Traumatic events are not just sad things that happen in life that are eventually forgotten in time. These events are painfully heavy. They are burned into your memories and are equally as vivid in recollection as it was the first time you experienced it. The pain, the sadness, the hurt that you felt when the traumatic event hit your life still stings, even if it has been years since it occurred, because when you feel that level of emotion, your heart remembers it forever.
So how does one cope with trauma? How do you deal with the heaviness you are experiencing? To be honest, there is no right answer. Everyone deals with trauma in their own way and because of that, I can only share how I have dealt with trauma in my life. To protect those involved, I will not describe the traumatic event. However, I will describe how I felt.
I was 15 years old and I didn’t know what to do with all the feelings that I was experiencing. So, I shut it all down. I didn’t cry. I didn’t get angry. I didn’t even talk about it. I pretended like nothing was wrong and I focused all my attention in school and my extracurriculars. Anytime anyone would try to bring it up or express how they felt, I would leave the room. I had convinced myself that I wasn’t bothered by the situation so much so that I would get irritated if people tried talking to me about it.
You may be asking how I managed to block what happened to my family out of my head? As I mentioned, everyone copes with trauma differently. I believe that since I was so young, not thinking about the complexity of what happened to my family helped me deal with the situation. However, this method was not effective for long.
After about a year, my block began to weaken. I started getting emotional over things completely unrelated to my family and I started to think about the event more and more. It started to consume what I thought about and I became extremely distracted. Eventually, I couldn’t ignore what I was feeling anymore and I had a breakdown. It felt like the tears that were coming out were slowly easing my pain that I had held on to for so long.
If there is one thing I have learned from my experience is that by avoiding dealing with my family’s problems, I was simply pushing off the inevitable. This caused my later coping to be even more painful and heavy. Had I allowed myself to experience the emotions I was feeling at the time of the event, I probably would have prevented my later suffering. And although I cannot be too hard on myself since we cannot always control how we will react when trauma occurs, it is one thing that I regret looking back on that experience.
If you are reading this and have also been through a traumatic situation, I speak directly to you. However you choose to deal with what has happened, as long as it is healthy and not hurting anyone including yourself, is a valid way to cope. Take your time and process what has happened the best way you can. It will be difficult and you will feel confused and conflicted, but know you will get through it. Do not feel ashamed to seek out the comfort of family, close friends and/or professional help. It does not make you weak; in fact, the simple recognition that you need help truly defines what strength is.