A quote we frequently referred to in the Trauma Awareness and Healing class was Fransciscan priest Richard Rohr's statement, "Pain that is not transformed is transferred." We see that all around us as we recognize that so many people are inflicting pain on others because of their own wounds that are not healed. But also something I can see in small actions in my life. When someone criticizes my work, if I don't deal with it positively, I have seen myself pass on criticism to my son.
The good news is that the opposite is also true--healed people transfer healing and peace to other people. We are just as capable of passing on healing and wholeness as we are of passing on pain. Yet it does take a little more work and awareness to do so. One year after my husband was killed by a drunk driver, I took a class called Trauma Awareness and Healing at the Center for Justice and Peace at Eastern Mennonite University. While not all grief and loss fits exactly into the "traumatic" category, there is much overlap in how healing takes place.
There are many causes of trauma in our lives. Some include:
- serious illness
- natural disasters
- sexual abuse
- community violence
- a sudden loss (of a home, loved on, or friend)
- ongoing humiliation
- exposure to media and communal or societal violence
Man's Search for Meaning
One of the books we read was Victor Frankl's Man's Man's Search for Meaning
I purchased the audio CD of this book and listened to it over and over in my car. Click
here for reflections from the Victor Frankl reading.
Victims, Survivors, and Thrivers
During our class Lennis Echterling, Ph.D. from James Madison University came to guest lecture on the subject of helping crisis victims become survivors who can go on to thrive in their lives. The key here is seeing that it is possible to not only survive loss and trauma, but to go on to actually thrive. Click here for reflections on
the Victims, Survivors, and Thrivers lecture.
Trauma Healing Diagram
During the Trauma Awareness and Healing class with Nancy we frequently referred to a diagram that was developed by Olga Botcharova called Trauma Healing Journey: Breaking the Cycles. I found it to be a great model for reflecting with my own story and where I find myself on the healing journey. Click here to see the
trauma healing diagram and further discussion.
Emotional Freedom Technique
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) was something I had never heard of before the Trauma Awareness and Healing classes. I have found it to be very helpful in dealing with the many and varied emotions following the loss of my husband and as I continue to work through emotions that I now deal with in everyday life. This EFT Tapping article provides an introduction into what EFT is and how you can use it yourself.
Which wolf will you feed?
A Native American grandfather told his grandson that his pain was like having two wolves trying to attack his heart. One is vengeful and one is merciful. The grandson asked which wolf will win. The grandfather responded, "it depends on which one I feed."
While this story illustrates an important truth, Nancy reminded us that we may actually need to feed both wolves to some degree. Anger is also a gift that can be used in healthful ways to aid our lives. Look on this page for further discussion on
emotions and how unprocessed trauma affects our lives.
The "Survivor Psalm by Frank Ochbery, M.D. helped me to look honestly at what was, while living into what is. This page includes the psalm and reflection questions.
Positive Growth after Trauma
"Frankl wrote that optimism in the face of tragedy can turn suffering into a human achievement, an ability he called 'tragic optimism.' What alone remained was 'the last of human freedoms'--the ability to "choose one's attitude in a given set of circumstances." (Good-Sider, Trauma Awareness and Healing class notes)
As human beings we have the opportunity to choose each day the story we are going to live into. I will, however, be the first to admit there are days when the journey is just too exhausting to live anything but sorrow and anger. Yet, even on those days perhaps I can make it through better on the acknowledgment that someday I will choose a new story.
As individuals and groups of people, we move in the direction of the questions we ask. The kinds of questions I ask will determine what I find and what I find sets the direction of my life. Click this page for further discussion on
the power of asking appreciative questions.
Nancy Good Sider did her dissertation interviewing peacebuilders who have transformed their own personal traumatic experiences and are now working for peace and trauma healing for others. She found commonality in how these individuals worked to not "get over" their horrific experiences but to move through them and on to be providers of healing for others. The similarity of their journeys is that they all learned to go deeper, higher, and wider. Click here to learn more about how these peacebuilders transformed their personal trauma. You will also find a photo with questions for reflection on your journey deeper,higher, and wider.
Need to chat with a live person about what you are going through? Read our Online Grief Counseling Interviews.