Skip to content

A Light Through the Fear: Resilience After Trauma

If you’ve experienced trauma, there are a few things that you should know about yourself. There is nothing wrong with who you are as a person. The trauma that you experienced, whether it was man-made or it was a freak occurrence, is not a reflection of yourself as a human being.

No One Deserves Trauma

When we experience trauma, it can completely uproot our lives. A bad occurrence can have us questioning who we are and the meaning of our lives. Trauma can fall under a wide umbrella of definitions from physical to emotional. We can be caught up in a painful divorce, abuse, the death of a loved one, end up on the receiving end of bullying, or even more extreme events like war and torture. These are some of the most traumatic experiences that people have in their lives.

Often traumatic occurrences can result in feelings of inadequacy, helplessness, paralyzing fear and a bleak outlook on the future. Trauma can be very damaging and confusing and as a result, we can develop habits and responses to protect ourselves from future events and to identify similar indicators of past traumatic events.

One fact is certain; no one on this earth deserves to experience the trauma of any kind. If you have had something terrible happen to you in your life, whether you were young or old, know that there are ways to heal and to grow after a traumatic experience. There is a light at the end of the darkness. You can regain your sense of self and move forward in life once you have an understanding of how the trauma affected you. You can learn to make sense of and identify your emotions if they are negatively triggered and there are many resources out there that you can rely on so that you don’t have to deal with trauma alone.

 

Understanding What Trauma is and Types of Trauma

A good way to deal with the aftermath of a traumatic experience is to learn how to define what trauma is. From that starting point, you will be able to identify the different types of trauma that you and other people can go through. There are many people in this world who are carrying the weight of their traumatic experience and don’t understand why. With a clear understanding of how trauma and post-trauma response can manifest, you’ll be able to identify the things that harmed you in your own experience as a victim of a past traumatic event.

Trauma is an event or a continuous condition that overwhelms an individual’s abilities to cope and usually affects a victim emotionally, physically and psychologically. Trauma comes about as an individual’s perception of and response to danger and threats. Here we can go over some of the types of trauma that people experience.

  1. Sexual abuse and sexual assault. Sexual abuse and assault is an act of non- consensual contact. Exploitation, coercion, and exposure to inappropriate or unwanted sexual materials or environments are some ways that sexual abuse is carried out.
  2. Physical trauma. Physical trauma manifests itself in several different ways. Having an accident or an injury, a medical procedure or a serious illness are forms of physical trauma. Another type of physical trauma comes from deliberate abuse from another person. When someone purposefully tries to cause physical harm or pain to another person. Some examples of physical trauma caused by another person are; extreme corporal punishment, physical restraint, and domestic violence. Rape and sexual abuse can also be considered and treated as physical trauma.
  3. Emotional and psychological trauma. This trauma is experienced through cruel, unreasonable treatment of other people. Some examples of emotional and psychological trauma are gaslighting, social isolation, bullying, shaming, excessive commands, and insulting or degrading language.
  4. Neglect. In children, neglect is the most common form of trauma that protective child services deal with. Although, neglect is not exclusive to child abuse. It can also occur when a caregiver neglects to take care of a disabled or an elderly   person. Neglect is the failure to provide basic needs like food, clothing, medical and mental healthcare for someone under your charge. Neglect is also the abandonment or expulsion of your charge from their home or living environment.
  5. Natural disasters, chaos aftermath, and a major accident. A natural disaster can be a terrifying experience. Losing everything to a tornado, or an earthquake or a construction accident can lead to severe trauma. Some feelings victims go through after such an event are hopelessness, loss, and fear of the future.
  6. Community violence. Living in an environment that suffers from a lot of violence can create ongoing trauma in an individual. Some forms of community violence are gang-related activity, crime as a result of poverty and pervasive drug use.
  7. Historical trauma. Historical trauma is a condition that affects an entire community over long periods of time. Racialized violence and the after-effects toward African American and Native American people in the United States is a well-documented form of historical trauma.
  8. The trauma of grief and loss. When someone dies, or if we are left by a person that we loved or had a relationship with, it can cause trauma and doubt within oneself. The emotions that are associated with loss trauma are; a fear of the future, depression, and difficulty moving forward without the person in your life.

These different examples, depending on your location and your situation can have a significant impact on your life, the way that you perceive the world and how you react towards it. If you are able to, either by yourself, with a trusted person, or with the help of a professional; identify the root cause of your trauma, these are the first steps that you can take. It is never too late to use resources to heal and grow after living with trauma. You will find strategies as a person moving forward.

