Tag Archive: healing

Dealing with emotional trauma can be very distressing, and in some instances, very severe. When one has experienced a major traumatic life event – from surviving an abusive relationship, to losing friends or family members to a drunk driver or a hit and run, suicide, to combat, or a terrible break-up, deception, manipulation or mind control, discovering that one’s partner has been unfaithful, or being conned and taken advantage of, hearing painful news of an illness that is debilitating or life-threatening – Anything that leaves a person feeling like the floor has been taken out from under them, and are experiencing a loss of personal power, like their whole world has just spiraled out of control… These people know what trauma is.

My intention is to do a series not so much on the trauma itself and identifying it, but rather to offer some self care tips, advice on grief and grieving, forgiveness, re-establishing safety after one has experienced a betrayal of trust, or how to face the places and things that you avoid that serve as triggers for anxiety and out of control feelings due to a traumatic life event – how to face those situations and re-build safety slowly. When it comes to relationship trauma, it is important to have tools to rebuild trust and I will touch on that as well.

Today I just want to give you a sense of normalcy if you are experiencing the residual effects of a traumatic situation. I personally find that sometimes it helps to know what to expect as you go through the stages of healing to help yourself feel like what you are experiencing is normal for the situation you are going through. I find it helps bring a small measure of stability to an otherwise overwhelming sense of powerlessness over the situation, and the loss of control that causes you to feel like your foundation has been ripped from underneath you. Having a roadmap of what to expect is sort of the first step to laying a new foundation.

It may sound kind of silly at first, but identifying the trauma is a good first step – now some of you may think it is quite obvious to pinpoint, the reality is, sometimes it’s not. For instance, part of experiencing something traumatic often involves some of the same stages of grief, so denial is a normal process, not wanting to, or being unable to accept what is happening is actually normal. Sometimes the shock of what the body, mind or emotions are experiencing that a person simply goes numb and cannot comprehend the reality of the situation immediately. I think this stage of being anesthetized from the initial blow is a little of God’s kindness to shield us from taking in too much all at once. Another good example of why identifying trauma can be difficult is working through your own childhood trauma. Children cannot identify trauma as readily as an adult can. But even as adults who endured trauma as a child, you may not see your childhood as traumatic. If you were constantly exposed to abuse, you may have taken in cues that this is ‘normal’ behavior because it is all you were exposed to. So, identifying what the trauma is, is actually a pretty significant feat for some!

Once you have identified your traumatic injury, or experience, it is important to talk about it with someone you can trust – a supportive friend, a therapist, a support group, because part of the healing process is being able to share our deepest feelings to give them a voice. Sometimes it is helpful just to talk as it allows yourself the opportunity to problem solve, bring awareness to the situation, bring understanding, bring the roots of the problem out into the light to help promote self-awareness or a sense of understanding. It helps you get in touch with the emotions surrounding the trauma.

Some people also find it helpful to write about it to help sort through their thoughts and emotions about the experience. Some people organize their thoughts better through writing than verbally. The most important thing is that you are processing it in order to feel it, rather than avoid. Avoidance is normal too, but studies suggest that avoidance can increase rather than decrease the stress and anxiety, fear and anger surrounding the situation, which can lead to further emotional injury down the road, or even lead to physical health problems.

Taking inventory of what happened and how it affected you is very important, but perhaps been more important than that is moving to the next stage of repair, involving FEELING the pain, sadness, anger, hurt etc that has come up as a result of the trauma. It is common to experience shock, anxiety and depression as well – also stages in the grief cycle. The feelings will take their time to pass, each person is different, but embracing them rather than repressing them will eventually lead to subside the intensity of the emotions. Note of caution: For those experiencing intense anger, this is not code for unleash all your fury, but rather to acknowledge it and try to determine what is beneath the anger, as anger is a powerful protective emotion usually covering over something far deeper -like sadness, pain or grief. If you have trouble knowing how to effectively deal with your anger in healthy ways, you should seek out an anger management group or see a counselor for additional help.

To move forward from the initial process of identifying and feeling the effects of trauma, the stage of acceptance inevitably comes. We must at some point accept what happened. This does not mean agreeing with what happened and somehow ‘making it ok’, rather it involves a willingness to live with the outcome, recognizing that what’s done is done and we cannot change the past, and choosing to go forward acknowledging what has happened. This is a HARD step. But it is essential to begin feeling better.

Forgiveness is almost always necessary for experiencing trauma of some kind. If you lost your son to war, you may need to forgive the man who killed your son, or the political regimes that brought on the war, or perhaps your own son for willingly joining the army.

If you were in a serious car accident that was not your fault and have to live with serious physical consequences as a result, you may need to forgive the person who hit your car.

