April 1, 2019
Weekly Reflection – Trauma Permanently Changes Us
Trauma permanently changes us to the very core.
“This is the big, scary truth about trauma: There is no such thing as “getting over it.” The five stages of grief model marks universal stages in learning to accept loss, but the reality is in fact much bigger; a major life disruption leaves a new normal in its wake. There is no “back to the old me.” You are different now, full stop.
This is not a wholly negative thing. Healing from trauma can also mean finding new strength and joy. The goal of healing is not a papering over of changes in an effort to preserve or present things as normal. It is to acknowledge and wear your new life warts, wisdom, and all – with courage.”
The world is so full of trauma, strife, and crises these days! Great leaders (and followers) die. Wars continue. Divorce happens, and abortion cuts short defenseless lives. Churches are wracked with scandal. Disease strikes the seemingly healthy at the most unexpected times. Too many successful lives are reduced to begging. And sometimes the poor become rich only to discover other levels of difficulty.
Grief, trauma, and crisis come in many different cloaks. A loss almost always precedes them. And every disruptive loss brings its special version of the grief process. So, how would you define a loss? One definition is, “…a loss is the absence of that to which one attributes personal value, either perceived or real and was at one time in the person’s possession or was anticipated being in his or her possession.”
This could apply to the death of a close relative. It could also apply to a job, a broken relationship, relocating to another city, or even that “ah-ha” moment when we discover a new belief that is different from what we have always operated from. And losses lead to crises. In his book, Disrupted, Dr. Virgil Fry writes that he once heard crisis defined as, “ Something of consequence which arises unexpectedly, demanding immediate attention, accompanied by intense feelings.” Does that sound familiar? It should, as we all experience crises. They are simply part of being human and living life.
So we have loss, trauma, crisis, grief –and then what? I once developed a diagram to describe the process of moving from an “old normal” through the chaos and eventually on to a “new normal.” It illustrates what was, what is, and what can be. At the end of the process, we discover that we have changed. The “new normal” is different than the “old normal,” but it can be good. Inevitably we are permanently changed by this process. The change in us can be huge. Or it can be almost imperceptible. But it is there. And we will eventually realize it, although that realization may come far in the future.
Jesus came to bring change, positive change, change that radically redefines who we are. The process of transitioning from the old man to the new can be painful. We may not realize at first what the Holy Spirit has done for us. But in the end, we will discover that our “new normal” may look more like our Savior than it does the old man we left behind. May our grief then turn to joy!
Read the Chaplain’s reflections on Stability.