Catastrophic Trauma Recovery is discussed together with Finding a New Future After Loss and Bereavement because the recovery from catastrophic trauma is much like the recovery from loss and bereavement. Aside from the obvious of what and/or who has been lost, you have also lost the future you thought you knew. John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens while you are making other plans.” Though the truth of that brings a smile of painful wisdom; the pain of that wisdom can only be known during the trauma, loss and/or bereavement when one’s life is turned upside down.
Successfully processing the pain and loss that traumatic upheaval brings leads to not only surviving the worst of trauma, but also thriving in a new and wonderful future (regardless of how unlikely that seems in the shock immediately surrounding the onset of trauma, loss and/or bereavement). It is worth keeping in mind that the degree of pain from loss one can feel equals the degree of love one can feel and vice versa. In the yin/yang symbol, the dot of the opposite color in the wide part of each side is interpreted to mean: “in the fullness of one lies the seed of the other.” In the fullness of loss lies the seed of love. In the fullness of love lies the seed of loss. The hollowing out we experience during loss and grieving creates new and greater potential for fullness in our lives. To make sense of the senseless allows us to consecrate our actions in life, live with uncertainty and love more fully.
The best any of us can strive to achieve is to leave the people and places we meet a little better than we found them. Simply put, difficult to live. And yet the pain of loss can strengthen that commitment.
Unsuccessful processing of catastrophic trauma can lead to the usual suspects of alcohol and drug abuse, but also, importantly, it can lead to a rudderless emotional future. When trauma hits, no one can tell you the absolute, right way for you to grieve. In fact, it may be quite some time before you are even up to grieving. There may be long periods of “uncontrolled” tears. I can only reassure you that eventually you will stop crying, everyone does. The repeated filling and emptying of the emotional “bag” is the mechanism of processing the loss, and moving toward keeping the person (or part of our self) that was traumatically lost alive in our hearts. By processing the emotions they become memories, part of our past. And sad as that is, it is the toll on what has become the road to a new future – a richer future.