When bad things happen in our life suffering can become overwhelming. Hurt and confusion, fear and anger, hopelessness, distrust and shame are some of the feelings that intrude into our daily life and nighttime rest. Trauma brings with it a sense of loss and that can be a very scary thing to acknowledge and talk about.
Adults struggle talking to children about bad things, afraid of damaging the illusions of childhood. Family and friends afraid the person will break and fall apart or maybe afraid they will not be able to hold them as they feel or to feel themselves.
That fear is felt by survivors of trauma and experienced as a direction to stay silent, keep secret, avoid and repress.
The first step of healing is to acknowledge the suffering and name the trauma. There is always a way to talk about the bad things that happen to us in a way that is appropriate. We start with respecting the other as a human being, capable of surviving, coping and healing. We need to trust that they are strong or else we give an indirect message of helplessness. Children as young as two have a perception of death and loss and as adults we can find a healthy developmentally appropriate way to talk about it. Creating secrets or hiding facts damages trust - so we need to talk about what happened and give permission to the survivor to open up and start the healing. We take into consideration what we say some things might be triggering or not appropriate and a consultation with a professional can help to clarify what to say and how to say it. Attempting to silence conversations about trauma and pretend that all is back to normal hurts the healing process. Like any wound - ignoring it make things worse.
Support is key - people you can trust that show you nurture and care are very important to rebuilt a sense of safety and hope. Connecting with a community, others that can understand and guide you in times of despair. Talking to other people- being around them and rebuilding the ability to trust and feel safe- we will not be injured or abandoned. Therapy is a safe place where support can start and the process of loss can take place.
Feeling safe in your body - the trauma changes not only our experience with others but it changes the way we feel within ourselves. When we are anxious and do not feel safe in our body being present in the moment is very difficult. Meditation, creating art, music, writing, making food, dancing and many other things can help us get back into the moment and change the feeling in our body. Objects we can touch and hold using somatic sensation to reassure our safety or things that help us feel present in our surrounding, like candles and aromatic smells can be used to ground in our environment. It takes time and practice finding the experience that keeps your mind grounded. In therapy you can master other skills that help to recreate a relaxed feeling in the body. The advantage therapy offers is also in the ability to make that search possible as you work through the overwhelming difficulty to stay present. It will also help you through the conflict to stay present and battle the hopelessness.
There are many forms of trauma therapy addressing the whole person and healing the trauma the body, mind and soul - talking about the trauma in therapy creating a sense of meaning and developing a new sense of self and integrating our story are central in the healing process.
All of these steps can begin when safety is in place. If the person is in danger we most first take care of survival itself. When the suffering is ongoing we ensure that basic safety is in place - resources for help are always available.