“Dazzling” memoir tells a story of traumatic grief and the power of healing

Writer and former deputy editor of Tatler, Gavanndra Hodge, had a chaotic but colourful and loving childhood. Then her little sister died traumatically and suddenly, and chaos began to reign.

Gavanndra supressed her grief and memories of her sister, and in the shadow of their father, an addict, celebrity hairdresser and dealer to his elite clients, she led a wild youth. It was only when she became a parent to two little girls that she finally sought help to process the trauma. Her life story The Consequences of Love, includes descriptions of her experience of EMDR therapy. Here is an extract:

“I sit in a comfy chair opposite Fiona while she moves a small black wand from left to right in a rhythmic fashion.  While my eyes flick from side to side, following the wand, I try to remember a specific moment of a traumatic experience.  How it felt the moment I walked into the room where my sister was dying, for instance […] Fiona stops, asks me what I saw, what I felt, where in my body I felt it, and then we resume.  This goes on for a whole session, a tiny moment explored for fifty minutes, a tiny moment that changed a whole life.”

During an interview on BBC Radio 4 Saturday Live: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000zcks (47:47 into the programme) Gavanndra talks about how she tried to write about her childhood, to see if she could find her sister “…in the gaps between the words, but to start off with the process of writing almost made it worse because I was dredging up all this memory and trauma and fear and chaos and I had no way of dealing with it.” 

The interview continues: “…I started going to therapy and she was amazing…she started off by trying to allow me to order my childhood and we did a post traumatic grief process called EMDR…When I remembered Candy’s death I felt all those physical feelings of fear and coldness and numbness, it’s like it hadn’t become a memory, it was still a constantly lived experience that I couldn’t get beyond, so through the EMDR that sort of helped to turn it into a memory.”

Gavanndra’s book describes how after a few weeks of EMDR she is able to read the diary entry she made the day after Candy died. Gradually and bravely, discovering and sharing memories of her sister with friends and family, she finds her again, realising, profoundly: “she is not lost, she is me.”

‘The Consequences of Love’ is published in paperback by Penguin: https://www.penguin.co.uk/authors/141050/gavanndra-hodge.html