It is called trauma for a reason. It is shocking, full of pain, and often difficult to accept and move forward from. But, growth from trauma is possible.
There are two different philosophies on trauma. The western philosophy is that trauma is an enemy that should be challenged or confronted. The eastern philosophy is that trauma is a “companion,” not an enemy. Victims are encouraged to feel the pathos of nature, the pain. Rather than sticking closely to one philosophy or another, it is best to incorporate both into healing and growth.
Victim, Survivor, Thriver
Post-traumatic growth involves the passage of being the victim, then the survivor, and ultimately the thriver. Trauma is not fair and being the victim comes with a lot of pain and challenges. Being the victim is not something that needs to result in guilt or shame but rather it is something that happened. It is something that needs to be accepted and grown through — hence the “companion” not the enemy. When you accept that you were a victim, that trauma becomes part of you. You learn how to live with the fact that this happened to you and you learn how to thrive.
A person is still in the victim stage when they feel like they are still in the trauma event, no matter what or how long the actual traumatic event happened. The victim might feel overwhelmed, helpless, angry, etc. A victim moves to the survivor stage when they start to see the resources around to help them, the people in their life that care for them, the good things around them. A survivor is no longer completely encompassed by the traumatic event and is on the road to healing. They are beginning to feel strong and confident in themselves.
A person reaches the thriving stage when they have taken their healing to the point of feeling general satisfaction with their life. They have crystallized the survivor stage and are enjoying their life. In the thriver stage, a trauma victim sees long-term possibilities. They begin to focus on taking care of their health and loved ones. They also recognize and know how to cope with post-traumatic stress and any other issues that remain related to their trauma.
A licensed mental health professional has the tools to help trauma victims go from victims to thrivers. Those in the mental health profession know that just because you were a victim of trauma, it does not need to define you. You can grow, move forward, and ultimately thrive in your new reality.
Acceptance is an important part of healing. It is a necessary step to begin moving forward. But, just because you have gotten to the acceptance stage doesn’t mean that all your grieving is done.
Acceptance of a loss does not mean you won’t feel sad at times or lament every once in a while. You still might have moments where grief overtakes. You still might feel overwhelmed with sadness at times, and that is ok.
Still Have Moments
Loss of any kind is difficult to accept but even after you learn to embrace your reality you will still be faced with moments. After all, you once had this person, pet, home, a career that you loved, that was part of you and you will still miss it.
Part of acceptance is learning to live with loss and to allow yourself to feel those moments of sadness. Don’t tuck it away or shrug it off, let yourself live it and then move slowly back into your present reality. The loss that you are grieving is just as much a part of you as the person, place, thing that you once had.
Find The Joy
These moments, while difficult to endure, are little reminders to look at what we still do have in our lives. They teach us to find the joy in the little things and embrace the moments of peace that fall between the moments of grief.
If you are struggling with moving through grief or loss of any kind, it may be helpful to seek the help of a licensed mental health professional. They can help you through to the acceptance stage and give suggestions on how to move forward through the sad times. You are stronger than you think. Your loss is meaningful. It is important. It is not forgotten. It is ok to have moments, to live them, to be in your grief. It is ok.
The other day a friend of mine got into an argument with another and started dwelling on how this person had wronged her. She insisted that she needed an apology. The situation got me thinking. Frequently we hold on to the idea that we need an apology before we can move on, but what we forget is we are not in charge of that apology.
Yes, anytime someone wrongs you, they should apologize. That is the right thing to do, but it doesn’t always happen. Many times the person that wronged you doesn’t apologize at all or doesn’t apologize in a manner that feels appropriate. Regardless, the apology is out of your hands.
You have the power
Needing an apology to move on is giving the other person all the power over you. You are relying on them to make you happy. You are dependent on this other person, giving them even more power. This person has already wronged you, why would you want to keep them in control of your emotional state? You should—and you do—have the power to make yourself happy.
You don’t need an apology to move on. You have to make things right in your head by accepting that what happened happened and there is nothing you can do about it. Move on, let go and get back to you. You are the only one who can truly control how you feel. You are in charge of you. Stop giving others all the power. Start focusing on your inner struggle and move forward in your life on your terms.
If you are a person who is fearful of commitment, someone who enjoys being close to others but grows distant when the relationship becomes more emotionally involved, then you might struggle with attachment issues.
Many commitment issues stem from past relationship experiences and/or our attachment to our parents or primary caregivers as children. It all comes down to having our needs met and being confident that if for some reason a relationship doesn’t work out, it’s ok. The good news is even if you are a person who has a hard time moving forward in relationships, there is hope in overcoming these struggles. It just takes some effort on your part.
Moving Forward is Possible
Talk to a therapist. A licensed mental health professional has the proper training to help you move from unhealthy attachment styles to secure attachment. Proper counseling can help to heal the deep wounds that are causing you troubles now. Forming a secure relationship with a therapist can help to increase feelings of security and help make sense of the past.
The first part of overcoming attachment struggles is to identify the problem. You must first understand where these emotions are coming from so you can work to heal them. A therapist who asks the right questions can help you to identify aspects of your childhood that may have led to your current emotional state.
Second, it is important that whoever your partner is has a healthier attachment style. Being with someone who understands what a healthy relationship looks like can further help you to heal by developing more trust in others and how they will respond to your needs. That being said, you don’t need another person to heal, but if you are in a relationship try to choose a healthy one—one that makes you feel good, one that is not full of jealousy and insecurity.
Third, believe in yourself. You do have the ability to move forward and have a happy, committed relationship.
Holding a grudge is tough work. It weighs you down, it is exhausting, and it is bad for your health. A study done by Hope College researchers found that people who imagined situations in which they had been unforgiving, experienced an increase in physiological symptoms. Those who were holding a grudge had higher heart rates, more sweating, and higher blood pressure than those who had chosen to forgive.
I have met with several clients who are depressed and angry as they struggle with past experiences.They have become all encompassed in these moments and the unfavorable feelings they have for those that have committed wrongdoing towards them. In some cases, these clients can’t sleep, focus, and they aren’t eating well. They cry all the time and feel lost and unengaged in their current lives. When these same clients were able to find it in themselves to forgive, they felt lighter, happier, and were able to obtain more success in their personal lives.
An obstacle to healing
Holding on to that deep-rooted anger does no one any good. It won’t fix the past or prevent things from happening in the future, it just adds to stress levels. Some of us hold grudges not because we want to stay mad forever, but because we just don’t know how to let go. Grudges come with an identity — you are the victim and you were wronged, and that is part of who you are. In order to let go and forgive, you have to be willing to drop that part of your identity. That can be a hard thing to do. Yes, this bad thing did happen to you by this person but it doesn’t have to become you. You were someone before this bad thing happened, and while you aren’t the same as you were entirely you don’t need to let these experiences define you. And, certainly making yourself sick over it is not helping you.
A grudge becomes an obstacle to healing. You must find some way to accept that the past happened, and move forward—grudges don’t allow for that kind of healing. If you are finding it difficult to let go, it can be helpful to meet with a qualified counselor. They can help you work through those feelings and find the strength to move forward as a happier, healthier you.