Dealing with trauma

The impact. When any traumatic event strikes, we are unprepared. We might have up to that point witnessed trauma in others, even supported the individual on his /her journey through this desert, but we were safe. We could move closer to the despair of the other, but we could likewise move out by decision and focus on our own life and maybe give attention to our not so unsolvable problems, followed perhaps by the relief that we were not so bad off after all.

When a devastating event takes place in our own life, what do we do, how do you/we give voice to the inarticulate of emotions? In the beginning there is the overwhelming shock and disbelief, which somehow hides in the body and in the recesses of the mind not to come to light for a period of time yet. We enter onto an automatic escalator taking us through a series of actions and words of no substance. We are deaf to the comfort of others reaching our ears. We get caught up in a ritual of expected behaviour moving through the ensuing days and nights like a ghost.

During this period where time has no meaning and no beginning and no end for us, life moves on. The escalator has now been substituted with a treadmill, going nowhere. We want to hold on to a precious moment, perhaps the last moment afforded, while at the same time we want this specific time to pass, and pass quickly. Life must return to normal. This in-between is hugely uncomfortable for we are waiting for answers, for progress, for resolutions, for a prognosis, for good news!

But there is nothing remarkable in this event be it a diagnosis, a sudden death, a prolonged illness or devastating injuries, – it all happened while we were going about our normal chores; sitting at a table for lunch, chatting with someone over the telephone or seeing the doctor for a nasty cough, and suddenly life changed. And that is why we are never prepared because we do not envisage life any different than yesterday. And yesterday was good. Compared to where we find ourselves to be today, all yesterdays were good. That is how we recall it, how we prefer to remember our yesterdays – between our own inventions and reality.

We carry within us a belief that we have control; be it through our own ability, our conduct, our connections, our friends or our financial status, – we can change things, we can arrange things, we can summons for assistance, we can pick up the telephone and things would be back in place.

Alternatively one telephone call and life as we knew it, is no more.

Written by Dr Magda Rall

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