Healing Death Trauma with Psychedelics

I have been using plant medicines and other psychedelics for many years now. And for the last 3 years, they have been the main focus of many aspects of my life. I have been on a journey of learning and self-discovery because of my interest in them, and have been catapulted into an amazingly fascinating life of being involved in the psychedelic renaissance that we are currently seeing happen on a global scale. One of my main focus’ of work is facilitating Psychedelic Experience Weekends for the last 2 years. These weekends are retreats in which people can experience the power of psilocybin in a facilitated environment in an intentional and ceremonial way. I have sat with over 150 people as they go through powerful and transformational psychedelic experiences. In short, I am knowledgable and well versed in the healing properties of these substances and have a deep respect for what they do.

I have learned so much from psychedelics; they have opened me up to all that is within me, taught me a lot about self acceptance, boosted my levels of creativity, they have freed me from the restrictions of my own mind in many ways. I am very aware of their use in therapeutic contexts. However, I have never had any huge traumas to work through; Until now.

My friend died suddenly in November 2017. He was going into hospital for a routine surgery, and died from the anesthetic that he was given by a medical practitioner. He was a month away from his 25th birthday. Only people who have had a loved one die too young can understand what kind of an impact that can have on your life. And he wasn’t just my friend, he was one of the closest people to me, someone who knew me more than most people in my entire life. He was someone I had explored some very deep parts of myself with, someone with which I had some of the most fun and invigorating experiences of my life with, someone I related to and admired more than anyone else I knew. He was a soulmate.

I had experienced death only very subtly before – The death of a Grandparent when I was 11, and some distance family members passing away over the years. But there is something dramatically different about someone passing away who knows you more than anyone else, you in your truest form, who was the most full of life person you know. I had learned some big life lessons with him – We had explored love and intimacy together, we learned so much about self expression from each other, we were on a journey of self acceptance together. We always acknowledged how our life journeys were so similar, but in different ways. I never thought he would have thought me such a difficult lesson; the lesson of the impermanence of life.

His death shook me to my core and caused me to lose all sense of the meaning of life. My experience of the vast spectrum of human emotion was dramatically increased. My heart was broken and I will never forget the pain I went through, especially in those first days and weeks. I was deeply traumatised by the events that I went through; getting the phone call, having to call so many friends to break the news, going to the apartment we had shared and had spent his last days together to gather his belongings, meeting his family, seeing him in a coffin. Those events played over in my head constantly.

After a couple of confusing weeks, I found myself bookings flights to India – Something we had shaken hands on doing together in the coming January 2018. We had been in Goa together for New Years Eve and wanted to spend more time there together. I knew it would be a difficult process to go through, being there without him, but I felt I needed to escape my day-to-day life and follow through with our plans. However once I arrived in India in January, I came to learn that I had totally underestimated just how difficult it would be. I went to Varanasi first, feeling like it would be too tough to go straight to Goa, where we would have been together. I wanted to go to the most spiritual city on earth, to go to the Burning Ghats, to confront death in a totally different way that we do in the Western world. I spend a week alone, sitting by the water, contemplating life and death, watching the ceremonies. By then I was more than ready to get out of there, and get to the sunny beaches Goa. However, upon arrival my mental state only struggled more. While I was there, I went through a huge experience of depression, something very new
to me. I would find myself feeling numb, hopeless, alone, deflated, confused, having regular existential crises, in complete disbelief and shock at the delicate nature of reality. I found my emotional state coming out in physical ways, I was sick, had no appetite, no energy, no life in me. I got to a point where I thought “Wow, I seriously need to get in touch with this, I need to do more to heal this.”

So, in my opinion, what better way to dive deep into my subconscious, get in touch with my heart and tune in to the struggles of my soul than to check in with the plant teachers. I was ready to do the mushroom ceremony. I had never taken such a high dose of mushrooms completely alone, and had never gone into a psychedelic experience with an intention of dealing with something as intense as death trauma, but I was as ready as I was ever going to be. I woke early one morning in my house in the jungle. I prepared my body by doing some Osho dynamic movement, and my mind by doing some writing. I set up my ceremony altar with things that brought me comfort – My pouch of lavender, a special necklace, crystals given to me from loved ones, my carved wooden mushroom to name a few. I pressed “play” on the 7 hour Experience Weekend music playlist. I stripped myself of all clothing, sat on my bed in meditation position and I ingested 3 grams of liberty cap mushrooms. What proceeded to happen became the most powerful, significant spiritual experience of my life.