 

Understanding Yourself

If you’ve experienced trauma, there are a few things that you should know about yourself. There is nothing wrong with who you are as a person. The trauma that you experienced, whether it was man-made or it was a freak occurrence, is not a reflection of yourself as a human being.

 

Don’t play the blame game

The trauma that you experienced is not your fault. Often times victims of trauma blame themselves for the things that happened to them. The responsibility for causing harm or damage falls on the person who committed the act. No one ever has the right to take your personal power from you. Your sense of body autonomy, your home, your possessions and the people you love are never, ever responsible for being violated by someone else.

 

There  are no trauma olympics!

Your recovery from trauma will be a personal experience. The nature of everyone’s trauma is different, as well as their physical and emotional response to it. You will learn your own approach to improving your life after your traumatic event. If you’ve been struggling with the stress and pain of your trauma you might want to rush to the idea of what you imagine recovery to seem like. Understand that whatever event happened to you, you will need time to process and unpack the traumatic experience. There is no right way to move on from trauma. Though there are many tried and true coping methods, you will have to find the ones that resonate with your being. Your progress should be done at a reasonable pace and you should set your expectations accordingly.

 

Accept YOU

There’ll be things that you cannot change about the world and about yourself, and there are things that you can definitely change. Make sure you hold on to that understanding as you go into your healing. Knowing what you can and can’t control can free you from any pressure that you might put on yourself or be put on you by outside forces. Accepting your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to be grounded and move at a pace that is healthier for you.

 

Techniques for Trauma Rehabilitation

Trauma is your physical and emotional response to danger and damage. When dealing with the aftermath of traumatic events, it might be hard for your mind and your body to realize that it no longer is in danger. Chemically and physically, you might still be in the response phase of the danger that you faced in the past….and that can last for years, or even decades if you do nothing about it. One of the first techniques to healing from trauma is to remind yourself, either alone, with someone you trust or with a professional, that you are safe. That doesn’t mean that you completely forget about the experience you had in the past, but you will be able to acknowledge that the damaging event is no longer directly affecting you. It might be hard to work through this and it might take time but is a good step to take in order to help your mind and body recover.

 

Self Care

Self care falls under a wide range of definitions. For some people, it can be learning techniques by yourself or taking the initiative to learn with a small group of people. For others, it could be finding a mentor or professional to work with. Self-care is extremely important when it comes to dealing with trauma. Though it should not be the only technique that you use; self-care will allow you to work through your traumatic blocks when you are not able to be around other people.

Simple self-care things you should be aware of are getting enough sleep, eating regularly, finding time for leisure and exercise. These are essentials that you can do by yourself and that you should be taking an effort to manage.  Good self-care habits will lead you towards living a healthier life.

Taking up old routines that you loved in the past or forming new ones can help you break the cycle that your trauma forced you into. Keeping and maintaining a positive mindset is also a form of emotional self-care.

Another self-care technique that you can do is keep a journal. Writing down your thoughts and daily activities will allow you to work through the things that you’ve been feeling emotionally as well as let you see how your actions play out in the day. Self-reflection will allow you to measure and gain an understanding of your actions after the trauma has affected you.

 

Exercise

Exercising after a traumatic experience is very important. Even if you weren’t suffering from trauma, the exercise would still be essential for keeping a healthy, active body. Exercise increases your strength, your blood flow, balances your body chemistry and prevents the development of diseases in the future. Working out has been proven to be beneficial in people with depression and anxiety; both of which are common conditions resulting from a traumatic experience. Exercise can increase feelings of well being, confidence and surety in the world.

When you exercise, your body releases endorphins which are hormones that serve as natural pain killers and mood elevators. Form an exercise habit. It will allow you to associate pleasurable feelings with exercise. And when you get into the routine of exercising regularly, you’ll look forward to the benefits and the physical release that it offers.

 

Social Outreach

Talking with and interacting with people that you trust can help you minimize the damage that your trauma has done to you. The person that you reach out to might be a family member, a friend or someone in your community. They should be someone that you are able to express yourself without judgment or negativity. Often times we can feel guilt or shame from a traumatic experience, and sharing that burden with someone can be one of the best steps to healing.

Sometimes we might not have anyone to talk to when it comes to dealing with our trauma. There could be a number of reasons why you are not willing to share our experience with people that you know. Sometimes family and friends don’t understand what you’re going through and their advice can do more harm than good. Or if they come from a place of misunderstanding, they can say something that could hurt you or trigger the pain of the trauma that you experienced from before. Sometimes our friends, family and loved ones are engaged in destructive behavior that is reminiscent of  or that can contribute to your traumatic experience.

