persepine

1. Trauma permanently changes us.

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.

2. Presence is always better than distance.

There is a curious illusion that in times of crisis people “need space.” I don’t know where this assumption originated, but in my experience it is almost always false. Trauma is a disfiguring, lonely time even when surrounded in love; to suffer through trauma alone is unbearable. Do not assume others are reaching out, showing up, or covering all the bases.

It is a much lighter burden to say, “Thanks for your love, but please go away,” than to say, “I was hurting and no one cared for me.” If someone says they need space, respect that. Otherwise, err on the side of presence.

3. Healing is seasonal, not linear.

It is true that healing happens with time. But in the recovery wilderness, emotional healing looks less like a line and more like a wobbly figure-8. It’s perfectly common to get stuck in one stage for months, only to jump to another end entirely … only to find yourself back in the same old mud again next year.

Recovery lasts a long, long time. Expect seasons.

4. Surviving trauma takes “firefighters” and “builders.” Very few people are both.

This is a tough one. In times of crisis, we want our family, partner, or dearest friends to be everything for us. But surviving trauma requires at least two types of people: the crisis team — those friends who can drop everything and jump into the fray by your side, and the reconstruction crew — those whose calm, steady care will help nudge you out the door into regaining your footing in the world. In my experience, it is extremely rare for any individual to be both a firefighter and a builder. This is one reason why trauma is a lonely experience. Even if you share suffering with others, no one else will be able to fully walk the road with you the whole way.

A hard lesson of trauma is learning to forgive and love your partner, best friend, or family even when they fail at one of these roles. Conversely, one of the deepest joys is finding both kinds of companions beside you on the journey.

5. Grieving is social, and so is healing.

For as private a pain as trauma is, for all the healing that time and self-work will bring, we are wired for contact. Just as relationships can hurt us most deeply, it is only through relationship that we can be most fully healed.

It’s not easy to know what this looks like — can I trust casual acquaintances with my hurt? If my family is the source of trauma, can they also be the source of healing? How long until this friend walks away? Does communal prayer help or trivialize?

Seeking out shelter in one another requires tremendous courage, but it is a matter of life or paralysis. One way to start is to practice giving shelter to others.

6. Do not offer platitudes or comparisons. Do not, do not, do not.

“I’m so sorry you lost your son, we lost our dog last year … ” “At least it’s not as bad as … ” “You’ll be stronger when this is over.” “God works in all things for good!”

When a loved one is suffering, we want to comfort them. We offer assurances like the ones above when we don’t know what else to say. But from the inside, these often sting as clueless, careless, or just plain false.

Trauma is terrible. What we need in the aftermath is a friend who can swallow her own discomfort and fear, sit beside us, and just let it be terrible for a while.

7. Allow those suffering to tell their own stories.

Of course, someone who has suffered trauma may say, “This made me stronger,” or “I’m lucky it’s only (x) and not (z).” That is their prerogative. There is an enormous gulf between having someone else thrust his unsolicited or misapplied silver linings onto you, and discovering hope for one’s self. The story may ultimately sound very much like “God works in all things for good,” but there will be a galaxy of disfigurement and longing and disorientation in that confession. Give the person struggling through trauma the dignity of discovering and owning for himself where, and if, hope endures.

8. Love shows up in unexpected ways.

This is a mystifying pattern after trauma, particularly for those in broad community: some near-strangers reach out, some close friends fumble to express care. It’s natural for us to weight expressions of love differently: a Hallmark card, while unsatisfying if received from a dear friend, can be deeply touching coming from an old acquaintance.

Ultimately every gesture of love, regardless of the sender, becomes a step along the way to healing. If there are beatitudes for trauma, I’d say the first is, “Blessed are those who give love to anyone in times of hurt, regardless of how recently they’ve talked or awkwardly reconnected or visited cross-country or ignored each other on the metro.” It may not look like what you’d request or expect, but there will be days when surprise love will be the sweetest.

9. Whatever doesn’t kill you …

In 2011, after a publically humiliating year, comedian Conan O’Brien gave students at Dartmouth College the following warning:

"Nietzsche famously said, ‘Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ … What he failed to stress is that it almost kills you.”

Odd things show up after a serious loss and creep into every corner of life: insatiable anxiety in places that used to bring you joy, detachment or frustration towards your closest companions, a deep distrust of love or presence or vulnerability.

There will be days when you feel like a quivering, cowardly shell of yourself, when despair yawns as a terrible chasm, when fear paralyzes any chance for pleasure. This is just a fight that has to be won, over and over and over again.

10. … Doesn’t kill you.

Living through trauma may teach you resilience. It may help sustain you and others in times of crisis down the road. It may prompt humility. It may make for deeper seasons of joy. It may even make you stronger.

It also may not.

In the end, the hope of life after trauma is simply that you have life after trauma. The days, in their weird and varied richness, go on. So will you.

Catherine Woodiwiss, “A New Normal: Ten Things I’ve Learned About Trauma” (via lepetitmortpourmoi)

This.

