Healing Your Traumatized Heart: Seeking Safety, Understanding and Peace (excerpt from book)
By Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt. Ph.D.
In the Spring 2012 issue. I intodced a concept of traumatic grief and natural overlap with the condition as PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, While you may not be suffering from full-blown PTSD, the nature of yur loss is still traumatic and you are deserving of special care and attention, from yourself as well as others.
I also said that if you are able to muster the courage to actively mourn, you will eventually intiergrate this profound loss into your life, all the time realizing you have been forever transformed and changed by it. And, honoring you need to mourn will eventually allow you to love and live again.
This article presents several self-care suggestions for the early weeks and months of your grief. In later articles I will share additional mourning tips and self-care principles.
Seek safety and comfort.
Afterr a traumatic experince, it's natural to feel vulnerable, unsafe and anxious. Your nervous system is telling your brain that the world isn't a safe place ring now. Something violent has happened and , you naturally think, it could happen again.
To overcome your trauma, you must locate yourself among people and places that make you feel safe. If this means moving in with a freind or relative temporartily, that's OK. If the means avoiding certain places or people, that's OK, too
What calms and comforts you? Taking a walk? Cuddiling with someone you love? Hugging your pet? Relaxing in the tub? Yoga or meditation or prayer? Identify activities that soothe you and turn to them when your anxiety is high.
You will not be able to mourn if you feel unsafe or overly anxious. Seek safety and comfort first, then you can begin to slowly embrace your grief,
Feelings of shock, numbness and disbelief are nature's way of temporarily protecting us from the full reality of a sudden, violent death. They help us survive our early grief. We often think, "I will wake up and the will not have happened." Mourning can feel like being in a dream, Your emotions simply need time to catch up with what your mind has been told.
Trauma loss often goes beyond what we consider "normal" shock. In fat, you may experience what is called -psychic numbing"-the deadening or shutting off of emotions. Your sence that "this isn't happening to me" may persist for months, sometimes enven years. Don't set rigid expectations for yourself and your ability to function "normally" in ther world around you.
Think of the shock and numbness as a bandage that your psyche had placed over your wound. The bandage removed and the wound openly exposed to the world.
Consider yourself in "emotional intensive care."
Something catastrophic has happened in your life. Something assaulting to the very core of your being. Something excruciatingly painful. Your spirit has been deeply injured. Just as your body cannot be expected to recover immediately from a brutal attack, neither can yur psyche, Imagine that you've suffered a severe physical injury and are you in the hospital's intensive care unit. Your friends and family surround you with there presence and love. The medical staff attends to you constantly.Your body rests and recovers
This is the kind of care you need and deserve right now. The blow you have suffered is no less devastating than this imagined physical injury. Allow others to take care of you. Ask for the help. Give yourself as much resting time and possible. Take time off work. Let household chores slide. In the early weeks and months after the death, don't expect-indeed, don't try-to carry on with a yur normal routine.
Be aware that your affects your body, heart, mind social self, and spirit.
Grief is physically demanding. This is especially trye with traunatick grief. Your body responds to the stress of the encounter and immune system can weaken. You may be more susceptible to illness and physical discomforts. You may also feel lethargic, weak ad highly fatigued. You may not be sleeping well and you may have no appetite. Your stomach may hurt Your chest may ache