When I saw my nine-year-old daughter take her last breath, I was forever changed. Cancer had ravaged her tiny frame and we watched helplessly as she finally succumbed to this devastating disease. Life can take some unexpected twists and turns, and it is impossible to expect that we will be the same person we were before the traumatic event. Questions may go through our minds like: How do I feel safe after a trauma? Will I ever feel better? Why did this happen? Are there ways to effectively cope?
It is impossible to come up with concrete steps, that everyone who experiences a trauma, can adhere to and expect to get better, but there are some time-tested skills and thought-provoking statements we can consider.
- Accept that you are going to be different as a result of this traumatic event.
- Identify those things that are good about the change resulting from the trauma.
- Identify those undesirable things regarding the change from the traumatic event. From this list consider how you can work with these changes, work around them, or even reframe them as a growth opportunity.
- Realize that any emotion you experience is normal. If things start to feel out of the norm, seek professional help.
- Move forward realizing that it is normal to have waves of emotion continue to pound at and around you. These waves of emotion will generally lessen in intensity and frequency as time goes on; however, from time to time, some intense waves may come at you seemingly out of nowhere. This is normal.
You may experience a wide variety of feelings after a trauma. Shock, anger, depression, guilt, shame, sadness, loneliness, hopelessness… The list can go on.
When To Seek Help
If your functioning seems to be decreasing and you have bouts of extreme anger or outbursts of anger, you may want to reach out for help. If you have triggers that cause you to re-experience the trauma, or if you start to have nightmares about the trauma, you again may want to reach out for help. If your mood, sleep, appetite, relationships, school, or job performance seems to be slipping, it would be wise to reach out to a professional for help through trauma therapy. If you feel any thoughts of suicide or a desire to hurt someone else, you should immediately seek help.
Healthy Coping Strategies for Trauma
- Develop a tool box of deep breathing, relaxation skills, and meditation skills. One of my favorites is called circular breathing. This is where you take a slow breath in and as you are doing this count to five in your mind. At the top of your breath hold it for 5 seconds as you count to five in your mind. Then slowly let your breath out, again counting to five as you do this. Lastly, at the bottom of your breath, before you breathe in again, hold it for the same 5 seconds. This is where you start all over again. Do this for a couple of cycles.
- Re-engage in a hobby or activity you have not done in a while.
- Find a new activity, sport, hobby that you can participate in.
- Make a list of people you trust that you can call when you are not doing well. Help them understand you just need them to be a listening post or sounding board for you.
- Search on the web for people who have experienced a similar trauma and have seemingly come out the other side. Listen to their story and see what they did that helped. See if you could implement one of their skills.
Every person and every trauma is unique. At Highland Springs Specialty Clinic, we understand this and do not take a one-size-fits-all approach with our trauma therapy program. Our reputable trauma and PTSD treatment centers in Utah consist of highly trained therapists and clinicians that have experience in helping people cope and recover from various forms of trauma. For any questions you may have, please give us a call and we’d be happy to help!