If your child was abducted or kidnapped, raped or murdered, forgiveness may seem damn near impossible! Forgiveness is one of the hardest things to do. And forgiveness does not mean you have to have a relationship with the person who injured you or someone you love, but it does mean that at some point you let go of your hatred and anger and bitterness.

I have heard it said that unforgiveness is like drinking a poison you want someone else to drink. Un-forgiveness does us more damage to us than the person who hurt us. They have already caused damage. We cause ourselves further damage by holding onto hatred and bitterness that just fills our souls and consumes us, sending us spiraling down a deep, dark hole of despair, self pity, anger, vengeance, etc. anything and everything that robs us of the opportunity to live life free, full of life and love and hope for the future. But forgiveness takes time. And that’s ok.

Sometimes it is important to confront the situation in order to deal with our anger or to release someone through forgiveness. Sometimes it is ok to address the person face to face or write a letter. At other times, especially when processing your more hostile feelings of anger, it may prove more beneficial to write a letter you don’t send, or deal with those feelings in therapy, until you can face the person without being volatile, being able to say what you need to say constructively. Some people may feel they never have to face the person directly, and walk through that process on their own or with a support group or counselor.

Letting go…. Is just as hard as acceptance, and forgiveness. But letting go of the burden and walking away and moving on are the final stages in the process of healing from trauma. They have identified the truth about the trauma and faced it head on, worked through it through talking, writing about it, finding healthy and effective ways of dealing with anger and confrontation, accepted what cannot be changed, forgiven those involved, and now they must find the courage to move on toward the next phase of life. They must learn to live in the present and let the past stay in the past.

Healing will be easier if you are able to look on the bright side. If you are able to accept the bad, but not only see the bad but look for the good as well. Most people or situations are not “all bad”. If you can find a way to merge the good and the bad, so as not to over-amplify the negative reality, you will begin to see things in a more balanced perspective. You can begin to see alternate ways of looking at the negative experience as well – not to minimize what was done, but to bring balance to your own perspective. If you cannot see anything good other than the trauma, begin to loom for what you have learned from the experience, what wisdom or coping skills you have developed to endure painful and trying times in your future.

Walking through these stages will help minimize your tendency to Medicare or turn to addictive substances to avoid or anesthetize your experience, and help you come out stronger!

For the past few weeks on Wednesdays, I have been blogging about varying things that I have been learning about and reading up on the subjects that most interest me. Today is no different. The avid reader that I am, I am excited to share some of what I have been reading up on. I wanted to touch on the subject of abandonment or feelings of abandonment and rejection that we experience from time to time in our life. I also want to touch on some of the core things going on inside us that pre-disposition us for abandonment patterns throughout life, that leave us feeling like, “Will I ever be good enough?” “Am I lovable?” “Why do the people I love always leave?” or, “why do I feel so empty, like nothing ever fills me?” or “Why do I always doubt myself?”

Chances are, if you wrestle with those questions, you have felt abandoned at some point in your life. I would even hedge a bet that it has occurred more than once, like a repeating cycle, or a record re-playing over and over the same song, because there is a scratch on the record. I know we don’t use records these days, we barely use cd’s anymore, just download it from iTunes on your iPhone or iPad, or whatever the latest MAC technology is offering! But I like the concept, because it is very much true of us. Like the old record player that can’t get past the scratch on the record, and repeats over and over… Much of our life is the same. There is a wound, a scratch per say, an injury incurred in a current or past relationship. And as much as we want, we try so hard to overcome it and be drawn to different types of people, the kind that won’t abandon, or betray or who can actually connect emotionally, but for whatever reason, we keep going through the same issues over and over and over. Different face, same problem, or varying form of abandonment, but nonetheless…it IS abandonment.

I’ve had what I refer to as my fair share of abandonment experiences in life. Perhaps more than my fair share. In fact, I might even go so far as to say, I don’t think my poor little heart can take another fall like that again! I always say of myself, that I am nothing without love. If I stop loving, I have no purpose left on this earth. What happens when you go through something so traumatic that you reach that point? You think… I just can’t handle one more betrayal, one more abandonment… I don’t know if love can survive in my heart, as if the candle inside of you is about to be snuffed out.

I’d say if you have reached that point, as I have, it’s time to learn how to stop going around the same mountain and figure out what’s at the root! It’s time to mend the wounds and fill the holes that just leak and leak every time anything tries to fill it.