The effects came on so quickly and strongly that I didn’t have a moment to acknowledge any anxiety or fear. I slipped straight into a deeply sedating and mystical state of being. Within what felt like only minutes, I could feel my own spirit holding me in the space that I was in, giving me permission to visit all the grief, pain and sadness that I had been experiencing. The tears started to come, and soon I was drowning in an endless ocean of grief, flooded with tears and sorrow, purging all the pent up energy I had been carrying with me. I was vocalising in various ways, calling out to my friend, telling him I love
him, exclaiming “Oh my God!” over and over. My comprehension of time and space fizzled away, I entered into a realm of energetic and spiritual existence. Then, within all my grief, I felt an intermingling of my soul with my friends soul. He was there, with me, within me. I could feel him. Not on a physical level, but on some sort of energetic level. There was no doubt in my mind that he was there. I felt him hold me, comfort me. I heard the words “It’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok”, on repeat. “It” meaning everything;
meaning me, meaning him, meaning all the difficulty and pain, all that had happened, all that will happen, it’s all ok. So simple, yet the most profoundly powerful words I had ever heard. What came to me then was a burst of peace and acceptance, of eternal gratitude for what our friendship had been, for everything this experience was allowing me to delve into. A wave of “letting go” crashed over me, almost like I was allowing him to go, to move on, and allowing myself to move on. Our spiritual meeting had
allowed me to gain the closure that I needed so badly, the official “saying goodbye”. I still didn’t understand why he had been taken away from this dimension of reality so abruptly, but I had found peace in him going on his next adventure. I felt a new excitement and happiness for him, just like you would feel when your best friends announces they are going to travel the world.

The experience continued over the following hours and I was graced with the most spectacular, phenomenal and mystical visions and realisations, all that I hold dear to my own heart. What I can say is that I was left feeling ineffably grateful to be the physical expression of energy that I am, having the opportunity to experience this life in this short space of time. I celebrated having a body, having senses, having people to share this experience of life with. I felt alive for the first time since the death event. I felt
hungry again, I felt like I could taste food, see bright colours again, feel my body again. I was in a state of bliss for days afterward, finally being able to connect with my surroundings, to enjoy the sunshine, to swim in the sea, to dance, just as he would have wanted. The heavy veil of grief had been lifted from me to a more manageable extent.

These changes of perspective and experience of reality stayed with me for weeks afterward, and with a lot of work going into personal integration, I have managed to preserve these shifts and carry them with me. I am excited to be alive again, I am ready to take on the new path life has laid out for me.

Of course, the trauma is still there, nothing will change the fact that I went through a traumatic event, and I do still experience flashbacks and sad times. But I have gained a sense of peace with the whole process. I can now feel alive in the experience of healing and see the light in the opportunity that has been laid before me. I now know what healing from trauma feels like, thanks to psychedelics. If it wasn’t for that experience, I don’t know if I could have been lifted out of that heavy mind set. I showed myself
some serious self love by giving myself that healing experience. I’m grateful for the amount of courage I could muster up to put myself through that. I didn’t go through that experience just so I could write about it, I don’t think anyone would do that. The intention came from deep within me, but I am so glad I can now write about it and hopefully show people that there are alternative ways to deal with these traumatic
experiences.

I am not suggesting anyone should do what I did, especially on their own, unless they are very experienced with using psychedelics. Some parts of the trip for me left me very shaken, and it took me many weeks to come to terms with what I had experienced and the realisations I had. What I do suggest, though, is that readers of this article use the privilege of access to information that we have to explore the healing properties of psychedelics and other altered states of consciousness for deep trauma
healing. I would also suggest that people begin to demand a change in the laws surrounding these substances so more research can be done and so people who desperately need it can have access to alternative therapy. The terrible irony of my experience was that my friend died from anesthetic that he was given by a medical practitioner in a hospital, and I healed the trauma I suffered from that by taking
naturally grown yet illegal psychedelic mushrooms. In my opinion, I don’t feel like we should let the powers that be have control over what can go into our body and what can’t. There are risks to everything, and we should have the power to make the choice we feel is best for us. We have somehow lost the right to cognitive liberty, and that’s something I feel is an essential aspect of society that needs to change, and fast.

This article is dedicated to all the friends and family of my friend, to everyone who shared this experience of pain and grief. What is important to remember in these times is that his soul is gone off on it’s next adventure, and it’s important for both him and us to let him go on that journey. After all, his energy will never cease to exist. All we can do is hold each other through life, be there for each other and show love in any way we can. This article is also and dedicated to my friend, who was an inspiring, loving, liberated soul who played a hugely significant role in my life.

 

-Ciara Sherlock

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