Trauma is a tricky thing.
When you live through a trauma you’re never over it. Not completely. There’s always a specific starting point to trauma.
April 16, 2007.
April 20, 1999.
December 14, 2012.
September 16, 2013.
September 11, 2001.
Trauma has a starting point
These are all starting points to trauma. These are all when terrible events took place. Lives ended. Lives were changed forever. They’re still changing. That’s the thing about trauma. There is no end date.
The events ended quickly. The media converged and plastered the airwaves and the lives of those who lived through it with coverage. Then, even as the last news van rolled out-of-town, the trauma remains.
The perpetrators, victims in their own right, completed their acts of violence. But the trauma ripples through the lives of everyone touched by it.
Trauma has no expiration date
It’s not an everyday trauma. Not for everyone. If you lost a loved one when the towers came down, or a friend in a school shooting. That stays with you. Your grief is eternal.
Even if you weren’t directly affected. You made it through. You were lucky. But it still affects you. There is still trauma and it’s still a part of you. But it’s a different trauma.
A more insidious trauma. It comes out of nowhere when you least expect it. You can be perfectly fine watching a television show. Then all of a sudden it turns dark. And that trauma shows itself. It crept out of the dark side of your mind. A reminder of what you lived through.
That trauma sneaks out of the shadows and yells BOO! It’s there. Right behind you. And you’re reliving the pain. That day. Those weeks. The same feelings. The memories. The crystal clear moments. And the hazier ones. All coming back.
The trauma is real and present. Even if you’ve not thought of it for years, it can return in an instant. That’s why people write of trigger warnings.
If you’ve suffered a trauma, it can get triggered. And the emotions it evokes can be as strong as they were the first time around. Imagine the worst day of your life.
Now, imagine that in 7 minutes you’re going to relive it. Out of nowhere. Because of a TV show you’re watching. Or a blog post you’re reading. Or a Facebook update.
Someone tweets. And you’re in tears. Shaking and sobbing.
The trauma relived is no better than the trauma experienced. It’s a safer place. You know, in your mind that you’re safe. It’s not happening all over again.
But it feels that way.
Not your trauma
There is a statute of limitations on trauma. I don’t know when it is. But there is a time when the remembering and reliving of that trauma can be minimized. It’s still a trigger for everyone who went through it.
When the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 Attacks occurred, I couldn’t help but think of the families who are having to relive the horror.
Those who knew someone killed. The first responders and their friends and family. Everyone who lost someone that day. Now they’re seeing it everywhere.
There is a time for forgetting. Not to forget and deny. But to forget by not talking about it. A time when those who are hurting can hurt in private. Their hurt doesn’t need to be put on display. This isn’t something for ratings or page views. Their pain is not for sale.
Let them grieve. If they want to talk about it. Talk with them. Love them. Support them. But don’t co-opt their grief. Don’t make their pain your pain.
It’s not your grief
Everyone of a certain age remembers where they were when John F. Kennedy was shot. There was a time for mourning. There was a time for pain and public discussion. But that time has passed.
Just as it has passed for those hurt and continue to be hurt by the violence on 9/11. Just as those families in Columbine and Newtown hurt. Just as those Hokies that lived through the worst day of their life hurt.
Their hurt is their own. Don’t make it yours. Don’t take their grief as your own grief. You’re not helping anyone. Let them hurt in private. Don’t be a trigger. Be mindful of your actions and words. Don’t pretend your hurt is their hurt.
Everyone hurts differently. Everyone grieves differently.
April is a bad month for violence. Don’t make it any worse.