This the first 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? (Sept 22)
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!
My first few months in South Africa weren’t supposed to play out the way they did. They were supposed to be filled with the excitement of settling into a new life and ministry. And for a couple of months, that’s what happened.
But then three men broke into my home, and in the course of the home invasion I was raped and kidnapped. Trauma was not in my plan. Yet trauma occurs, no matter where in the world we live. Its form varies—serious illness, loss of a loved one, violent crime, political unrest, emergency evacuation, natural disaster—but we aren’t immune from it. So if it comes, how do we care for our souls as we process our new normal?
One of the first items I wanted from my apartment after the home invasion, aside from my glasses and passport, was my Bible. I knew I needed to lean into God’s Word, and I started in Psalms because that seemed the most logical place. However, I had no clue how hard it would be to focus on reading while in a state of shock. I could only read a few verses at a time, and even praying seemed like hard work. But I kept trying because the psalmists’ words resonated with me. Enemies and vengeance, downtrodden and discouraged. The words were words my soul understood but couldn’t express. And comfort was found, even as I battled to concentrate and stay fixed on the Father.
While my soul needed Scripture and prayer, it also needed space to breathe and cry. I cried countless tears in the days and weeks following my home invasion. It might seem strange to think of crying as soul care, but it was. The tears were a way of acknowledging that my life would never be the same, of acknowledging my fear and shattered dreams. The tears expressed my deepest sorrow, and as they fell, healing began.
But crying for weeks wasn’t all I needed either. Once I was back in the U.S., I began seeing a professional counselor. We met once a week for a few months and then as needed. Slowly talking through what I had experienced. Working through forgiveness. Discussing next steps.
My counselor recommended I spend time listening to worship music before bed each night to help me sleep. And she asked me to keep track of how I was doing emotionally each day by using a number between 1 and 10 to reflect where I was on the scale of horrible to great. She was a safe person to talk to. She wasn’t a family member who was hurting just like I was. And she wasn’t a friend who looked at me with sad, sympathetic eyes. She was a neutral party, full of care and insight to help me heal.
But soul care was more than all of those key areas—God’s Word, prayer, tears, and counseling. My plan for the next three years had vanished. I had no sense of direction. All I had was the minute, hour, and day in front of me. So soul care meant focusing on the present, not the future. It was deep breaths on difficult days. It was writing down what I was thankful for each day. It was playing with my young niece, who had no idea what her aunt was going through. It was hanging out with my sister. And it was about slowly letting others into my pain, about sharing small pieces of my story with them.
Most importantly, caring for my soul meant giving myself time. Time to process, to heal, to breathe. Many of us are highly motivated, focused individuals. And sometimes even before the shock wears off, we want to make major decisions and determine the best way forward. But our souls need time to heal. And we have to make that the goal, the main priority in our lives during times of trauma.
The fundamentals of my soul care were God’s Word, prayer, tears, and professional counseling. Close behind were worship music, thankfulness, and journaling. And aside from professional counseling, all of those were already ways I dealt with difficult circumstances, so it wasn’t hard to put those into practice, even in a state of shock.
How we care for our souls before trauma will often be similar to how we care for them after trauma. Think through what helps you process difficult decisions and cultural transition. Is it time in God’s Word? Is it a time of prayer in nature? Is it writing in your journal? Is it cooking a meal for your family? Identifying this will help you know what you need to grab onto first in a time of trauma. Some people may think you’re crazy because you want to begin a craft project when your world has fallen apart, but if doing that helps you process, do it!
How we care for our souls as we walk through trauma will look different for each of us, but I encourage you to do one thing no matter what you walk through: read slowly through Psalms, underline verses, and turn them into prayers. God’s Word will bring peace and calm to your soul, especially in the midst of trauma.
Do you hope your Home Assignment goes well? Or would you like a plan in the form of the Sabbatical Journey Course? You have have access to the Sabbatical Journey Course for one more day. Hope is good, but a hopeful plan is better. Get your Home Assignment road map today.