Trauma, Loss, and Grief

Defining Trauma

The definition for trauma is kind of brief for me. What is traumatic for us is defined by our expectations [conscious or subconscious/assumed]. In other words: The root of trauma is when our expectations are unmet.

Because there are no objective rule outs for what is trauma, the experience of trauma and the fall out of post-traumatic stress varies widely. Trauma for you may be when your parent told you, either directly or perceived indirectly [assumed/interpreted], you are worthless. Trauma for another may be witnessing or experiencing rape or some life or death situation. There are just enough differences between each human being and their life experiences that allow each of these people to be validated in their experience of pain.

The resulting shame, depression, anxiety, and other difficulties are defined as emotional fallout that the trauma survivor must now face. There are no pills to take away our history or how a trauma can impact, alter, or potentially limit our future. That is the loss. That is the part we, who have experienced trauma, must grieve.

Defining Loss and Grieving

What once was, cannot now be. Loss generally hurts. For some it is irreconcilable and can result in some major forms of death or decay [spiritual, physical, emotional, psychological etc.]. My hope and personal experience is that it doesn’t have to end that way.

I believe that grieving is necessary when loss is experienced. Grieving, in general terms, is the way we handle loss. While there are some identifiable themes of this process for most people [shock, denial, anger, depression, bargaining, etc.]. When speaking about trauma, Viktor Frankl, once said something along the lines of “an abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal”. Many of these abnormal reactions [or  grievings as I see them] parade around as mental health diagnoses such as depression, anxiety, psychosis, etc. Often times, with the full account of a person’s life — taking several steps back from the initial image of a person and acquiring all information relevant or not — the abnormal can readily be viewed as strangely logical and acceptable. This view is one that I attempt to maintain — that odd/abnormal only exists where knowledge is not complete. In other words, if we are “weirded out” by another person’s way of dealing with a situation, this primarily demonstrates our lack of knowledge about the person more so than the fact that they are in fact abnormal/mentally disordered.

Pain is pain. No need to compare.

Often times when people are in the same room talking about pain, comparisons happen. We tend to compare for different reasons that we tend not to acknowledge. One of those reasons we compare is in order to discover social rules or to receive feedback of our value. To say this another way, we want to know where the line is drawn between pain that is worthy of being suffered from, and pain that is less worthy. This is where we go wrong. Pain is pain, and the moment we let another decide what hurts us, we give up the safety behind our own awareness of what does hurt and what hurts us. We might also be giving up our ability to know how to feel better. The comparison of my pain to yours when trying to discover whether yours is valid or not is of little use for recovering from loss. What matters is not whether your pain is greater or lesser. What matters most is what you do with your pain and another’s.

Getting Help

If you are suffering from pain of loss; from trauma, seek help. If that comes from me, wonderful! If it comes from your friends and family, or a grocery bagger, wonderful! [A combination of all the above works too!]

Take Away: you are not alone or at least you don’t have to be.

 

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