This is a sensitive subject so please forgive me if I stir up emotions inside you that you perhaps would rather didn’t surface. That said, some of the stuff I’ve learnt along life’s journey could be of help to someone out there. I’m writing directly to that someone, maybe you!
What do I mean by Trauma?
- Any event in ones life that turns it upside down
- When life throws the curve ball (for my American friends)
- When your emotions are shot to pieces by an emotional setback
- When the straw that breaks the camels back just knocks you flat
As you read this article, I expect that you will think of things that have caused some form of trauma in your life. While I will mention a few now, never forget that your experiences are personal to you and yet millions of other human beings (billions in fact), have suffered and will suffer just like you have or are suffering. So, I don’t want to detract from the immense hurt or struggle your particular traumas throw your way, but I do want to help you realise that you are not alone!
Trauma, Wikipedia says is:
- Trauma (medicine), an often serious and body-altering physical injury, such as the removal of a limb
- Psychological trauma, an emotional or psychological injury, usually resulting from an extremely stressful or life-threatening situation
Let’s allow the doctors and nurses to deal with the medical trauma and look at psychological trauma shall we? With regard to psychological trauma, I don’t believe that they need to be life threatening – they just feel like it!
As I said earlier, I’d rather not stir up old wounds unnecessarily but I think I do need to mention some specific examples so you get the idea of how you can heal yourself, how you can deal with trauma in your life.
Death of someone (or more than one person) close to you
To date I have not suffered this in my life, but like everyone who has ever lived, I most likely will. Even writing this has me struggling to come to terms with such a potential event. I hope I will remember this article when it does happen.
Separation or divorce from someone (or persons)
This I have suffered. I had been married for 17 years and was with my then girlfriend for the 5 before we got married. We finally separated about five years ago and divorced a while later. Separation of this kind can be very traumatic. Even if you felt like it was the best thing to do, this kind of event in your life can still have a detrimental effect on your emotions and self confidence. When my then wife and I decided to divorce I believed that it was the best thing to do, but when the Decree Absolute came through, it was still such an emotional shock to my system that I cried on the phone to my mum for twenty minutes!
Most of the advice I give in the paragraphs that follow are born of my experiences over the last 5 years or so.
This kind of separation does not have to be simply one of a relationship or marriage break-up. It could be a very good friend who decides for whatever reason that he/she doesn’t want to be a friend of yours any more and I’m sure other scenarios too. Sadly, as well as a marriage break up, I had to deal with friends deciding to push me away. I didn’t understand at the time and of course this just added to the hurt.
Trauma – How To Deal With It
“If You Are Going Through Hell, Keep Going!”
I’m sure I’ve said this a few times before and I’m not going to apologise! I’m going to keep saying it until you understand what this sentence means! Simply put, does it feel like you are walking alone through a dark place? Then keep walking until you emerge from that ‘hell’ into a better life. You probably don’t understand right now, but when you come through the hard times, you can be an immeasurably stronger person.
The Three Phases of Healing
I cannot claim to have thought of and initially understood the following three phases. This is attributed to a friend of my family who I sought help from shortly after I was separated from my (then) wife).
In the case of separation such as in a long term relationship there can be an initial period of trauma. This happens in the first few weeks of the separation where you are emotionally upside down, Topsy turvy, nothing makes sense and all you can think about is the hurt. Hour after hour, day after day, week after week. You just cannot see how you can go on living with the situation as it is. Nothing anyone says to you helps at all (or very very little). I should imagine that where the trauma is caused by a death of someone you love, then the feelings I’ve described can be a lot lot worse. I feel for you if you are experiencing this.
Important note: Trauma can last a lifetime! This is just a guide to how long it can take. At least for me it was true anyway!
Time: 0-12 weeks+
Summary: I’m not an expert but for me the traumatic period probably lasted a few weeks. It varies from one person to another.
This is a period of time when your soul, your heart is gradually coming to terms with the loss, the heartbreak. It is a time of understanding that the event has happened and that there is nothing you can do about it. It is a time of acceptance (see this article for more information). For me, I kept thinking that I had moved on from phases 1 and 2 quite quickly but in reality I hadn’t. As time went on, I kept on having to say to myself:
“Jonathan, you are nowhere near through this yet – stop fooling yourself!”
If there is one thing you should keep in mind when you are coming to terms with your trauma, it is that you shouldn’t expect things to proceed faster than your soul can cope with. I know it is easy to want things to go faster and for a certain amount of desperation to creep in – but you mustn’t let these thoughts rule your world!
It’s difficult to say how much time this took for me as of course the phases merge together, but probably I can look back and say that it was probably at least 2 years before I had completely accepted what had gone before.
Time: 0-2 years+
Summary: Try and listen to your inner voice, the voice inside that says: “slow down, I need more time”.
This is the bit we all want to get to and get through also! Like any form of healing, it takes time. When your body suffers some form of injury, it takes time for it to heal and recover. Let it happen. never stop learning, never stop attempting to be a better person, never stop thinking of how your experiences can help others. And never stop considering how your experiences can help you in the future.
I recovered (am recovering?) with the help of friends and being around future thinking people. In fact, friends are something I haven’t mentioned thus far. For me all it took was one friend to continue to believe in me, to not push me away because I was depressed. This one person perhaps understood because she had gone through similar things and just knew that all I needed at the time was a non judgemental friend.
Not a lot needed to be said, but it kept me going. I was lucky I guess to have a friend like this and I know some of you don’t. When I first separated from my wife, I was having business problems and business relationships were strained to breaking point and I felt I was left with nothing. Nothing or no-one to fall back on. Thankfully, this one friend was there. I hope you have one friend like this in your life too.
Time: 5 years+ (How long is a piece of string?)
Summary: Find a friend who will listen without judging you. If not a friend, then how about ‘man’s best friend’? or music or a hobby?
I’m going to reiterate that while your personal circumstances, your own personal trauma is ‘yours’, others have been there before and have come through. Have come through as stronger, happier people. Of course, there will always be a hole in your heart where a loved one is missing for instance. Instead of papering over the hole, you can understand and accept that the event happened and that it won’t hold you back.
Take care :-)
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