When our lives are shaped by traumatic events, we develop a particularly complex relationship with grief and mourning.
It’s never quite as straightforward as we experience a loss; we mourn; we move on.
Often times trauma survivors find themselves wrestling with grief in confusing ways, at unexpected times.
A LOT of the process of trauma recovery involves coming to terms with losses we didn’t even register as losses at the time.
Frequently, times of loss and grief activate or reactivate trauma symptoms and defenses we thought were dormant or healed.
Grief and loss often knock trauma survivors out of the precarious patterns we’d established to get by in our everyday lives.
Mourning for people and pets “out there” in the world often trigger a flood of feelings and memories inside us from a long time ago, which may not seem to have anything to do with the loss we’re “supposed” to be grieving.
A huge part of trauma recovery is reconstructing a version of ourselves that can function AFTER painful things have happened in our lives— which is very similar to what we need to do in the process of grief and mourning.
Recovery from trauma depends greatly on the extent to which we are able to acknowledge losses— and willing to give ourselves the emotional oxygen we need to process the meaning and implications of those losses.
The loss of a person, a pet, a job, or a relationship can trigger feelings we have about earlier, more fundamental losses.
Many trauma survivors don’t register that their loss of safety, loss of connection, or oss of innocence really ARE important losses— losses about which we can experience grief, and losses it is okay (important, even) to mourn.
Many trauma survivors are used to feeling things more intensely than the people around them.
Loss and grief are no different.
One of the CENTRAL tasks of trauma recovery is to build a sense of safety WITHIN ourselves, and a supportive relationship WITH ourselves— partly because grieving requires us to extend a great deal of compassion and patience to ourselves.
It’s really hard to grieve and mourn if you’re telling yourself to suck it up, that you have no right to feel what you feel, that you “should” be over it or not feel it as intensely as you do.
It’s hard enough to experience loss.
It’s much harder if we’re also wrestling with basic questions of our worthiness and durability as the result of a trauma history.
The difficult work we do in recovery of forming a loving, supportive, realistic relationship with ourselves becomes really important when we get hit with grief and loss out there in the world.
You need to know that you’re not crazy: grief and loss really are harder for you if you have a complicated, painful history.
You need to know that the skills and tools you’ve been working on to grow past your trauma history will be useful to you during times of grief and loss.
You need to know that the more you work on being there for yourself, cultivating a supportive, consistent, compassionate relationship with yourself, the easier it will be for you to handle grief and loss— though nothing ever truly makes grieving “easy.”
I know that nothing I can say here will ever truly soothe or heal the pain caused by grief and loss.
But how you relate to yourself and your pain will make a BIG difference in how— and how fast— you feel differently.
Be patient with you.
Be there for you.