Trauma may be a topic that can be challenging to talk about and one that people often shy away from.
However, unhealed trauma doesn’t simply go away. Unhealed trauma is often passed down to the next generation until someone consciously chooses to heal.
What is trauma? Trauma is damage to the mind that occurs as a result of a distressing event. It’s often the result of an overwhelming amount of stress that exceeds one’s ability to cope or integrate the emotions involved with that experience. Trauma can impact every area of human functioning—physical, mental, behavioral, social, and spiritual.
Examples of trauma include bullying, child abuse, community violence, domestic violence, financial instability, in utero, natural disasters, neglect, physical abuse, refugee, sexual abuse, sexual assault, transgenerational, and war to name a few. Trauma can be experienced personally, collectively, and ancestrally.
Renowned speaker and bestselling author, Dr. Gabor Maté, emphasizes, “Trauma is not what happens to you. Trauma is what happens inside you as a result of what happens to you.”
Many of us experienced various levels of trauma this past year and a half during the Covid-19 global pandemic—prolonged uncertainty, emotional distress, financial challenges, isolation, fear, job changes, health concerns, family concerns, homelessness, loss, etc. During this time, there has also been a rise in mental health concerns, substance use, domestic violence and suicide. Some of us who’ve experienced past trauma may have even noticed trauma responses during the pandemic as we tried to establish safety amid a new norm.
One thing I remember having to consciously work through early on was a trauma response in relation to the mask mandate.
I suddenly realized that I did not feel safe going to the store and not being able to see everyone’s entire face. In order to leave my house, I had to process my fear, ground myself back in my body, and reassure myself that I was safe. It didn’t take long, but it was definitely a conscious process that I had to work through. Another trauma response I had was difficulty making decisions or feeling stuck, and I would often dissociate by watching Netflix.
The entire world experienced the pandemic, but we all experienced it in different ways. Two people can experience the same event with one person experiencing it as a trauma and the other person being able to go about their day seemingly unaffected, and that’s ok. Resist the temptation to compare or judge your experience. The important piece is if you have experienced trauma, you are not alone. There is support, and you can heal. Your experience matters. In order to heal our trauma, we must be willing to face it, acknowledge it, and allow the emotions to come up so we can move through them.
Even though it may be tempting to put a positive affirmation band-aid on our pain so we don’t have to feel the intensity of the emotions, that defense mechanism is only temporary and it can be a spiritual bypass.
We have to feel our emotions in order to heal them and move through them. We must move through the pain in order to get to the other side. Although it’s important that we feel our emotions, we have to be mindful to not pitch a tent in them. We’re not setting up camp there. We want to lean into them to find out what information they have to share with us. Once we acknowledge them, lean all the way in, and listen to them, the energy within them begins to dissipate.
But often times we’re only willing to dip a toe in or we’re afraid that once we open the door and let the emotions in then they won’t stop and we might drown. This is why it’s important to reach out for support from a trusted friend, practitioner, minister, counselor, someone who is able to see our light, see our wholeness during the times we might not be able to. Find someone who will simply hold a safe space while we open the door to our emotions, pain, and grief.
How can we support people who’ve experienced trauma? We can be willing to listen with an open heart and mind.
We can honor them by meeting them right where they are without judgment. The most important thing to remember is that you are not your experience.
You are not defined by your experience. Your experience does not diminish who you are; it does not diminish your light. You are a child of God here by Divine appointment to share extraordinary gifts with the world that only you can share.
Resist the temptation to hide because of a belief that you are broken or damaged because of your trauma. You can heal. You can remember your wholeness. You are important and your presence in the world is needed. You are not alone on your healing journey. There is an ocean of support ready and willing to help you, but it’s up to you to reach out.
“I live in the faith that there is a Presence and Power greater than I am that nurtures and supports me in ways I could not even imagine. I know that this Presence is All-knowing and All Power and is Always right where I am.”