How does a person heal from traumatic life events? You start to wonder if it’s even possible or where to start. How do you get past the whole question of why bad things happen to good people? You wonder if you’ll ever be happy again.
Like many people, I am no stranger to trauma. Some of my more traumatic experiences involved childhood sexual abuse, the murder of my college roommate and the death of my child.
At the time I experienced each of these events, I was in survival mode. I concocted coping mechanisms to get me from one day to the next. It wasn’t until much later in my life I began to heal, but I can say without a doubt I am completely happy and contented today. If I did it, you can too.
I found healing through developing a list of some basic spiritual truths. These came to me over time through study, prayer, meditation and introspection. Happiness was cultivated throughout the healing process.
The Mind-Body-Spirit Relationship
You may have heard the following quote by George MacDonald: “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” We are a soul inhabiting a physical body for a short time here on earth. Our purpose is to learn those lessons our soul wants and needs to learn. Lessons we can only learn in a physical body.
Some of these lessons come hard and fast. Some involve abandonment, abuse, health issues, grief, natural disasters and even the death of a loved one. Our soul wants us to move past the victimization we feel that is crippling us as adults. For most of us, the lesson has to make us so uncomfortable that we have no choice but to change. Some accomplish this by drinking and drugs, while others succumb to depression. The challenge is to get through these lessons without becoming yet another victim.
The more I read and studied this process of healing, the more I realized another spiritual truth. Through the healing process, I was actually healing my entire body: the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual parts of me that were demanding to be heard. One part always affects another part.
When trauma is left alone or buried, it will manifest and make you uncomfortable in another area of your life. It could be your physical body, your relationships, your finances or your mental and emotional health. These are red flags that your soul wants you to pay attention.
After multiple surgeries, with the last one literally saving my life, I decided I could take no more. My soul had been trying to get my attention and it now had my full attention! I knew that my illnesses were tied somehow to the trauma I had experienced, so I stepped up my efforts to find ways to finally be rid of this albatross around my neck.
Letting Go of Trauma’s Power
Another “aha” moment for me occurred when I realized something my soul knew all along. We are all divine by nature. Therefore, we are all powerful. We are all on our own personal journey, and we alone are responsible for it. When we hang onto grief or anger, we are giving that power away.
You might not have been able to stop the abuse or death, but you sure can cut the hold it still has over you. This hold can be so strong it could be keeping you from the life you desire as an adult. I realized my abuser had taken so much from me already, so I refused to let him take anymore. This was a freeing moment for me and I felt . . . powerful.
If you alone are responsible for your happiness, why not simply make the choice to be happy? Easier said than done I know, but it has a ring of truth to it. I used affirmations to help me achieve this. I simply stated over and over as I woke up in the morning, throughout the day and before bed, “I choose to be happy.” After a while, the message embeds itself into your subconscious, and you begin to believe it. Before you know it, life looks a little like something you can handle and maybe you’ve even cultivated some happiness for yourself.
Happiness is a complex issue, yet it’s so simple all at the same time. I made a list of everything that made me happy, and I set a goal to do at least one of the things on my list every day. I began to look forward to those times, and I became aware of all the little things in each day that were blessings.
This conscious practice of gratitude was perhaps the single most important thing that I did to change the course of my life from despair to full blown happiness. As you become more aware, synchronicities pile up, and you see the positive things about your life you were not aware of because you were buried so deep in grief, guilt, anger or sadness. Happiness is a conscious choice you make, and you have the power and responsibility to make it.
Sacrifice And A Greater Purpose
Perhaps a more complex spiritual truth can help you like it did me—the ultimate sacrifice of love. For example, in your traumatic experience, it could be said that the lesson was not yours to learn. It was for the other person, and you were the one who sacrificed to help them. It’s food for thought. I chose to believe that my abuser possibly could have come into my life to help me heal the pattern of victimization I found myself in time and again.
Being able to separate yourself as the victim from the abuser and release the emotion tied to the event are the keys to the door of healing. These spiritual beliefs helped neutralize my overwhelming feelings when my thoughts turned dark.
I came to believe that we are all a part of something much bigger than ourselves. We are all one with our Creator. If you can see the bigger picture, it makes it easier to move on from trauma. Moving on leads to making room in your consciousness for happiness.
Though it’s not easy, forgiveness is perhaps the ultimate lesson on our road to healing. However, when I realized I could forgive the person who had hurt me without coming face to face with this person, it instantly grew possible. That’s because forgiveness is not for the person you are forgiving; it is something that happens inside you. It was not my place to pass judgment. Instead, finding forgiveness within yourself is another kind of letting go. It allows you to own another slice of your power again, and happiness creeps in.
It’s Okay To Be Happy
Being happy again does not dishonor those you’ve loved and lost. I think our loved ones in Spirit want us to know that they would want only amazing things for us. They would not want to see us drowning our sorrows in a bottle or hiding from the world.
I liken it to the way I feel about my children. When I die, I know they will be sad, but the last thing I would want for them is to see my passing as the reason for their spiral down into addiction or depression. No parent would want that for their child. It is the same for your loved ones in Spirit. They want you to be happy just like the Creator, so the rest is up to you!
Healing in Stages
Believe it or not, it was easier to forgive my abuser than it was to forgive myself when I lost my child. I played the “blame game” and the “what if” game for many years and, of course, never felt any better. Healing from the loss of a loved one is like an onion with layers that you peel back. Just when you think you are healed, something happens, and another layer of pain rears its ugly head.
I believe our loved ones in death are always around us. They are there at a moment’s notice when we need them. Sometimes you can feel their presence, and it is not just your imagination. The human existence is but a blip on the radar of an existence that knows no time or space. I will never replace the hole that was left in my heart when my little girl died , but I console myself with the belief that we will all be together again.
Perhaps the single most profound path back to happiness was to simply give back. I visited with babies in the neonatal unit of the hospital in the town where I lived. My husband and I were able to help other couples who had gone through a similar tragedy. I wrote a book called Waking up to Heal, that allowed me to share my experience.
Some people heal through art or music, while some talk it out with a trusted friend or advisor. Many use their faith as a guidepost and prayer as their roadmap. Your traumatic experiences deserve to be shared, so others can see that healing can happen and learn some practical ways to accomplish it. In this way, happiness became a surprising by-product of giving back.
Remember, if our thoughts and actions steer our future experiences, wouldn’t you want yours to be happy ones? None of this is easy, but it is so worth it to dig deep inside yourself in the places vying for attention.
Happiness will come easily if you are willing to address those parts, heal them and be willing to move on to the life you desire and were meant to live. I believe there is power in forgiveness and freedom in healing. Most importantly, there’s happiness in choosing to not be defined by your experiences, but instead by your choice to live happily in the now.