By Elize Perrin
To lose something or someone is traumas.
For a body ache we visit the doctor. When we have a heartache, we hope it will heal itself. Persons involved in counseling agree that this is not the solution. We may learn to live with it for a few years, but somewhere the emotional ulcer will burst open. Often the consequences are far worse than they would have been had they been attended to immediately. Of course, it is not easy to talk about it. It hurts again. Unfortunately, we must first walk through our pain to get to healing.
Ansie Willemse*’s son was murdered. “How do I describe the feeling?” she asked. “First the shock: I can’t believe it. Later comes the hurt and missed. Then comes the evil, the thoughts of revenge and the infinite sadness.”
According to Ansie, negligence played a role in her son’s death. It feels to her as if the justice system has abandoned her child. “My sunshine child did not deserve to die like this! My heart was black within me.”
Despite all the emotions and sadness, Ansie realized that she had to get help. She attended a trauma support camp, for loved ones who lost persons in an unnatural way.
“I was by no means sure if I would get anything positive out of it,” she admits. “During my session with the counsellor, I felt free to express my true feelings. The hurt, hatred and thoughts of revenge all bubbled up. My mind was sick. There I realized that God cannot forgive me my sinful thoughts until I am willing to forgive.”
“Sometimes I cried, then got angry again,” she says. “I could notice that it started to feel lighter in me. I began to see that my revenge and hatred was going to hurt other innocent children and loved ones close to me bitterly. I had to ask myself, do I really want to do this to them?”
The counselor gave her a chance to think and reflect on it.
She mentions that even later she came to a point of forgiveness towards the perpetrators. “It still does not justify their actions to take another’s life,” she declares. “They will have to find that forgiveness from God.”
Ansie is very grateful that she had the courage to take the first step towards healing. “The counseling brought me great relief,” she says. “The hurt and loss will always be there, but I am grateful that I did receive counselling. I would recommend it to anyone. One cannot bear the pain alone. Go see someone who understands and who knows how to ease the pain. When I sometimes feel like I’m falling back, I think about the counseling sessions and know how not to let it happen. Other loved ones need me too. I don’t want to be a bitter mother and grandmother.”
The first step
For most people experiencing grief, trauma or any form of loss, the biggest challenge is taking the first step on the road to healing. Louis Awerbucka clinical psychologist in private practice and also involved in who am i on RSG, points out that pain and trauma are by definition not pleasant.
“It’s bad to talk about it,” he says. “People also often consider it private and sometimes also a weakness to experience trauma.
“Most people don’t like the spotlight being on them all the time, especially when it comes to matters that are deeply private. We live in a society where people easily attack each other, make fun of each other and are generally quite insensitive towards each other. It is therefore difficult for them to simply trust that a person will take seriously what they are talking about and will treat it with respect.”
Tessa van Wijk, a trauma specialist and celebrity on television and radio, agrees that people find it difficult to talk about their hurts. “People are afraid,” she says. “They don’t trust easily and don’t always know how to talk about their pain.” She mentions that the fear of further hurt also exists.
“People are afraid other people will gossip. They are afraid they are being judged.” However, she points out that, once people begin to experience that healing is taking place, they express their feelings much more easily.
The hardest part is surrendering; to let go of the pain you know. No person can decide on behalf of another that the time is ripe to express hurt. Every person with a broken heart must make that decision themselves. The pieces must be picked up and only the person who got hurt can do that.
“Usually pain and trauma that gets too bad is motivation in itself,” says Louis. He believes that people also become motivated to take action when they realize that it can bring them positive results.
Tessa joins in on this. “I usually explain to people the value of expressing emotions. If you keep something in the dark, it rots, but if you bring something into the light, (the Lord) can heal it.”
Louis believes that people with intense grief or trauma cannot suppress it forever.” It will come out,” he says, “and most likely at the level of mind that is threatened. Irritability, aggression, irritability, startle reactions, more depressed appearance, low mood, insomnia, feelings of uselessness and withdrawal from society can occur.”
Tessa agrees: “You make yourself sick by suppressing your pain and then you also struggle to forgive.”
In an *article by prof. Wentzel Coetzer and Rev. Hennie Kotze, is referred to the possibility that unprocessed trauma can give rise to physical diseases.
According to Coetzer, the initial reaction to trauma is that of denial. The statement is also made that emotional pain that is suppressed throughout can result in physical problems because the injury is deeply hidden.
“Traumatized people will hide or deny their hurt so they can escape the pain that comes with it. However, emotions cannot die. In cases where such memories and emotions are not allowed to emerge through the person’s mind, they will eventually emerge in a disguised and destructive manner through the body, soul and spirit.”
The destruction of relationships, health and spirituality are consequences referred to. How a person feels emotionally can therefore also determine his physical condition.
The article also points to research that suggests heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases associated with aging may be the result of unprocessed traumatic events. Even a possible connection between suppressed emotions and the development of cancer and asthma is mentioned.
“Severe illnesses are often preceded by a significant loss, in the period of eighteen months to two years before the symptoms of the illness,” wrote Wentzel and Kotze in their article.
On the way to the summit
The healing process is not easy, but it is possible. Help is available. Counselors and psychologists are only tools to help heal wounds caused by painful events. During counselling, the circumstances cannot change, but the person can be guided to deal with the situation.
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