Traumatic events change us. Without exception, traumatic events have powerful effects on those who endure them. This may include the loss of a loved one, serious medical issues, military combat, natural disasters, etc.
What can vary are our responses to those events. We can stuff it and prolong the suffering, or we can find ways to express them and promote healing.
As a combat medic in Vietnam, I saw how traumas changed me and those around me.
Later, professional and nonprofessional people helped me to learn healthy ways to cope. Eleven years ago, I used the same skills to move through the diagnosis, treatment, and the long and slow recovery from cancer in my neck.
Since then, I have focused on what helps us to heal from trauma.
I think about my experiences after the radiation that was being used to save my life. A friend of mine took me to his church, where the priest leaned in and lovingly said, “Tell me.”
Because I knew he meant it, I began weeping and finally spoke about what I was feeling. I acknowledged for the first time how terrified I was and how I was trying to protect the feelings of those around me.
He kept saying, “Tell me,” and I kept talking. That was the day my healing really began.
Stuff a turkey, stuff a crab, stuff your glovebox if you must, but don’t stuff your feelings. Someone will listen and help you know that you are not alone.
This blog post was contributed by Scott Lennox, LCSW at the Behavioral Health Services Center at Baylor All Saints Medical Center at Fort Worth.