You can find a support group for people who have experienced similar trauma to you. Sharing the event, pain and empathy can be enough for you and the people that you are interacting with to get a better handle of your emotions after a traumatic event. Working in a group can provide you emotional freedom and a lessening of the weight that you bear from your trauma. When it comes to working with a support group, you will understand that you are not alone and that there are people who care about you. They can offer you personal stories and experiences about how they learned to cope that you might be able to relate to and use in your own healing journey.

 

Therapy and When to Seek Professional Help

In some instances of trauma, people can heal with time and support and self care. But, if you are continuously experiencing the negative symptoms associated with your trauma, you fall into a habit of reliving the trauma and responding to life as though you are living the trauma again, or if you feel like your life is a spiraling routine of self-destructive behavior; You might want to consider seeking professional help.

Therapy is well known as the most helpful and effective form of healing for post traumatic victims. Working with a professional can help you make sense of the experience that you had and your feelings surrounding them. You and your therapist can develop safe, constructive techniques and strategies to deal with trauma and it’s after-effects. You will be able to create a plan to help you cope and to help you form healthy behaviors.

Psychotherapy is a benefit because of the clinical studies that have gone into getting people better. Therapy has been proven to improve the lives of trauma victims. There are different forms of therapy that have been developed. Depending on the kind of trauma that you’ve experienced, some therapies are; professional lead group therapy, hypnotherapy, and exposure therapy. The positive feelings that therapy patients have been able to enjoy are a new sense of self-worth, reclaiming personal strength, regaining the ability to relate with other people, a positive outlook and an appreciation of life, and spiritual growth.

 

Meditation and Spirituality

Reclaiming or getting into a new form of meditation and spirituality might be another way to enable you to live a healthier life after experiencing trauma. Feelings of loneliness and helplessness can be lessened for some people if they relate themselves to a higher power. Meditation and spirituality can encourage people to abandon self-destructive behavior as a result of trauma. It is always a benefit to living a life with less drinking, smoking and drug use.

In the pursuit of spiritual trauma healing, you can find other people to interact with on a spiritual level. You might find that your coping skills have started to expand, and a more meaningful understanding of life can be developed. Meditation and spirituality can also allow a person to find their personal safe place and to turn off their typical negative emotional responses. When dealing with the grief of death and loss, spirituality can help people find the positive in their life and the answers to questions that they struggle with personally.

 

Helping Friends and Family Deal with Trauma

Watching someone you love go through the pain of post-traumatic stress can be a difficult and heart-wrenching experience for all. If you have a loved one who has survived a traumatic experience, it would be good to watch them for the signs of negative traumatic injury. The symptoms that they display may be physical, emotional or psychological.

Physically they might complain about headaches, stomach problems or you might notice that they have a loss of appetite. Maybe you have seen them startle quickly, or you noticed that they have not been sleeping as well as they should.

Trauma and the aftermath can be hard to deal with when someone you care about responds to you and situations with negative emotions like fear, anger, guilt and overwhelming sadness. Negative behaviors and habits are another sign that your loved one might need your support when dealing with their trauma. An increase in bad habits or self-destructive behavior like drugs and drinking can cause a huge strain on their body and health, and it will be taxing to you physically and emotionally.

The things you can do to help your loved one cope are to assure them that they are safe with you in any way they need you. That doesn’t mean that they should be forced to share their experience with you, but you should be available as a listening ear without judgment. Ensure that your loved one is eating regularly and getting enough rest. You can help them develop a healthy exercise routine by working with them so that they don’t feel alone. If you notice them sinking back into a negative mindset, you can help them relax and use positive reinforcement to help lift their mood.

Find positive things to do together like praying and meditating, or attending group sessions. All of these things will help your loved one deal with their stress. And if you feel as though the help that you are offering is not enough, you can always seek out professional care with your loved one’s permission.

 

Accept Help

Trauma can be devastating in anyone’s life and is extremely common. But with a good understanding of why trauma happens, why people hold on to their negative experiences, and what they can do to heal from those negative experiences; the effects of trauma can become less severe. Education, self-reflection activity, and outreach are the tools you have to help you deal with trauma. There are many resources out on the internet and with other people that you can be assured that you will come back from the dark place that your trauma has brought you.

 

If you’ve been through the trauma of emotional abuse, consider checking out the Emotional Abuse Recovery and Resilience Summit. I interviewed 45 experts on all aspects of recovery and resilience, and what they share could change your life!

Leave a Comment