This the second post in a four part series Dealing with Trauma on the Field:
Part 1: How do you care for your soul right after a trauma? (available here)
Part 2: How do you care for your soul in the months and years after a trauma? (Sept 24)
Part 3: How can you help a teammate right after a trauma? (Sept 29)
Part 4: How can you support a teammate in the months and years after a trauma? (Oct 1)
Thank you Laura Bowling for this series!
Months have passed. Your mind is clearing; the beginnings of a new normal are taking shape. Your good days are beginning to outnumber your bad days. You know you aren’t completely healed, and your soul is still tender and hurting. But how do you move forward and take care of your soul at the same time? How do you work through the trauma without dwelling on it?
When we talk about healing, we talk about triggers. And I encourage you to learn your triggers. What leads to anxiety or tears? What causes fear to build up in your mind? In the early days and months, these triggers are simple to spot. Being alone at night. Going to the doctor to receive test results. Missing a special event that was scheduled before the trauma.
As time passes, however, triggers can become harder to identify. For about ten years after my home invasion, the year mark was a trigger. A massive one. I dreaded mid-August. July and August seemed to bring out the worst in me. Books on healing didn’t seem to offer any practical advice on how to handle it, and even though I was still taking care of my soul, the emotions and anger and hurt seemed to take over. This seemed normal for year one and year two, but I assumed by year three the year mark wouldn’t be a trigger. But it was.
So instead of spending the year mark wallowing in self-pity and hurt, I decided to make a plan each year. The plan changed based on the year, but usually it included coffee, a bit of journaling, a small adventure, and space to breathe. When I was living in Ireland, I spent a week in Portugal visiting friends. A week full of familiar, safe people and places brought me joy and peace and kept me busy. The next year I headed to a castle for part of the day and stopped at Starbucks on my way home. While we were dating, my now husband drove three hours to spend the day with me. We played disc golf and enjoyed time together.
When I began working a nine to five job, I contemplated requesting the day off. But each year I’ve gone to work and focused on the task at hand. I have learned to acknowledge the trigger and find a way to make it less about pain and more about hope. Instead of being a day I dread, it’s now a day I look at as an excuse to have a fun adventure.
After making a list of triggers, make a list of what brings you joy. Playing a board game as a family. Reading a favorite book. Hiking a familiar trail. Planning a dream vacation. Wandering your favorite store. When triggers come, and they will, do something from your joy list. Care for your soul with fun and relaxation. I’m not saying to ignore the pain; I’m just saying find something to distract yourself from it for a bit. These small distractions will help your soul heal.
Caring for my soul over the past eleven years hasn’t just happened at the end of every summer. It has happened each day. I have strived to be diligent in my time with the Father. I’ve slowly read through books about healing. When my husband and I first started dating, I met with my counselor to talk through my new relationship and all it might lead to.
A few years after the home invasion, I was finally comfortable enough to go walking alone. The exercise helps my physical and mental health, giving me space and quiet to process and think through what was happening in life. Journaling continues to be an outlet and a way to express my emotions and document my journey. These small, fundamental steps have healed my soul over the years.
As you integrate your own soul care basics into your life, you will find navigating the rocky path of healing becomes easier. But sometimes caring for your soul means taking the difficult steps of healing. It might mean saying goodbye to a people and place you love, never to return again. Or it might mean reaching out to a friend and walking with them through their own trauma. Or it might mean putting your story into words for others to read. For me it meant returning to doing what I loved, and that meant moving back overseas for a time. It meant being brave enough to wander a new town on my own and to take European adventures with a friend.
Taking the difficult steps of healing seems counterintuitive to caring for our souls. Shouldn’t caring be about calm and quiet, about finding peace in the midst of trauma? Yes. But it’s also about healing our souls, and healing comes as we move forward one step at a time. Each step will be a little easier than the last.
Each step will find you coming to terms with your new normal. And each step will mold you into a beautiful combination of the you “before the trauma” and the you “after the trauma.”
Photo by My Life Journal on Unsplash
Laura, thank you for sharing your story and offering practical suggestions for how to care for ourselves and lean into the healing process. I am picturing those of us who read this before we needed it and will refer back to it in the years to come. Thank you for the gift of a guide and of hope.