It's probably safe to say that all of us know someone who has experienced some type of trauma at some point in their life, things such as witnessing or being a victim of domestic or other violence, being in or witnessing a life threatening accident, losing a loved one suddenly or living through a natural disaster. It is also probably safe to say that many of us have experienced trauma at some point in our own lives. People who are recovering from trauma need the healing presence of others at that point of their lives more than perhaps at any other time in their lives, and yet.... many people simply do not know how best to be present to their friends and family who need their healing presence.This week I learned about a young woman who has much to teach us and I want to share her wisdom with you. The young woman is Catherine Woodiwiss. In 2008, Catherine's sister died in a horseback riding accident, and in 2013, Catherine, herself,was hit by a car on her bicycle, experiencing trauma to her face, the healing of which required numerous surgeries. Catherine recently wrote a blog post about what these two tragic experiences have taught her about life after trauma. This blog post received national attention this week when New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote a beautiful column based on Catherine's wisdom, entitled, “The Art of Presence” http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/21/opinion/brooks-the-art-of-presence.html.
Here is a summary of the ten things Catherine learned about living with trauma. 1. Trauma permanently changes us.
2. Presence is always better than distance.
3. Healing is seasonal, not linear.
4. Surviving trauma takes “firefighters” and “builders.” Very few people are both.
5. Grieving is social, and so is healing.
6. Do not offer platitudes or comparisons. Do not, do not, do not.
7. Allow those suffering to tell their own stories.
8. Love shows up in unexpected ways.
9. Whatever doesn't kill you …
10. .....Doesn't kill you.
I highly recommend that you read Catherine's entire column found below so that you can benefit fully from her hard earned wisdom, as understanding this about trauma might help you reach out to another or heklp you reach out for help if you are, indeed also recovering from trauma. “A New Normal: Ten Things I've Learned About Trauma” can be found by clicking here. In her own way, she is offering her presence to anyone affected by trauma. http://sojo.net/blogs/2014/01/13/new-normal-ten-things-ive-learned-about-trauma
As someone who has experienced trauma in a bicycle accident in 2006 and has also had the honor of working with many survivors of trauma, Catherine's words are as profound as they are helpful. Grief and trauma truly are social, and that is why I invite you to read her whole blog post. If you are recovering from trauma, you will better understand what you are experiencing, or if you know someone who is a trauma survivor, you will better understand how you can best be an important presence in his or her healing process.