Trauma And Loss
We often think of grief as relating to a death or loss of a person in our lives, and this is often true. Death of a loved one is extremely traumatic, stressful and terrible. Workers in the helping professions often witness death or are exposed to death due to employment, including myself. There’s no specified length of time or end point when experiencing grief. Grief involves so many emotions and memories, and there is often a rush of unexpected emotions that have to be dealt with.
The majority of the time we think of loss as related to death, but loss and grief can also include emotional and physical loss, and/or loss of what could have been,never was, or what we hoped would be.
Emotional loss can include loss of safety, loss of peace, loss of joy, loss of innocence, loss of protection, loss of identity, loss of hope and loss of love. There are likely other emotional losses that you can think of, and each person is affected differently. All of these losses can lead to fear, anger, sadness, numbing, rigid boundaries due to a lack of trust and emptiness. What does this feel like? Fear often takes over in relationships and it’s difficult to be hopeful about people and relationships. Loss of identity prevents people from having a sense of self, of boundaries and knowing what they want or need. Self- protection and/ numbing may feel necessary to prevent further loss or hurt, preventing closeness in relationships.
Physical losses may include homes, insurance, personal belongings, vehicles, jobs, food, money, mementos, and/or clothing. Injuries can lead to loss of limbs, damage to the body or loss of brain functon. Physical loss can also include loss of limbs and brain function. Loss of control over your own body occurs with sexual crimes against adults and children.
The reason I bring up such a variety of loss is because it all is hard and it all hurts. There’s definitely a spectrum of severity with loss. Losing personal belongings is definitely less difficult than not having food, losing brain function or mobility, or losing identity after years of abuse. However, every loss is hard and many times there is mourning over what could have been or should have been, not just the loss itself.
What Could Have Been?
When experiencing trauma, your life is altered. Some of the things that you expected to happen did not happen. This is a loss. In the death of a loved one we mourn everything that was, but also everything that never was. The same goes with physical and emotional losses.
As a survivor of trauma, I did not give myself time to grieve losses. I worked non-stop, and used drugs and alchohol to avoid dealing with pain. I threw myself into helping others instead of dealing with my own needs. I would read books or watch movies and cry for a long time for the characters who experienced similar trauma to mine. It took me a long time to realize that I was crying for myself and my own losses, not the characters. Instead of allowing myself to grieve, I tried to bury my emotions, but it only worked for so long when I reached my mid 20s.
I made the choice to have an abortionin my mid 20s. I made this decision as a substance abuser and alcoholic, in an abusive relationship, and thought I was sparing my child. I realized that this was wrong but it was too late. I spiraled into the worst self-hatred and depression I had ever known, and there was nothing I could do to bring my baby back. I hit rock bottom after this decision and went through a little over a year of trying to avoid feeling and thinking by increasing substance use. I finally ended up getting sober, becoming a Christian and grieved the loss of my baby with the help of a class at a local pregnancy center, counseling, and a lot of prayer from women in my church who helped me process. I experiencedalong a peace that came from being forgiven by God and knowing my baby was with Jesus. This came after one of the worst periods of my life, and reaching rock bottom forced me to deal with a lot I had been avoiding coping with for years. Once I started to face my past I became unraveled, but then began to put the pieces of my life back together in a much healthier way. I needed to grieve the loss of many could have beens, should have beens, and emotional and physical losses over the years.
I have never talked about my abortion publicly until today, but feel it is so important to help people to know that there is healing possible, even when your own choices cause trauma and loss. There is always hope. You may have made terrible choices and hurt others or had terrible things done to you that robbed you physically or emotionally. You are not your past, you are not your bad choices, you are not your tribulations or your hurtful behaviors. You are so much more. There is so much healing that can be done and much of it starts with processing loss, not running from it. Label your emotions, think about what could have been, and then let it go. This is not easy; It is a very complex process. It involves self care and allowing yourself to be vulnerable and honest. Once you experience freedom you can begin to rebuild and move forward, because the weight of your past will not hold you back as often as it did before.
True freedom from grief and loss I experienced came from my relationship with God. I felt a peace I had never known after becoming a Christian and being vulnerable with God first, and then others. There is a scripture that states “And provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:3). This is the heart of Jesus for everyone, no matter what you’ve done or had done to you. It is about the healing, and the redemptive power of God. It is through relationship with Jesus that we can truly transform and heal and have freedom. He sees who we are meant to be and who he created us to be, not just what we’ve done or what was done to us.
I’d love to hear your story and help you to process your trauma and losses. Contact me at email@example.com .
#PTSD #trauma #secondarytrauma #panic #relivingmypast #letgoofmypast #emotionalhealing