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Putting the pieces back together

September 19, 2009

After a major storm or trauma, many are faced with the difficult task of rebuilding a life. It is not an easy task. It may take weeks, months or even years to rebuild a life after a death, divorce, job loss, violence, storm or any other of the myriad life wrecking situations. However, there is hope and healing and a bright future for anyone willing to place their lives in God's hand and roll up their sleeves for a bit of hard, yet feasible work.

1. Realize that recovery may be a slow process, but is not incurable no matter how traumatic the situation may have been.

2. Never use the past as an excuse for dysfunctional life today. Many have had dysfunction, tragedy and hopelessness and went on to have full and productive lives.

3. You may need to work with a professional, someone who is equipped to assist those experiencing trauma. This could include a highly trained minister, chaplain or therapist.

4. You can promote healing through understanding. Knowledge is power, we've all heard, and it is true that the more you learn about trauma for yourself or for others, the more you will feel in control of your life.

The entirely "other side of trauma" is that current research on those traumatized indicates the majority of victims say they eventually benefited from the trauma in some way. And these are people who experienced as much pain as those who didn't fully recover. How did they benefit? There was a change of values, a greater appreciation for life, a deepening of spiritual beliefs, a feeling of greater strength and appreciation and building relationships.

The most important element in recovering is to remain connected to other people.

A positive approach to the process for healing to occur is to stop seeing yourself as a person who is diseased or deficient. Don't refer to yourself as a traumatized person. You are not abnormal because of your trauma symptoms: It is the event or events that you experienced that are abnormal.

The event was so out of the ordinary that it overwhelmed you, as it would anyone.

Mastering your trauma involves making your own decisions instead of allowing experiences, memories or other people to make decisions for you. This is a time of growth, change and new direction in your life. What you learn because of your trauma, you probably could not have learned any other way.

As you move forward you will probably find yourself reaching out to help others or even correct injustices. You will find a positive use for what you have experienced. Nothing we have experienced is ever wasted in God's economy. The scripture states, "Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."

Also, the word speaks of not looking back, but rather looking forward "pressing toward the mark." Though it is imperative we look back in order to heal, it is crucial that we not stay there, but rather move on. My daughter is a counselor for children in a facility. One of the main teachings they use there is not allowing the children to use their traumatic lives to justify continuing on in dysfunction and dispair. I urge each of us, to press on, to enjoy life, to know that we have a "hope and a future" for God has paved the way for us. He longs to use us, enjoy us and give us the desires of our hearts.

For more information on rebuilding your life after trauma, read "Surviving the Storms of Life" by H. Norman Wright with Matt and Julie Woodley.

(Kimberly Short-Wolfe, MA, is a grief counselor and chaplain for Mountain Hospice. E-mail: or call 304-823-3922, ext. 136.)



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