Finding healthy outlets for processing trauma can feel overwhelming. The healing journey often feels like walking a maze of possibility and roadblocks, but think about how much easier that labyrinth would be to navigate if you had a map. Maybe you’ll still take a few wrong turns. Perhaps the way you arrive isn’t precisely as you thought you would, but the journey to get there feels a lot less overwhelming with a little guidance. There’s no singular right way to process trauma, but you don’t have to do it alone. Read on for some ideas on navigating your healing.
Write a letter
Letter writing is a productive way to lead the charge in processing the experience and the emotions that come with it. In order to optimize healing, a focused purpose or theme will help you work through particular facets of your trauma.
Several letter types can be beneficial in processing your experiences. A few of them are:
- Gratitude letters can help you say thank you, even within the framework of pain. Reflect on the support you received, a decision or comment that a friend or pillar in your support system made, or a moment of individual empowerment. Describing your gratitude for those experiences and mapping the emotions you felt in the moment (and now reflecting on them) can be healing.
- Forgiveness letters. Whether you ask for or grant forgiveness, walking through the events that led to requiring it will help reprocess those moments through a more balanced perspective. Being honest about what you felt then and where you are now, re-telling the events, and clearly stating the forgiveness (be it a request or a grant) may offer closure.
- Writing a perspective letter without the intention of sending it can also be healing. This type of letter you write purely for the catharsis of the process. It will authentically explore your perspective in the moment of trauma up to where you are now, with little to no filter or reservation in expressing yourself honestly.
No matter the type of letter you choose, it is essential to identify your audience. Whether it’s past you, present you, or someone else involved in the experiences you’re processing, give your healing some direction by addressing your letter to a recipient and addressing them throughout.
Tell your story
If the written word isn’t how you feel heard, try telling your story out loud. You can choose to record yourself so you retain control and can stop or start as required. Perhaps meeting with a group of trusted friends or peers who have experienced similar trauma (like a women’s addiction group, recovery support, or survivor’s guild) is an excellent place to start. There are various formats available to tell your story and reach an audience as large or small as you feel comfortable.
You may choose to tell your story as a speech, a monologue, or even an open forum discussion where others can offer their own experiences. The important thing is that you tell your story authentically, and you feel supported in doing so. It’s challenging to open up, but you may find that you feel relief once there is openness around your trauma. Getting the chance to offer support or trade experiences with others who have been there may also be incredibly healing.
…And not just the fun kind. While it’s vital for you to spend time on activities that feel good and bring you joy, it’s also crucial that you devote time to yourself in other ways. Face your feelings honestly and openly without judgment, and spend time with them inside your head and body. Eat well, go to bed on time. These are fundamental building blocks of caring for yourself through trauma. However, there are more elements to looking after yourself than the basics.
Avoidance can feel like the most natural way to get through the trauma. While it’s okay to avoid something long enough to survive it, it’s also necessary to face your feelings honestly to resolve them. Being a mirror for your own experiences can be difficult, so one of the most important things you can do is offer yourself grace. Be patient and forgiving of your emotions and your experiences. Remember, no one, not even you, is expected to get life right 100% of the time. Not now, and certainly not amid trauma.
Lean on those who want to help. Allowing yourself to rely on those you trust to walk you through healing is the greatest gift you can give not only yourself but your loved ones as well. Walking through trauma alongside those who can offer a framework of trust and healing will ensure the road you walk is one with accountability. Healing is not linear, nor is it all pleasant. Trusting those who have experience in trauma recovery like The Haven’s experts can help bring balance to your path.
You may not return to the person you were before trauma, but the growth you find in rebuilding is powerful even when it’s born from something difficult. But one thing is certain: you will recover. With the proper tools and support, you are already well on your way to healing from your trauma.