There is this one passage of scripture I truly love as I identify with it so well! It goes something like this:

“My People have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jeremiah 2:13

I like this verse because it reminds me personally that the source of my life does not, nor should not come from a person, but that God, the giver of life, has an abundance of life he lavishly is ready to bestow on me at a moments notice, whenever I allow myself to trust him enough to meet that deep need no one else can perfectly fill. It also reminds me of my independence, and how I go to other things and people to try to fill the empty voids inside my soul. It is no secret that women have a never ending need for connection and intimacy, and we need it constantly, and consume it like we are starving. Why? Because there is a cistern we have dug for ourselves, going to other things and people and places trying to fill the emptiness ourselves. But what we are largely unaware of, is that our cisterns are broken, and cannot hold the water that represents life. It’s sinking out of the cisterns we built for ourselves out of that crack in the cistern into the ground beneath us, leaving us cracked and dry and continually feeling empty, and continually searching for something else to fill us.

Now I know I am mostly speaking on a spiritual level, and it is true that nothing can ever fill us more than that divine connection to our creator, but there are other natural contributors as well. I am a realist. I know we were created to connect deeply, that we were not meant to be alone or abandoned… No wonder solitary confinement is the cruelest of punishments, for no one was meant to be alone. We were made for relationships. But as humans, we are flawed and we can be self-seeking, or wounded ourselves and unable or incapable of being what someone else needs us to be. All kinds of circumstances and backgrounds cause our brokenness in how we connect to each other, injure each other, and break each other’s hearts. It was not meant to be this way.

But the reality we live in is tainted with flawed individuals all trying to connect to each other and find fulfilling and lasting meaningful relationships. Intuitively, we KNOW that is what we were made for, and we search for it our whole lives. Now because we experience trials and errors in our patterns of relating to each other, inevitably, someone is left wounded, abandoned by another from time to time. Hurting people hurt people. It’s just the way it is.

Looking at some possible roots of abandonment, we can often go back to childhood and find an ‘absent parent’, unavailable to the needs of the child, an alcoholic perhaps that neglects the child’s needs due to drunkenness, if not worse, engaging in some form of abuse. Perhaps your parents simply could not figure out how to effectively communicate with each other and the marriage broke down and one parent left, these are real scenarios not to be discarded by pat answers from some holy religious book. But the fact remains, God never meant for us to connect only to Him, but to each other as well. Those needs to connect intimately with others in our life are God-given as well. It was His plan to begin with. But he never desired the pain we experience as a result of living in a broken world. But though we are broken, there is healing, and God generously desires to bandage our wounds. In fact, Jesus not only died on the cross for our sins, he also took all of our wounds and injuries, and sickness on himself too, caring so deeply for us marred by the fallen condition of human nature.

But there is hope! There is light at the end of the tunnel! There is a chance, a real chance to heal, restore, mend the wounds and move on, healed and whole and complete! Believe it or not!

I recently read a book called “The Journey from Abandonment to Healing”, by Susan Anderson. If you have ever felt abandoned, dismissed, washed up or thrown away and discarded like the trash from a significant relationship in you life, tell me if you do not identify with this quote from her book:

“People going through the anguish of love loss often feel that their lives have been permanently altered, that they will never be the same, will never love again. I’m writing to assure you that as devastated as you may be right now, your feelings of despair and hopelessness are in fact temporary, and they are a normal part of grieving over a relationship. In fact, only by grappling with the feeling that your life is over can you begin to rebuild…Anyone who feels this pain is in a legitimate crisis. Many feel as if they have been stabbed in the heart so many times that they don’t know which hole to plug up first. But these overwhelming feelings do not in any way imply that you are weak, dependent, or undeserving. In spite of the intensity of your feelings, you are still the competent, responsible person you thought you were. Your breakup, with all of its emotional excess, has not diminished you. In fact, being able to feel so deeply is a testament to your strength and tenacity. Only by giving yourself over to your feelings can you find your way out of them.”

We cannot simply ignore the pain and try and go on. It goes with us whether we deny it or not. In fact, studies show the importance of not resisting your emotions, because the more you resist dealing with them, the more intense they get, the more deeply ingrained they become and begin to produce toxins that harm us further. We were meant to let it go, by acknowledging it, feeling it, releasing it, and allowing ourselves to be lifted by peace through the process of time. Does time heal all wounds? I don’t know. It depends on what you do with it. What I do know for sure, is that God is able to heal the brokenness inside us, and there is a part we can take to participate in the work of healing as well. This blog is looking like another two part series, so stay tuned for next Wednesday’s completion on the things I’m learning about abandonment and the ways to bind up those wounds, pour healing balm on them, and be lifted to a place of resilience and healing!

If you’d like to look at a great resource, check out my one-on-one Trauma Recovery Program which will help bring control back into your life!

God bless!


If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach

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