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Re-entering life after trauma

April 3, 2010

Walking into the grocery store, you hear a familiar song, and then it hits you. It was "their" favorite song. Walking back out immediately you wonder if you will ever be able to live a "normal" life after this loss.

Or, possibly you have just returned from Iraq or Afghanistan. You feel that people here in the U.S. simply do not "get it." They have so much but take it all for granted. If they had seen what you had seen or experienced what you had experienced, maybe, just maybe, they'd "get it."

Or possibly you're returning from that missions' trip that was going to change your life but now you feel an impending sense of doom that you cannot shake. You thought going to Haiti would revolutionize your world and give you a sense of purpose, but now all you can think about is not what you accomplished, but rather what needs to be done.

Trauma - it comes in different sizes, shapes and packages, but one thing is for certain, when you have experienced trauma, you cannot return to normal life but rather must find a "new normal" fit just for you.

Trauma comes in the packages mentioned above but it also comes in the years of abuse spent with an abusive spouse or parent. Many suffer silently because dysfunction seems normal to them until the situation changes and the trauma they'd prayed would end seems to follow them in dreams, emotions, memories and life in general. The death of a loved one also can leave a person feeling lost, alone and hopeless.

However, hope comes from finding, creating and resuming a "new normal" for you.

I like what Norman Wright says concerning children of trauma in his book "Surviving the Storms of Life." "You can try drawing this word picture for your child: Imagine holding a book and your whole life is written on all the pages inside. Imagine that those pages of your life are filled with every experience you've ever had up to today. Now, where in this book would you find the scariest experience you've ever seen or heard about or been through? This one experience is one of the many pages of memories you've had in your life. Turn to this scary page and look at it, and now let's skip to a happier time in your life. Tell me about this. You see, the scary experience (trauma) is not all the book. It's just a portion. The best approach you can take is to love, comfort and offer reassurance that you're there for your child. You normalize his reactions and feelings. Here's how you might say it:

'I'm wondering if all your feelings are kind of confusing. That's normal. You're not going crazy. What happened was crazy.'

'You know, you're going to feel off balance for a while. It's like trying to stand on one foot. That's all right. There's nothing wrong or weird or bad about your feeling this way. Any person - child or adult - would feel the same after something like this. It will be helpful to tell me what you need and how I can help.'"

In redefining life after a trauma, I suggest, you find a qualified Christian therapist to work with you and your trauma. Second, get a copy of the "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook" by Dr. Glenn R. Schiraldi. Lastly, do not abandon your faith but renew it. It will change and it will be tested. Listen to these words by Dr. Diane Langberg:

"Many who suffered through intense trauma will struggle with the same two seemingly irreconcilable realities: God, who is a refuge, and trauma. Each seems to cancel out the other, yet both exist. The human mind can manage either alternative - trauma and no trauma. What is one to do with trauma and God?

"The only answer to this dilemma is the cross of Jesus Christ, for it is there that trauma and God come together. The components of trauma such as fear, helplessness, destruction, alienation, silence, loss and hell have all been endured by Christ. He understands trauma. He willingly entered into trauma for us. He endured trauma, abandoned by the Father so that we never have to be traumatized without the presence of the Father. But, that's not the end of the story. He rose again. He died and rose that we might have life and might have it more abundantly. That's Easter ... a new beginning."

The last chapter of your trauma has not been written, yet. You can write that chapter, and it is my guess that you will begin reaching out to others as you heal and are in the process of writing your chapter. With God's help and presence, you can survive the storms of trauma.

(Kimberly Short-Wolfe, MA, is a homeschool mom and the grief counselor and a chaplain for Mountain Hospice. To contact her, e-mail or call 304-823-3925, ext. 136.



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