Transforming Grief and Trauma

Sad woman leaning head on wallPeople are often perplexed by numbness or intense emotionality that can occur for years after a traumatic event. Addictions, stress, and anxiety may also follow. If you are experiencing any of these, this is NORMAL. You are not alone.

In the same way that we need to digest physical food, we need to digest emotional happenings. If we don’t take the time needed to allow emotional happenings to digest, we may feel cut off or extremely reactive. This is not wrong; this is human. The question is how one addresses this experience so that it comes to a gentle close.

In working with hundreds of people, I have found several key elements that assist with digesting trauma. In this way, peace is found.  This article will discuss the use of these elements, which are gratitude, focus, and surrender.

Gratitude
If we don’t have a strong garden bed, we don’t grow a good garden. Gratitude is the nutrient that makes our soil fertile for plentiful and positive food. If we practice gratitude as a way of life, we become full of positive vibrancy. This vibrancy tends to us lovingly, mends us, and carries us in powerfully sorrowful times. It is never too late to start. Begin and end each day by listing everyone, every situation, and everything for which you have appreciation. Don’t hesitate to stretch your gratitude muscle bigger during challenging times. There is much to be grateful for, even when challenges arise. The more we focus on this, the easier it is to work with the emotions of trauma and grief when life brings us these.

Focusing
Focusing on what we DO wish to experience and what we WOULD like to feel helps us return to harmony. If you drive down the street with the steering wheel in your hands, your head turned around to view the place from which you came, a crash is imminent! If you look ahead toward where you plan to be in the next moment, you end up there. In the human physical world, we need to focus ahead, at times. With conscious focusing, we have a creative role in where we end up.

In emotional reality, we can be where we focus now! There is no time lapse. If you focus on something for which you have gratitude or joy, you find yourself in gratitude and joy now. Take a moment to identify with one word that clarifies what it is you wish to experience as your primary basis of existence. Is it peace? Love? Connectedness? By identifying this, you are letting life know that you are available for this experience. You are letting yourself know that you can adjust yourself to co-create experiences that bring this quality out of you. You can actually enliven this quality right now by focusing upon it.

Acceptance
The waves of feeling in a lifetime will never stop. When we fight them, they escalate. When we hide them, we bring about resentment, numbness, addiction, depression, or anxiety. When we dive into their essence, welcoming these emotions whether they are preferred or nonpreferred, they change. They transform. As we move into the layers of many feelings under a once-avoided feeling, we eventually find the neutral void where love is the basis of all. I have found this to be the primary key in healing from grief. Fully experiencing  grief’s sensations and flavors, beyond the intellect’s explanation, opens us up into new and fulfilling territory. Merging into the feeling’s sensation takes us beyond its initial painfulness, into something vastly fulfilling, warm, and compassionate.*

*Please note: If you are experiencing a mental illness, please receive the assistance of a counselor before working with the practice suggested in the last paragraph of this blog. It is advised that you do not do this practice on your own. Those who are not experiencing mental illness will benefit from doing this practice alone and most likely learn more about how to reap its rewards by working with a counselor.

Related articles:
The Wholeness of Grief
Grief for All Seasons
Experiential Theory: Psychotherapy’s Well-Kept Secret

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • shirl

    shirl

    April 18th, 2012 at 11:27 AM

    We would not be human if we did not experience grief along with some kind of trauma at a point in our lives. But when you are able to take something that was sorrowful and turn that into something that has meaning for you and that you have survived and learned from, now that is a time when you can smile and say job well done. I truly believe that this is what we were put here to do. We have to learn from the experiences in our lives and triumph over the bad. When you find that you can do that you will be amazed at how strong and powerful this can make you feel. You don’t have to let the grief rule you any more.

  • Ballenger

    Ballenger

    April 19th, 2012 at 4:22 AM

    So true. We have been given so much in life, good and bad, but it is only when we come to a point where we can accept this and move forward will we be totally in control of ourselves and our destiny.

  • HANNAH

    HANNAH

    April 19th, 2012 at 11:21 PM

    I have heard from a quite a few people that it is better to ACCEPT what has happened and move ahead.But I find myself not able to ACCEPT things like that.You know,just the mere thought of a few things from the past make me restless and turn my mood off for a good few hours.How am I supposed to ACCEPT something I hate?

  • Kelly O'Horo

    Kelly O'Horo

    October 1st, 2012 at 4:00 PM

    Those are great aspects to consider when looking at the attitude and mindset helpful to moving through grief and trauma. It is also important to remember that trauma affects the body physiologically as well as psychologically. EMDR is another exceptional modality to assist with the reprocessing of traumatic events which can drastically reduce triggering caused from “bad information” that the body conveys to the brain due to past events.

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