By: Mark St. Peter
The loss from traumatic injury goes beyond a physical loss. There is emotional, psychological, spiritual, interpersonal, and identity loss as well. A survivor needs to address all these missing, lost, and broken parts to be whole again.
In my 30 years working with trauma survivors, I have learned that loss has many commonalities and every loss has specific elements. Each client’s struggles are the same but different. It is important to spell them out here so that it is evident to all survivors that what they desire and what matters to them is common and completely normal. You might think that your changed perspective on the world is unique, but in fact, there’s a good chance someone else has had a similar experience.
Healing from trauma involves rebuilding the person as a whole. Naturally, this starts with the physical body and what can be seen and who’s progress can be measured fairly easily. But the largest part of the journey is working on the invisible injuries a traumatic event causes. Among the universal experiences related to trauma, the most common I see is fractured personal relationships with friends and family. Second, would be rekindling intimacy. Relationships are often tested after a traumatic event and are often a struggle. One person has changed, and both are left to learn anew. It is important not to rush this reconnection as anxiety can often be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. A third common loss is loss of self-identity. You will never be the person you were before the injury and that’s okay. You must now redefine yourself in your post-traumatic life. This can be scary because you don’t always know who you will be or what the expectations are. Most of my clients have a hard time regaining their self-identity especially when they have not dealt with their other losses.
Traumatic events often make us realize that life is short, and we shouldn’t postpone doing the things we love. We must devote our time to the things we love to find joy and fulfillment in our lives. It is normal for your priorities to change. Just remember that each step in your healing journey is a stone on the path to a full recovery. Sometimes we focus so hard on our loss it’s hard to see the possibilities.