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Grieving What Trauma Has Stolen (and How to Move Forward)

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The essence of trauma to me is loss. I mean, what is a trauma other than the loss of comfort, trust, innocence, control, security, family, stability, sanity, love, dignity, health, faith, motivation, courage or even one’s self? Trauma robs you of what makes you whole, and for far too many, trying to fill that void only elicits more torture along the already painstaking journey. We grieve what trauma has taken away from us. After that critically wounding event, life as you knew it was never the same again.

There are stages to trauma, just like grief. The shock and disbelief of having the life-altering event happen to you. The denial and rejection as you stuff it down inside. The anger at why this is happening, the “What did I do to deserve this?” The last step is acceptance, but it is impossible to complete, in my opinion. No matter how well-adjusted, how happy, how content, how at ease you become, the trauma will always be there in the background, and like grief, it never truly leaves you.

You may not have had a choice about what happened to you, but you always have a choice about what you do about it. The trauma is there forever, but you are not a slave to it. This is the moment you make the transition from “victim” to “survivor.” That’s what survivors do: they push on, keep going, keep fighting. Yes, a trauma may mark you for life like a deep scar, but it doesn’t have to encompass your whole life. There are methods to get very near acceptance. One is honesty with yourself. Another is to allow yourself time and space to initiate coming to terms with the monster you’re afraid of unmasking.

Above all else, when it becomes too much, reach out and ask for the support you definitely deserve. Just communicating about trauma for some greatly eases its grip. Getting it out of your head on paper, to a friend’s ear, in a piece of art, even a safe physical act can relieve much of the pressure. You will find, in time, it becomes less and less able to affect your everyday life. Yes, there are moments you’ll be triggered, but as you handle those feelings, they become much less sharp. Many do not understand why you can’t “just get over it,” move on. Trauma, when it occurs, embeds itself within you, it becomes part of who you are. Working with and successfully navigating your overwhelming emotions will allow you to grow stronger during the process. You can turn a tragedy into a triumph if you utilize enough time and effort to improve. Learning to forgive, love and trust yourself again makes all the difference in the long run.

With work and patience, you can one day migrate beyond your trauma, but like a shadow, it never truly goes away. You must keep your face turned toward light and as the rays of sunshine in your life grow stronger, so will you. The bleakness of your trauma will diminish. So, keep basking in the light and the dark dusk will remain behind you where it belongs. You will be able to regain what you so unfairly have lost. The essence of trauma is loss. Don’t lose yourself to it, and you will always have a choice to become whole again.

You can follow my journey on Writeco.

Getty image by Kateryna Kovarzh

Originally published: April 14, 2020
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