Learning to articulate memories sequestered in parts of the brain without language, analysis, or chronology allows for communication. When we distinguish between stress and distress we recognize risks to better see how to care for ourselves and others. Seeing symptoms of trauma as normal reactions to distress, disrupts the isolation and self-doubt, and demystifies trauma. We see how self-neglect and self-harm reenact the trauma, reinforcing the need for self-care. We learn to use the First Responders’ Protocol to support us as we talk about violence or trauma to not wander, repeat, or get lost in the memory:
- Where did it happen?
- What happened?
- How did you feel?
- When was it over (at that time)?
Then, to live in our whole, creative, core selves rather than rigid decisions and patterns from past painful experiences, we must learn to reprocess traumatic memories. With companions we remember pivotal moments and complete these sentences with concrete things we can see or hear, then draw them and write them in word bubbles on the page. Then post them on a wall and read them back to the author, effectively reintegrating the memory into the cortex that has been sequestered in the limbic system.
Stories of Trauma
With a companion complete these six sentences:
- I was startled when…
- I felt confused, like there was no way out, when…
- I froze when…
- I did what I could or was told, which was…
- I knew it was over when… •In order to feel better, I. . .
Especially in war zones or violent times, people often do not have the ability to gather and mourn losses. We remember how to gather together to mourn our losses as a community.
Loss: Something or someone important to us that we can never meet or have again.
Grief: A personal emotional reaction of deep sadness or sorrow in response to a great loss of a relationship, person, place or thing.
Mourning: Time set aside personally or with family and community to remember and pay respects for who or what was lost and discharge grief.