(via breedjoy)

The firefighter/builder segment rings so true

smartgirlsattheparty

Today, July 14th, is an extremely important day for students and girls around the world. Today is Malala Day, an internationally recognized day to celebrate Malala Yousafzai, the brilliant Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban at age 15 for campaigning relentlessly to promote compulsory public education for all girls in her birthplace, Mingora, a village in the Swat Valley. Malala learned the value of education from her father Ziauddin, an activist who spent years founding schools in areas that previously lacked educational opportunities and resources. Thus, when an extremist group attempted to take away her and her peers’ access to education, Ziauddin and Malala spoke out, and embarked on an extraordinary journey.
When the Taliban entered Swat, they immediately initiated a sort of war on information and education, twisting the words of the Quran and banning and burning DVDs, CDs, television and radio stations, music, books, and other items they deemed “un-Islamic.” They limited television and radio access to Taliban stations only, preaching across the airwaves that women should not be allowed to leave the house unaccompanied by a husband, let alone go to school. After Mullah Fazlullah, head of the Swat Taliban, declared on his radio show that all girls’ schools were required to shut down by January 15th of 2009, Malala decided to take action. Amidst constant school bombings and ongoing militant-based threats directed at fellow Swat activists, Malala began writing a blog under a pseudonym for BBC Urdu, in which she documented life under the Taliban, and fought to raise awareness of the dire situation the girls of Swat were facing. The blog gained global attention, and when Malala was shot by a militant on a schoolbus in 2012 (after attending school in defiance of the Taliban for several years), activists all across the world spoke up in support of her cause. Malala miraculously survived the assassination attempt, and was further inspired to continue her fight to achieve education for all children not just in the Swat Valley, but in every corner of the world. She was honored with Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize, among other awards, and was the youngest person ever to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
On this symbolic day, appropriately set on Malala’s 17th birthday, Malala is visiting the girls from the Chibok 234 who managed to escape the Boko Haram in Nigeria, as well as their families and the relatives of the girls who are still being held in captivity. Malala is meeting with these girls and parents in order to help raise awareness for their situation and the millions of other girls who lack the means to attend school or are banned from doing so. Malala is set to make a formal address today, and issued this statement beforehand: “Whether the schoolgirls still held in captivity by Boko Haram, to the school children caught in the crossfire of escalating violence in Gaza and Israel, to the 66 million girls today who can’t get the education that is their human right, my birthday wish this year is that we all raise our voices so that those without a voice can be heard. We can be stronger than fear, hatred, violence and poverty. The road to education, peace and equality is long, but we will succeed if we walk it together.”
On this Malala Day, take time to appreciate the educational resources you have been provided with, and help raise awareness of those who are not so fortunate. One of the biggest ways you can help is to donate to the Malala Fund, a foundation dedicated to empowering girls to make their own change which has joined with other organizations to advocate for global education. Support Malala’s birthday wish, and help millions of children around the world gain the knowledge that is their human right, not a privilege that should be limited to a select few.

Today, July 14th, is an extremely important day for students and girls around the world. Today is Malala Day, an internationally recognized day to celebrate Malala Yousafzai, the brilliant Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban at age 15 for campaigning relentlessly to promote compulsory public education for all girls in her birthplace, Mingora, a village in the Swat Valley. Malala learned the value of education from her father Ziauddin, an activist who spent years founding schools in areas that previously lacked educational opportunities and resources. Thus, when an extremist group attempted to take away her and her peers’ access to education, Ziauddin and Malala spoke out, and embarked on an extraordinary journey.

When the Taliban entered Swat, they immediately initiated a sort of war on information and education, twisting the words of the Quran and banning and burning DVDs, CDs, television and radio stations, music, books, and other items they deemed “un-Islamic.” They limited television and radio access to Taliban stations only, preaching across the airwaves that women should not be allowed to leave the house unaccompanied by a husband, let alone go to school. After Mullah Fazlullah, head of the Swat Taliban, declared on his radio show that all girls’ schools were required to shut down by January 15th of 2009, Malala decided to take action. Amidst constant school bombings and ongoing militant-based threats directed at fellow Swat activists, Malala began writing a blog under a pseudonym for BBC Urdu, in which she documented life under the Taliban, and fought to raise awareness of the dire situation the girls of Swat were facing. The blog gained global attention, and when Malala was shot by a militant on a schoolbus in 2012 (after attending school in defiance of the Taliban for several years), activists all across the world spoke up in support of her cause. Malala miraculously survived the assassination attempt, and was further inspired to continue her fight to achieve education for all children not just in the Swat Valley, but in every corner of the world. She was honored with Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize, among other awards, and was the youngest person ever to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

On this symbolic day, appropriately set on Malala’s 17th birthday, Malala is visiting the girls from the Chibok 234 who managed to escape the Boko Haram in Nigeria, as well as their families and the relatives of the girls who are still being held in captivity. Malala is meeting with these girls and parents in order to help raise awareness for their situation and the millions of other girls who lack the means to attend school or are banned from doing so. Malala is set to make a formal address today, and issued this statement beforehand: “Whether the schoolgirls still held in captivity by Boko Haram, to the school children caught in the crossfire of escalating violence in Gaza and Israel, to the 66 million girls today who can’t get the education that is their human right, my birthday wish this year is that we all raise our voices so that those without a voice can be heard. We can be stronger than fear, hatred, violence and poverty. The road to education, peace and equality is long, but we will succeed if we walk it together.”

On this Malala Day, take time to appreciate the educational resources you have been provided with, and help raise awareness of those who are not so fortunate. One of the biggest ways you can help is to donate to the Malala Fund, a foundation dedicated to empowering girls to make their own change which has joined with other organizations to advocate for global education. Support Malala’s birthday wish, and help millions of children around the world gain the knowledge that is their human right, not a privilege that should be limited to a select few.