Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Thursday's Therapy - TRAUMA Therapy Toolbox - Understanding Community Reaction to Trauma or, Dropped

Thursday's Therapy

TRAUMA Therapy Toolbox

Understanding Community Reaction to Trauma




Causes for Some of Our Child-Loss Grief Complications...

I awakened sad this morning. Thinking about a family member and the disharmony between us. I don't understand. I am so hurt. She doesn't understand either. And she is so hurt. I've lost my baby girl. This family member and I had always been so close ~ in heart anyway, both of us tenderhearted, both of us having children and hubbies and all. But not now. Grief has separated us. She doesn't understand me, and she can't "get it." She doesn't "do" emotions. If we have a disagreement, she can't talk about it. How do you have any depth with a person when you can't work through the differences?

I've been praying about it because I feel consumed by it. Today I feel like God has given me some HUGE hints. Clues He's left lying around. Some I had guessed at before, but I never really knew the depth of their implications. Now, I'm getting a glimpse...

Most children are amazingly resilient as long as they have a caregiver who's emotionally & physically available.

~van der Kolk

My mother and daddy were always there for me. And when my mother was busy in taking care of Daddy and all six of us kids, this family member was available and nurturing. She would teach me some of the major things I needed to learn in my childhood developmental stages. I write just like she does because she taught me to write. To this day I love my penmanship because it reminds me of hers. Neat, but feminine and flowing.

Emotional attachment is probably the primary protection against feelings of helplessness & meaninglessness; it is essential for biological survival in children, and without it, existential meaning is unthinkable in adults.

~van der Kolk

At a time when I need this other family member the most, she is absent? I couldn't understand.

Well, I do and I don't. How can you even begin to climb into another's pain over the loss of her daughter when you still have your own daughter with you? It's too painful for her to imagine.

And yet, not visiting my pain, she forgets I have it, and then she gets mad because I insist I do. She gets mad when I don't come "home" when she thinks I should.( ("Home" is 4 1/2 to 5 hours away, and I am barely functioning?!)

She doesn't try to "get it," and that hurts me.

Mature people also rely on their families, colleages, & friends to provide such a protective membrane (against trauma).

When people's own resources are depleted, outside help needs to be mobilized to compensate for their helplessness.

During acute trauma, the social environment tends to respond with generosity...(with) social and religious structures that are geared to helping acutely distressed people until they can resume looking after themselves.

External validation about the reality of a traumatic experience in a safe and supportive context is a vital aspect of preventing and treating posttraumatic stress. However, the creation of such a context for recovery can become very complicated when the psychological needs of victims and the needs of their social network conflict.

When victims' helplessness persists... the trauma is unlikely to result in the mobilization of external resources.

~van der Kolk

My father was gone before Merry Katherine was killed. He had died two years earlier. My mother (who had also experienced child-loss) was available, but her dementia was making her mind come and go, and yet she could climb into my grief from time to time, and when she did she was incredibly sweet and nurturing.

But this other family member, who had been such a nurturing person in my childhood, was essentially absent to me emotionally in my grief. She would make herself available at the critical beginning, and loved me more by "doing," all of which was so needed as I was rendered so helpless in my early, acute grief.

But in the days beyond those early days, my pain continued. And after one or two years, the shock wore off, and the reality set in. Abject pain. And my body started to react to the continual downloading of pain and agony by secreting stress hormones. The bottom was dropping out emotionally.

My family member? I sensed she was scared of such intense pain; I could never really blame her for that. I sensed it was more than she could bear.

...But she couldn't try, just a little bit?

I am supported in my early, acute grief, but when I am overwhelmed by severe helplessness and trauma over the years as I struggle with the world's most severe form of grief and trauma, she's nowhere to be found? Incredible! And yet, I know, the pain IS unbearable.

In recognition of this need for affiliation as a protection against trauma,... the central issue in disaster management is (therefore) the provision and restoration of social support.

~van der Kolk

(Two trauma experts) have called the social support that surrounds victims "the trauma membrane."

~van der Kolk, writing about Lindy and Titchener

Here's where I feel everybody has dropped the ball. At the very time you need your family, your community, and your community of faith, it seems they all disappeared. Not God though. He is my Rock, my Gentle Shepherd, my Father God who too lost His Child. But the rest? Where did they go?

How cruel not even to try to climb into my pain.

Even more cruel to try to talk me out of my pain.

And even more cruel to expect me to jump back into old activities as if my world hasn't Ended in so many ways.

Because of the lack of validation and support, traumatic memories are more likely to continue to prey on the victims' minds, and to be expressed as anger, withdrawal, or otherwise disrupted and disrupting behaviors....

For many, one of the most painful lessons trauma brings is they often feel God-forsaken AND betrayed by their fellow human beings.

~van der Kolk, highlight mine

I don't feel God-forsaken, but I feel very much betrayed by my fellow human-beings. Really, they don't seem very human at all...

And I become hurt, mad, disappointed, and I feel the need to withdraw... And that is interpreted by this family member as a direct affront to all the "love" she supposedly has available to offer me, offered mind you, in her terms, in essence,

"Get down here and party with us, and I'll eek out a little bit of love to you."

But when I do spend time with her, she is critical and aloof...

And she calls that love?! Sorry, my aching, broken heart is tender, and I cannot handle any more of your insensitivity, manipulation, and hurtfulness.

Traumas provoke emotional reactions in proportion to the degree of threat and horror accompanying them. One way of dealing with these intense emotions is to look for scapegoats who can be held responsible for the tragic event. Family members and other sources of social support can be so horrified at being reminded of the fact that they, too, can be struck by tragedies beyond their control that they start shunning the victims and blame them for what has happened--a phenomenon that has been called "the second injury"

~van der Kolk

Many trauma survivors' testimonies indicate that not being supported by the people they counted on, and being blamed for bringing horrendous experiences upon themselves, have left deeper scars than the original trauma itself.


This is hard to understand.

How could anything be more painful than the loss of your child?!

But you certainly think you can count on some people to be there in the pain with you, at least from time to time. Ah, there's the biggest rub.

Feeling dropped by those you thought you could count on has been devastating.

I have had to avoid these people because now they hurt me, and I cannot afford to be hurt further. Even their disinterest hurts. But their downright meanness is inexcusable. Nothing can hurt more than losing my baby... And yet, the scars of their callousness do run deep. All the way down into my already broken heart.

Pictures by FotoSearch and PhotoBucket


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