For me, the true tragedy of trauma is not the trauma itself. It’s the aftermath.
It’s the stories that go hidden. It’s what happens when we get up, brush it off, and move forward, carrying the tragedy with us. In doing this, we allow the tragedy to diminish our power and ability to fully regain ourselves. If however, we allow the story to be heard, the space to move as we acknowledge the trauma and navigate through it, we can come to the other side, honoring ourselves and our truth in a completely different, healthy way.
For me, the experience of going through the Boston bombing, denying my part in the the story, and walking away a spectator actually brought forward both a mental and physical deterioration that manifested over the course of years. Now, mine was very poignant because that’s what I needed to get my attention, but I’ve met a couple of amazing, powerful women who were also participants in that tragedy that still carry the trauma. They have handled their trauma differently.
When we have talked about this, they tell me they’re not going to let the perpetrators take their lives away from them or to have power over them. They’re not going to let them win. But, as we’re having these conversations, their heads drop and their emotions rise. They choke back tears. They just can’t deny the energy of that emotion, the story, the tragedy they have trapped inside.
When that happens, they need to express it in some way and that expression will come out physically. Sometimes it will come out as self sabotage or sometimes just an inability to fully trust themselves, to be able to move forward, because the tragedy consistently runs through them like an undertow.
An undertow is a force over which we have no control that drags us down and it takes us where we don’t want to go. It’s completely unexpected and comes with no warning, steering us in a completely different direction. That’s the true tragedy of trauma.
The trauma can be unraveled, though. First, we have to navigate through the rubble in order to find the beauty.
When we endure traumatic experiences, we know it. We may tell ourselves that we’ve gotten past it. I mean, Boston happened nine years ago. But until we get brave and sift through it in order to really understand it, we’re going to stay afraid that it can still take us out.
I can’t tell you how many clients come to me and say, “I don’t want to see that thing. I don’t want to have to go back, and I don’t want to have to talk about it again.” And the reason why is because they’re afraid. What they don’t understand yet is that the fear is what will take them out. It won’t be the trauma itself, because they already made it through that. It’s the aftermath that they haven’t dealt with.
The hard truth is that we all have to eventually take the scab off the hurt and deal with the pain that comes, because it always comes. It just masquerades as something else because we haven’t connected it back to that original source.