No one is ever prepared for trauma. In fact, most of us go through our lives believing that tragedies happen to other people.
The Australian Psychological Society notes that trauma is derived from the Greek word for wound. Traumatic events are distressing or life-threatening events, such as a car accidents, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, or even an affair. When people do experience trauma, (a distressing or life-threatening event, such as a car accident, natural disaster, or terrorist attack) they often develop extreme anxiety or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many develop ongoing problems with their personal relationships and their own self-esteem.
Everyone deals with trauma in their own way. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to respond to a tragic or terrifying event. Don’t let anyone, not even yourself, tell you that you should respond in a certain way.
Having said that, there are steps you can take to begin to heal and regain control of your life.
Accept Your Feelings
Ignoring your feelings of fear, shock, rage, terror, confusion, or guilt will only slow your recovery. In the moment, you may feel you must avoid your emotions. But, whether you accept or push them away, your feelings are real, and feeling them is necessary for healing. The good news is, even intense feelings will pass if you simply allow yourself to feel them. They are a bit like a wave, rising and then falling – they will not last forever if you allow them to occur.
Reframe Your Identity
After experiencing a traumatic event, it is common to feel helpless and out of control. To fully recover from the event, it is important that you eventually reframe your identity and challenge your feelings of helplessness. You can do this by taking action. Being proactive – even in small ways – can help you overcome feelings of fear and helplessness. Consider volunteering for a cause that’s important to you. If that is too much of a time commitment, you could simply focus on helping a friend or neighbor. This can help you feel more powerful and in control of your environment.
Reach Out to Others
It is common for people to want to withdraw from loved ones and social activities following a tragic event, but connecting with others is necessary for recovery. Though you may not feel up to taking part in huge gatherings like you once did, a simple face to face conversation with a close friend or relative can trigger hormones that relieve stress.
You don’t need to talk about the event with your loved ones, just simply spending time with them can help you feel more “normal.” Of course, if you feel like you need to talk about your feelings, reach out to those you know love and support you. You may also want to look into support groups in your local area so you can be around others who know what you are going through.
And finally, you may want to consider counseling from a therapist trained in helping people who have experienced a traumatic event. We can help you navigate your emotions as well as give you tools to get back on your feet.
If you have experienced a traumatic event and feel you could use some guidance on your journey back toward peace and joy, please get in touch with me. You don’t have to suffer with your burden alone.