Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dealing with Trauma

Our community lost a former member and her child in a traumatic and violent way.  What I want to share with our community right now is a little bit about how to recognize if you are experiencing trauma, and what some of the things you can do are.

First of all, you don't have to be close to someone who was killed in order to experience this as a traumatic event in your life.  There are a lot of forms that a trauma response can take.  Sometimes it leads to people questioning God or one's faith-- how can there be a God who lets these things happen?  Sometimes there is anger -- How could somebody do this?  Sometimes the dominant emotion is grief -- How could anybody do this?  Sometimes it's a feeling of guilt -- I should've done something more.  Sometimes we experience things bodily -- sleeplessness, lack of appetite or stress eating, exhaustion, stomach problems, stress dreams or nightmares, and more.  Some people will feel none of these at first, and they may hit later.  A list of things you might experience and some things to do is here, and for children here.  There are a wide range of responses that are "normal" in a situation like this.  People naturally search for meaning -- what could've gone differently, who is to blame.  That's also normal.  But it's not necessarily helpful -- trying to make sense out of senselessness is what keeps our minds going in circles and leads to some of those symptoms of sleeplessness, stress, and more.  Of course, some people deal with trauma by seeking information, and others by shutting details out.  Both are ways we protect ourselves in this time, so be aware that if you're in one style, others may not be.  If one thing you're looking for is information on domestic violence, there's more information here.

The next thing to know is that trauma has a cycle that a community will go through.  At first we will mostly pull together to get through things.  After that, however, there can be division.  Some people may think we're doing too much, and some people not enough.  A good chart for understanding this is here.  In the months to come, what will be most important is that we continue to give each other lots of space and assume goodwill.  And what we need to do personally is each keep a close tab on ourselves and loved ones and reach out for resources when we're having trouble coping. 

The bottom line right now is take care of yourselves.  If you need help, reach out.  And if you see someone else reaching out, give a hand and connect them back to some of the resources.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Moment of Grace: Taking the Long Way In

This week our congregation lost two people who were loved by us -- a mother and son who were former members who were killed in an act of domestic violence. 

Today at the end of an emotional and difficult day, I went to the hospital to visit a member who had been suddenly hospitalized.  (The member is doing okay, but still in some pain.)  I parked near the E.R. and walked in the E.R. doors to avoid being out in the cold, and then walked through the hallway to the main hospital lobby.

There in the hallway were pictures from The Real MEN's Project.  I've seen these pictures before.  Most of them are in the wonderful book, Real Dads, by Dani Meier, the founder, which I got for my husband for Father's Day the year it came out.  But it was different suddenly encountering them in a hallway, and not just because of the bigger size of the photos.  It was different because it was an encounter in a different way with these fathers in our community who have signed a pledge against domestic violence along with their children.  Each picture has the name of the photographer beside it, and at the bottom of the picture there's a pledge of nonviolence signed by the father photographed.  One of my favorites is this one by my friend Tom McMillen-Oakley.  They hang it upside-down, he says.  This is the right-side up view:  That's his daughter's feet in the photo, along with his own.

There are a few other names and faces I recognized once again as I walked around.  On the way back out of the hospital, I stopped again, and this time stopped and looked at each and every photograph, and the men and their children, at the names of the photographers, at those signed pledges over and over again.  And then I sat and just smiled, and cried a little.

What a wonderful, healing balm that walk was.  If you need a moment to cry tears of joy, take a walk to Allegiance Health and walk the long way in.   If you're not local, watch the video.  You don't get to see those signed pledges, but you see the images of these fathers and children:

 It was exactly what I needed to see today.  What a moment of grace that was to take the long way in.