I don’ think there is any short cuts to healing. Sometime when we get past the pain of healing we sum up the healing in phrases that sound good, and simple. It seems we think to ourselves, if I could just impart this new gained wisdom to the next survivor down the path then they will not have to wade through the pain I just went to to understand this. But that would be a short cut.
I believe there is really only one path towards healing and that is one of love, caring and understanding. The problem is those words sound all nice and rosy, but in reality healing is not all roses. All to often we have to mentally go back to the trauma, and feel it all again, in its indescribable pain. This is not a one moment experience. Us survivors may only relive or re-experience the pain for a short time, but then comes all the after effects. Once we have been back to that horribly indescribable pain we then have to start the process of, caring, understanding and loving our way out of the pain.
Love ~Doodle by Mia Thriver.
The pain of trauma memories is very real, more real then much of the pain of everyday life. It actually makes your body ache and hurt. The emotions also hurt, and hurt as real as physical pain. Once the trauma is revisited we heal it by understanding it, though it really cant ever make sense. We start by trying to just understand the pain, the emotion, the fear. Why was there pain, and fear, where was there pain and fear. Often times we start to put words on our experience, because for many of us the trauma happened when we were too young to label what happened. We start to label what we felt emotionally, physically, mentally. But as we are labeling this trauma we are re-experiencing the trauma in bits and pieces. Truly us survivors do not know the extent of our own trauma, until it is re-experienced, until it is labeled. Once the trauma is labeled it can become something more then a trauma memory. It can become an experience to talk about with trusted people. Slowly we can then start to understand it ourselves, and we can start to get love and care from others.
As we tell our experience to trusted friends they can give us the care we should have gotten at the time of the trauma. They can say things like “how awful” or “I cant believe you endured that” or ” how horrible” or “I am so sorry”, statements like this help us know, outside of ourselves, that it really was awful. This might seem basic to someone who has not experienced trauma. But if the adults in charge did not think it was a big deal, not that bad, then the child victim tells themselves the adults are right, and it really was not that bad. Our trusted friends can then show us love and care by understanding why we have so much pain, why it is so difficult for us, how hard it was for us then. In many little ways the victim learns to understand their experience more by the reactions of their trusted friends.
As a victims we were taught the correct reaction is to ignore the pain and hurt, pretend it is not there, try to make it go away. When our trusted friends understand how awful it was, they give us permission to understand how awful it was too. When our trusted friends understand how much fear we felt, they give us permission to understand our fear too. When our trusted friends understand the pain, we can start to understand the pain too. It is this outside love, and care, that really starts to help us heal. In time, the more our trauma is understood and cared about… In time the more we give ourselves love, and the more others love us…. In time, we heal, one little bit at a time, with understanding care and love.
As we heal we then may start to understand the experience intellectually. We may start to shorten the experience in to short little phrases, that sum up what we have learned, our new found wisdom. But really those phrases don’t hold the magic to short cut someone else’s healing. Because healing is really about caring, understanding and loving.
The extent of our trauma symptoms is connected to the extent of our trauma. If you meet someone with a significant amount of trauma symptoms that is because that person has experienced a significant amount of trauma. The extent of the love, care and understanding we need is connected to the level of trauma we have received. It is the most traumatized that need the most love and care. It is the most traumatized that have the most trauma symptoms. So, it is often the most traumatized that are the hardest to love. No one ever really knows the extent of the trauma, even the victim. Because of this there are no rules on how long the healing will take. There is no measure on how much healing, therapy, and love a person needs before they have healed past the trauma. Just as the trauma is immeasurable, the love needed to heal it is immeasurable.
If you are helping a family member heal, be careful not to measure the love you give out, and compare it to the healing you expect to see. This can give the survivor the impression your love is transactional (which is a horrid impression to give a survivor), or this can give the survivor the impression that they are broken and not doing it right. Just give them love, without expectation, without measure, and trust… Trust that Love heals trauma. You may not see it now, you may not see it this month, you may not see it this year, you may not see it this decade. Even still, love heals traumas.
For the survivor going through the healing process. The process will seem allot like the poster at the top of this post. “Courage isn’t having the strength to go on. It is going on when you don’t have strength.” This is because the pain can not be measured. The pain can not be fully communicated. The pain is so immense that when we are going through the healing we may feel that we will get lost in the pain, that the pain will win out, that we will break. We are afraid of the pain, afraid we will be stuck in it for the rest of our lives. We are overwhelmed by the pain. We want it to just go away, to just stop, because the intensity of the pain is immeasurable. This is the time when we go on with courage, this is the time when we go on even when we don’t have strength.
I do want to tell you a simple idea, to sum up what I learned. This idea will not short cut your pain or your healing. But maybe this idea will give you some faith, some hope, as you work through the pain. Here it is. The pain of the trauma you are processing will come to an end. You will not always be engulfed in this pain. The sun will shine again. You will notice birds singing again. You will walk out of the pain. Here is the magic, when you do, when you walk out of the pain, always, always, you will have gained more freedom from the trauma. You may not feel it at first. As the indescribable pain dissipates you may feel exhausted, you may feel run through the ringer. But as you care for your wounds, and let time ease and calm your emotions, suddenly you will find, one day, you will feel that your load is lighter, that you are freer.
When you are in the pain you will wonder what could ever be worth this. But when you feel the freedom you have gained after processing the pain, you may not say that it was worth the pain, but you will be glad and relieved to have more freedom. This is the moment that you were working for. This is why you are going through the healing process. This is it, the reason.
Because after you have processed each trauma, each pain, each fear, you gain freedom back, you gain yourself back, you gain your life back in lots of little ways. As you are working through this healing you truly are brave and courageous. The battle you fight is immeasurable in difficulty. You may not feel the strength to go on inside of you, you may fear the pain will break you, but do, GO ON!
Go on through the pain, keep going until you are out the other side, do not stop in the middle of the pain, keep moving. Go on you must, so go on you will. And you will find… you. You will find… freedom. And you will be glad you did!