“Traumaversaries”— the anniversary of when you experienced a traumatic event— are hard for lots of reasons. 

But it’s not just about seeing a date on a calendar and remembering, “Oh yeah, I remember that.” 

In fact “traumaversaries” are usually not just about one date. They’re more often about a time of year. 

It’s about the FEEL of a time of year. 

Sometimes it’s about the cultural stuff around us at particular times of year— especially if our “traumaversaries” happen around holidays. 

(And, if we’re honest, what complex trauma survivor DOESN’T have at least one “traumaversary” that occurs during a holiday season?)

The nervous system of a complex trauma survivor is REALLY sensitive. We notice a LOT. 

Yes, we notice dates on a calendar. 

But we also notice slight changes in air temperature. 

We notice the SMELL of a month or season. 

We notice whether leaves are green or whether there’s snow on the ground. 

The onset of winter means we’re often wearing different clothes and coats than we were during spring or fall— our nervous system notices that. 

So much of our reactivity to trauma memories hinges on sense memory. This is one of the reasons why my approach to treating trauma is so firmly rooted in sensory grounding— because, for all the talking we ever do in trauma therapy, we are NEVER going to escape the sensory triggers and reactions. We HAVE to deal with them. 

The thing about “traumaversaries” is that they are often unique to us. That date on the calendar doesn’t mean to other people what it means to us. 

Even if we describe or explain to someone else what we’re experiencing on a “traumaversary,” there’s only so much about that experience they can really hook into. 

Whereas we have to live with that experience all day, every day, for however long the “traumaversary” experience extends. 

Effective trauma treatment and committed trauma recovery does tend to blunt the impact of “trauamversaries.” You won’t be as affected by this season and this day in EXACTLY this way, at EXACTLY this intensity, for the rest of your life. 

But that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with NOW. 

The other thing about “traumaversaries” is that they are expertness we literally can’t avoid. 

We can often avoid people and places that are reminders of our trauma. 

But we can’t avoid a date on the calendar or a time of year. It WILL come. 

And we KNOW it will come. 

Which means that, for as difficult as some “traumaversaries” can be, the lead up to them can be difficult as well. 

We never know quite how reactive we will be to a “traumaversary.” Some years it may come and go, and we don’t experience anything huge. 

A lot of it depends on where we are in our recovery, what kind of therapeutic and other support we have, and the other things we happen to have going on in our lives. 

Then there are the other years— when the time of year around our “traumaversary” feels like Groundhog Day, experiencing the same thoughts and feelings and reactions, again and again and again and again. 

We can’t yeet our “traumaversary” off the calendar. It’s there. 

All we can do is what we can do: use the skills, tools, and philosophies we’ve developed in trauma recovery to support ourselves through it. 

A “traumaversary” is a trigger. It’s a particular kind of trigger, that comes with particular baggage. 

But you’ve come this far in trauma recovery. You know how to strategize around a known trigger. This isn’t your first rodeo. 

Easy does it. Breathe; blink; focus. 

We take this the way we take everything: one day, one hour, one minute, at a time. 

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