Whether you’ve been affected by some sort of accident, disaster, illness or loss, any kind of traumatic event can produce physical, behavioral, emotional and cognitive changes in the way you function. Trauma can cause depression, memory loss, poor concentration, shock, numbness, gastrointestinal problems, fatigue, headaches, irritability, sensitivity and withdrawal in addition to other side-effects. Being severely affected by a traumatic event is normal and common, but you don’t have to stay silently suffering. There are steps you can take in order to effectively treat and recover from these kinds of symptoms.
1. Accept the Truth of What Has Happened
The first stage in the grieving process is typically identified as denial. You don’t want to believe the diagnosis that you’ve been given by multiple doctors, you refuse to accept that someone has passed away, you’re unwilling to admit that a relationship is over or you’d rather deny that a disaster has occurred. It’s natural to not want to face the truth, but prolonging your unwillingness to accept reality can stall your ability to actually deal with the traumatic event. In order to work through the pain and consequences from the situation at hand, it’s important to admit the undesirable truths of what changes have taken place.
2. Allow Yourself to Feel the Range of Emotions That You Feel
After something unexpected and painful happens, we generally go through a range of emotions including anger, frustration, confusion and sadness. Just like it’s common to want to deny the traumatic event ever happened, it’s also common to want to deny that you’re feeling emotionally and physically affected during the aftermath. You may be tempted to plaster a smile on your face and bottle up all of the emotions you’re feeling so that no one around you can see the hurt you’re going through.
When events affect the whole family or a circle of friends, individuals often hide their own pain so as not to bring down the group or make anyone else’s coping abilities worse. But, when we don’t acknowledge our feelings and just try to sweep them under the rug, they continue to linger like an untreated infection. Not addressing how you feel can prolong the healing process and keep you from making progress in regards to effectively recovering.
If you feel sad, admit to yourself that you’re feeling sad. If you’re frustrated and at a loss of what to do, recognize that you’ve been through a lot and it’s okay to feel frustrated and confused. You don’t need to dwell on negative and depressing thoughts, but it can be helpful to admit when you’re having a hard time and when you need some assistance.
3. Ask for Support, Lenience and Companionship
After you’ve admitted to yourself that you’re having a hard time, you’re ready to admit to others that you could use some help. Maybe you need a friend to run some essential errands that you don’t have the heart to do. Perhaps you need some time off of work right now. Maybe you just really need to not be left alone today. Whatever it is that you need, communicate your situation to your co-workers, friends and family members. You don’t have to share any details that you’re uncomfortable sharing, but you can express the basics of your circumstances in order to convey what kind of help you could benefit from.
4. Talk with a Counselor or Other Healthcare Professional
Sometimes talking with a friend or spiritual adviser is enough of an opportunity to say what you need to say, but other times it can be valuable to talk with a counselor who is academically and clinically trained to help survivors work through the various stages of coping. Depending on your particular circumstances, consider consulting such an adviser especially if the traumatic event has happened more than a month ago and you’re still intensely suffering and unable to carry out your normal responsibilities.
5. Give Yourself Time to Heal
When effectively dealing with trauma, it’s important to remember that feelings of sadness and pain don’t go away immediately just because you want to be done with them. Be patient with yourself and understand that the time it takes you to cope may be different than others and that’s okay.
Although you’ll hopefully be able to find a better place of acceptance down the road, you may still have an emotional reaction when certain reminders crop up here and there. With certain losses, for example, you may always feel sad when you think of a parent who has passed away or a child who was stillborn. Learning to recover from a traumatic event doesn’t mean that you can change history, but you can come to terms with the situation enough to overcome the severe and persisting side effects of trauma.
6. Establish Your New Life
When a traumatic event presents the need for serious change, you may need to move, get a job or figure out a new way to accomplish tasks, but it’s best to avoid making big life decisions when your emotional state is still drastically affected. In accordance with that, see what immediate options are available to you that don’t require serious commitments. Maybe you can stay with a friend for a few weeks or have a family member come help around the house and with the kids. While you’re grieving, simply focus on normalizing your daily routine so that you eat properly, sleep at night and find strength through your friends, family, spirituality and other sources.
When you’re feeling more composed, it may be time to determine what actions need to be taken in order for you to live on well. You may be inclined to go back to school, to find an apartment closer to your family members who you can rely on for support or to go after the job you’ve always wanted. Moving on with your life can be hard and feel like you’re turning back on a person or situation that you’ve lost, but faith and hope point to the future. You can respectfully remember what you want to remember and still take the steps needed so that you can have a meaningful existence going forward.