What Is Trauma?
Trauma means different things for different people. The dictionary and a person who has experienced trauma will likely give you two different answers. Often times, traumatic events are those life changing events that seem to be the worst times in our lives. These are the times that seem to make the rest of our life hard to live. Trauma often leads to a lack of trust, paranoia, chronic distress and sometimes a constant mental replaying of horrible memories.
How Can We Make Meaning Out Of Trauma?
Sometimes the traumatic event itself is not as impactful as our interpretation of the event. Countless trauma victims not only suffer from their traumatic experience but how they felt after. Many victims feel guilt after a traumatic situation such as rape, having thoughts such as ” I shouldn’t have been there” “What was I thinking?” “I feel dirty.” Some put all the blame on themselves leading to more pain than they’ve already experienced. How we process what happens matters. Unfortunately many of us have learned a norm of processing things in a negative way and we simply believe that no good can come from something so horrific. What if that wasn’t the complete truth? What if a traumatic situation had meaning in our lives? Just the thought would make many people cringe, because we are taught that things are “good” or “bad” so giving “good” attributes to something “bad” is well….bad. But take a moment to open your mind. Think of the worst thing that ever happened to you. How can you make meaning of it? ….Did it make you a stronger person? Did it make you more empathetic toward others? Did it show you that anything can be dealt with? Did you connect with people you’ve never connected with before? Did you finally get the help you needed? What’s interesting, is that our worst times in life can be the most transformative. We can use these significant moments to make the rest of our life better or worse. How we interpret a traumatic event can make all the difference in how we feel. Having a meaningful and helpful interpretation of a traumatic event can prevent a number of unpleasant symptoms and lead to positive transformation.
Healing From Trauma
It of course takes time and serious processing to make meaning out of something traumatic. It requires changing the way we think in a big way. It is also a step that happens after we’ve properly accepted and addressed the trauma as well as the emotions attached to it.
In order to heal from any trauma, we must first get ourselves in a place where we feel safe: physically, emotionally and spiritually. From there, we can began the healing process by talking to someone we can ensure will be safe to talk to such as a counselor or life healing specialist.
The best way to heal from trauma is by connecting to a professional that specializes in dealing with trauma. In this way, you can ensure that you are getting help from someone who understands your situation and is trained to help.
Below are a few short-term tips that can help with or without seeking professional help. Please keep in mind that these are only temporary suggestions and should not be substituted for professional or long-term help.
Tips To Help In Healing From Trauma
Self Care Healing is harder when we haven’t first taken care of our physical and emotional needs. Try by taking some time out to do something kind for yourself. This can help you get into a better emotional state so that you can deal with things easier. Click here for a list of Self Care Activities
Write A Narrative Writing is a great way to process a traumatic event and release emotions. You can try this by first writing down what happened to you and how it made you feel. When you are ready, you may even share this with someone you trust, such as a therapist or life healing specialist.
Use Art. Many people use poetry, music or storytelling in order to convey their feelings. Write a poem, song or perhaps create something visual to represent what happened. This can be very therapeutic.
Quietly Reflect. Often times when we experience something traumatic, we try to avoid or block it. This often does more harm than good. Allowing yourself a designated time to reflect on what happened to you can keep you from reflecting on the incident when you don’t want to. Remember to consider safety when doing this. Have a plan before you start just in case you begin feeling overwhelmed (i.e “If I start feeling like harming myself, I will call 9-1-1” – “If I feel out of control, I will call a friend”)
Tell Someone. Have you kept this to yourself? Keeping intense emotions bottled up often leads to distress and unwanted emotional outbursts. Often times, just verbalizing our experience can help. If you have someone you know is safe to talk to, let them know what happened. It may really change how you feel about the situation. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to someone you know, you can call a hotline or seek help from a mental health professional (National Hotlines & Helpful Links).
Join A Support Group. Healing is often times easier when we know others have experienced what we have gone through. Consider joining a support group with people who have had similar situations to you (i.e domestic violence, substance abuse, death of a loved one, etc.). There are a number of support groups across the country, here’s a link with more information: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/find-support-groups
How Much Is Your Trauma Affecting You?
Is it keeping you away from the things and people you love? Does it make it hard to concentrate or function normally? Does it lead to constant negative emotions?
Now is the time to release yourself from that burden. Trauma memories will not go away on their own. It is only when we confront our feelings and memories that we are able to heal. This healing can completely transform your life and change something horrific into something meaningful.
Below are helpful numbers to contact if you are in need of immediate help.
Please contact 9-1-1 if it is an emergency
National Hotline for Crime Victims
Office for Victims of Crime, Directory of Crime Victim Services
[links to programs and services available to crime victims]
1-800-273-TALK (8255) [24/7 hotline]
Disaster Distress Helpline [24/7 hotline]
FINRA Securities Helpline for Seniors
Jennifer Ann’s Group
Free resources on teen dating violence
MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving)
National Alliance on Mental Illness
National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards
[links to every state’s compensation program]
National Center on Elder Abuse
National Child Abuse Hotline
National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs,
National Advocacy for Local LGBT Communities
[links to local programs]
National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center
National Runaway Switchboard
National Sexual Assault Hotline
1-800-656-4673 [24/7 hotline]
[hosts an online hotline]
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline
1-866-331-9474 or 1-866-331-8453 (TTY)
Overseas Citizens Services
1-202-501-4444 (from overseas)
Parents of Murdered Children
The Trevor Project – Crisis & Suicide Prevention Lifeline for LGBTQ Youth