Just as you move through the stages of grief when a loved one passes away, you must also make your way through the three major stages of trauma recovery as you heal. Many of the common symptoms of trauma such as emotional numbing, intense anger, self-harming, addictions and dangerous and impulsive behavior can be successfully handled in the three stages of your trauma recovery. Let’s take a closer look:
Stage One – Laying The Foundation
In the first stage of trauma recovery, you must develop a road map to healing and follow it. Working with a trauma counselor you can build a road map that’s unique to your needs and experience. But no matter how unique, your road map must be designed it to help you do the following:
Create a sense of personal safety.
This could mean getting away from abusive people or stopping self-abuse such as cutting or drug addiction.
Create life stability.
Securing your living situation and a source of income so that you have some sense of financial stability is important to trauma recovery. It is very difficult to process and put into perspective traumatic memories when you’re worried about where you will live or how you will eat from one day to the next.
Develop useful coping skills.
All of us come to the table with a set of coping skills, but sometimes they’re not very effective. Working with a trauma counselor you can begin developing coping skills that will help you deal with life’s setbacks.
Tap into your support system.
To get the right foundation for healing, you need a strong support network that can help. This support network can include your trauma counselor, friends, family or even other trauma survivors you’ve met in group therapy.
Get medical help when necessary.
In the first stage of trauma recovery, it may be necessary to take medication that will help you regulate your moods. Some trauma survivors benefit from medication to help them stop intrusive thoughts or intense emotions that could be disrupting their life.
Stage Two – Process Traumatic Events
The second stage of trauma recovery is about processing and integrating the memory of traumatic experiences. This is where working with a therapist can help you mourn what you’ve lost, accept what has happened, and place the traumatic experience into perspective so that you can move forward with your life. While in this stage, it’s important that you also work on addressing any unhelpful coping behaviors you’ve developed such as an alcohol or drug addiction. If done right, the processing and integrating of your traumatic memories should make you less dependent on any addictions you’ve used to cope with emotional pain.
Stage Three – Reconnect To Life
In the final stage of your recovery, you will reconnect with the people and things that make your life meaningful. This can be a long process as many trauma survivors isolate themselves as a way to cope with emotional pain. But by slowly reintegrating friends, family, and activities back into your life you can close the circle of healing. Below are a few tips on how to reconnect to what’s meaningful in your life:
- Reconnect to those people who bring value to your life.
- Accept that some people may not want to have a relationship with you.
- Take it slow to give others a chance to process the change in your behavior.
- Don’t take on too many activities at once. For example, if you enjoy painting, try painting for only 15 minutes a day to start.
As you move through the three stages of healing, remember that no individual’s trauma recovery is a straight line. You may go back and forth between stages and you may even quit at some point. The important thing is that you always get back on your journey no matter what happens.