As I continue to write about things we have encountered through 2021, I would be avoiding the obvious if I did not talk about trauma. Let me preface this blog post: I am NOT a licensed therapist or psychologist. I have mixed work experiences in ministry and mental health and have learned from trainings and very respectable colleagues. I am still learning about the impact of trauma on myself, those I love, and the people I pastor.
Trauma is best defined by the American Psychological Association: Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea. While these feelings are normal, some people have difficulty moving on with their lives. Psychologists can help these individuals find constructive ways of managing their emotions. (https://www.apa.org/topics/trauma)
Why trauma? Let you ask you: why not? Can you name one person in your life who HAS NOT come out of 2021 (and 2020) with some wounds? 2020 was COVID-19. 2021 has been COVID-19 and everything else that came with it. Here’s the scary part: there are people that say these things did not impact them. “Nothing scares me but the fear of the Lord.” This is a good statement but it is lacking what happens when you live in community with others. You will experience pain and suffering.
There are two types of trauma: primary and secondary. Primary is what directly happens to you and it alters your life. Secondary trauma is something that you indirectly experience and it starts to stir your soul. We have experienced a lot of this in 2021. Between our own suffering and the suffering of others and being tied into the media Matrix (the news), the arrows flying at our hearts and minds are relentless.
Here are some tangible steps to evaluating what traumas you have experienced in 2021:
- Stop. Breathe.
- Pray throughout your day about your 2021. Ask Jesus to reveal your wounds from 2021.
- At the end of the day, write down your wounds in two categories: primary and secondary trauma. Use pen and paper and chart this in a journal. Physically writing it down (not typing) will slow you down and make you think.
- Get some help. Whether you need professional guidance or a friend, reach out. The Life with Jesus was never meant to be done solo.
- Help someone else. There is something sacred about helping someone else in their suffering. Remember your own woundedness when helping others.
- Identify your stressors. Does watching the news make you angry or anxious? Turn it off. Throw it out the window. Whatever you need to do. Do certain people (yes, even family) get under your skin. Do some work and learn the WHY.
- Get a life. Go back to that hobby you avoid that brought you so much joy. Read something other than the news and Facebook news-feeds. Find JOY again.
As we experience healing, our open wounds will eventually heal. We will have scars from our experiences. However, behind every scar is a story of hope and redemption with God. May you find healing and lead others to healing–in Jesus’ name. Amen!