Self-discovery is something we do, more so when we are faced with a traumatic event – such as losing a loved one, a job, an unexpected breakup, health issues, and even children acting out in ways so very unpredicted. The suffering we endure is the most traumatic and although most of us have gone through similar situations at one point or another, there are no words that could ease the individualized hardship we face or have faced.
I know in my case, the most I am told is ‘time will heal all wounds’ and yes it does, but what is the measure of time when coping with a traumatic event. A week, a month, a year, a decade. The only thing that has helped me is that I don’t look at timelines. Meaning to say, I don’t wait around for the universe to dictate if I am ready to grow from my pain and suffering. I simply do my best daily to distract, to pamper, and to move on slowly in bits and pieces. Sure I question myself, and ask the ‘why is this happening to me,’ but I don’t dwell. I ask the question, and then I proceed to find the answer, and if I can’t find the answer at the moment, I put that thought aside, and try my best to find the positive in whatever it is that I am going through.
There is also no ranking the severity of the trauma we, at one point or another face. Meaning, my traumatic experience doesn’t outweigh yours. I may have lost a parent, you may have lost a pet. You got laid off, and I got fired, the pain and shock can feel the same yet the time to heal very different.
In light of the unexpected and very quick passing of a beloved pet, and seeing my dear loved one suffer the way she is, I can only turn to words of wisdom to better understand, cope, and endure.
And when I feel the sudden-gut-wrenching pain, I will reflect upon these excerpts, and one day I will pass on this to my dear one and hope she can also find peace within her heart.
It’s normal to ruminate about your pain, to question the meaning of it all, and to feel any combination of guilt, shame, fear, and loneliness. This can really suck. You end up playing the trauma over and over again in your head, like a bad movie you’re forced to watch in a theater where you’re strapped to the chair and your eyelids are taped open. It doesn’t feel real. And each replay feels almost as painful as the last. It’s like your brain punching itself over and over again for months, or even years, on end.
In fact, trauma is actually a fact of life. And not only do most of us not succumb to severe mental breakdowns, but many people end up growing and developing into stronger people due to their past pains. As many as 90% of people who experience a traumatic event also experience at least one form of personal growth in the following months and years.
It turns out that trauma in our lives, in whatever form it takes, isn’t actually the thing that makes us “stronger”. It’s what comes after the trauma that really matters. It’s not the survival of trauma that makes you stronger, it’s the work you put in as a result of the trauma that makes you stronger.
Our natural inclination when something horrible happens is to ask, “Why me? What did I do to deserve this?” Generally, the younger we are, or the worse the experience, the more we will naturally come to blame ourselves for our pain. We will come to feel that there must be something inherently wrong with us and that we did something to bring the situation upon ourselves. It’s important to recognize this and to stop it before it goes too far. We did nothing to deserve our trauma. Nobody deserves trauma. But deserving is not the point. It’s just something that happens.
Because trauma confronts us with the possibility of our own mortality, and with the possibility that most of what we thought was true about the world may not be, it has the interesting side effect of exposing what we’ve been taking for granted for most of our lives. It’s extreme pain that has an uncanny ability to clarify what actually matters in our lives, and removes any inhibition or doubt as to whether we should take advantage of it or not.
Find a friend, a family member, a therapist, your pet iguana, and share your experience, your feelings, your doubts, and your fears that surround your trauma. Some of the most profound wisdom in your life will come from your trauma, but that wisdom can never be realized if you don’t share it in some form or another.
There’s a stigma in our culture around sharing our pain. Unfortunately, disclosing that we’re hurting runs up against a number of taboos — that we should be positive and pleasant, that our problems are just that, our problems, and that the self-reliance of people means we get what we deserve.
It’s sharing our own personal pain that allows us to move beyond it. Because it’s one thing to just sit and intellectualize our problems to ourselves. But once we share and mold that meaning out in the world around us, our pain becomes something outside of us. And because it’s now outside of us, we are finally able to live without it.