judge them, support them, condemn them, push them) and instead searching for whichever option brings me the deepest sense of Peace Assurance Gratitude and Love.

I am certainly no expert on PAGL, and don't claim to be one, but really it makes total sense that the right decision would be that which feels right. 

I know that the readers of this blog come from all walks of life. Babyloss, Infertility, Life in General, and that is why I thought this would be such a good technique to share, because searching for answers that bring the most Peace Assurance Gratitude and Love into your heart is helpful, regardless of the situation.


  1. Thanks for sharing this! I often struggle with what I feel I OUGHT to be feeling, and not what I just want to be feeling. Even on my last post I decided to just put out there how negative I was feeling that day, and am already getting responses that I should be medicated. It is so hard to be honest or real or make decisions without considering others response to us. I will try PAGL and see how it helps...

  2. This is really interesting, thank you Kristin, I'm going to give this a try.x

  3. Thank you for sharing this. I vaguely remember hearing about this technique but had never heard it explained.

  4. Perfect. Instead of LOL or WTF (ha ha ha) .... on all my messages I am going to put PAGL... I love it.

  5. thanks for sharing.. certainly makes sense..and there is definitely no shame in admitting you need help.. my best friend is a therapist and I always seem to be apologizing for my grief, my loss and heartache, and because of her I now realize this.. I realize I need to do what is right for me at that time, regardless if it hurts others feelings or not.. IE baby showers, get together's, etc. etc.. so next time I am in the situation I will apply this technique.. see if it is what's right for me at that time..not if it hurts others feelings if I attend or not..

    again..thanks Kristin for sharing.. I will let you know how it goes..

  6. Thank you for sharing the concept of PAGL. You are right, PAGL can be very helpful for readers of all walks of life. Sometimes we are so overwhelmed with emotions and stress from daily life that if we take some time to meditate of something will bring us Peace, Assurance, Gratitude and Love, it will help make our daily lives a little easier. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Reason #25,392 I love your blog. After all of this loss and the ups and downs it can be so tiring just to go through the days.

    I love this, and am going to start doing it.

  8. Thanks for sharing. I think this may be what I've been doing instinctively. If the idea of something makes me feel anxious (beating heart, can't sleep, etc) I say no. If I feel comfortable, I say yes. And I don't have as much anxiety as the early weeks.

    I'm glad you find the therapy helpful. I'm going and have for other things in my life previously.

    Maddie x

  9. Thank you so much for posting this. I love reading your blog because it really helps me out, I can't exlain it. I just started going to therapy, I will have to show this to our therapist because these are the words that I need to live by. Again, thank you so much. Sending big ((hugs)) to you.

  10. there is absolutly no shame in getting help...
    this is the first post of yours that im reading..and it touches my heart deeply. you are an amazing woman!

  11. we don't know each other but i feel as if we are friends. what a precious heart you have.

  12. thanks for sharing. this is good to know and I will try and do it.

  13. Your blog is a great inspiration to everyone who visits. You are definitely an amazing woman. I admire your strength and how you reach out to others despite your own pain.

    God Bless!!


  14. Yeah. My technique is a little bit different. If an event, person, etc, gives me a knot in my stomach, it's usually a "no".


    Thanks for sharing this technique. Way more positive than the one I've been using for a while!

  15. I think somewhere deep inside everyone has more knowledge than we think we have. Great technique.

  16. You happen to have a good therapist, lady! And even though I do not like one bit the reasons why you needed the therapist, I am glad that you do have help at hand.

    Thanks for sharing the concept of PAGL....I am sure it will be quite a clear way of prioritizing and making meaning out of the choices we need to take.

    And you are correct, PAGL can apply to every band of the IF blogosphere....

    Thank You.

  17. I don't think there's anything wrong with therapy/counseling. I think it can be very good and helpful to a person. I should know b/c I have been to counseling before. Thanks for sharing the PAGL technique!

  18. I also found this to be very useful for dealing with PTSD

    Thanks so much for this post, it actually is about everything I believe in, I always try to listen to my "inner ding". It is very seldom wrong.

  19. thank you for sharing this beautiful post and you are right, there is no shame in therapy. i've been writing a lot about the 3 week treatment program i'm in right now. i was very resistant at first, but it's helping...