Autumn is a stunning time of year- the varying colours and textures, the sounds of leaves crunching underfoot and the aching beauty of bare branches and naked trees. It is a time that speaks of loss and the inevitability of change.
November is a difficult month for me, and the heaviness of Remembrance seems all too near. The trauma and suffering of military personnel and their families seem tangible.
We seem to cope with trauma and loss in such diverse ways. There are times when we seem numb, when it all seems remote. The coping strategy is to look for distraction from the pain, to watch too many boxed sets, to go to the gym, to eat tubs of ice cream. We do anything not to engage, not to have to feel.
But every now and again, it catches us up, and we feel intensely. It could be a moment in a film, or a message from a friend, or just a word in a sentence, and it brings it all back, so that we crumple and fall apart.
Bessel van der Kolk says: ‘traumatised people chronically feel unsafe in their bodies. The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings, and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from themselves.” p97 The Body keeps the score.
This is such a good description of that feeling of numbness. For short periods, it can protect us, as when we are in shock after something terrible has happened. But the danger is that if we stay there too long, that we lose ourselves. And so we need to find the courage to come out and face the pain, however excruciating that can be. Noticing and acknowledging the impact of trauma, is the first step. Often we need to go through this process in company with a trauma informed therapist, or grief counsellor, who can help people to work out what is going on, and to create a safe space to heal.
There are times when we need distraction from the reality of life, the pain and cruelty are too overwhelming. But at other times, we need to have the courage to engage with our story, and the impact it has had on us. At these times of honest engagement, then we are open to finding the long, meandering road to wholeness.
The words of Psalm 32: 7 reminds us that in God’s presence we find safety “You are my hiding place You will protect me from trouble, and surround me with songs of deliverance.” With God, we can find that safe place to be honest, to lament, and to begin to trust and to find the wholeness we seek. And so we take that first step…….
Gracious God, You see what happens to your precious children, that we hurt others and get hurt, that we experience loss, and disappointment and trauma. Sometimes we hide, and pretend everything is OK, just to protect ourselves from possibilities of danger. Lord Jesus, You show us such acceptance and love, that your presence is a safe place for us to be to be honest, so we can pour forth our hurts and our wailings. In your perfect timing, may we find courage to be truthful, even when that is uncomfortable and strips our souls bare. May Your Holy spirit help us find pathways through pain, to healing and trust and new growth, Amen.