Faith and Trauma
By: Theresa Zephirin, LCSW | Therapist
These are questions I hear often in my work with individuals that have experienced trauma. It’s difficult to believe in a higher power or faith practice when one has had a truly difficult experience occur. Trauma causes personal pain and raises questions of doubt that can be at the core of any spiritual conflict. This could make it difficult for people that have practiced spiritual principles in the past to access one of their more powerful weapons in the face of a crisis…their faith. Faith can be a power tool to claim back a life that might feel lost.
Harold S. Kushner wrote in his book “When Bad Things Happen To Good People” about the very questions that people ask when something horrific happens. His answer is “The question we should be asking is not, why did this happen to me? What did I do to deserve this?…A better question would be, ‘Now that this has happened to me, what am I going to do about it?’” (pg. 136). Here are some ideas of how to renew your faith and work towards spiritual healing:
- Life goals-Now that you are on the other side of the trauma think about how you would like your life to look and how you could get yourself there. When it comes to Faith do you have a Faith Community that you could connect with? People to be part of your healing? A place to work through what has occurred with others that could support? Start to develop life goals for yourself and connect yourself with like-minded people that will help you along the way. If you feel you are not getting what you need from the community that you are a part of than it may be time to evaluate if this is the place that you should be going.
- Contain and Sanctify-Memories of what occurred will always be there. To try and remove them and/or obliterate them is going to be extremely difficult and frustrating for you. Make a decision to sanctify the memory by looking at it through a new prospective and making the memory work for you instead of against you. Create an alter or special place to deal with the thoughts the memory is bringing back for you. Fill that space with items that are comforting, scripture, prayers, etc. Journaling is also helpful.
- It’s a decision of the heart– Finding the hope in the healing process is not just about the outward resources but the inward choices. It’s a hard decision to face things that are tough and work through them. Once you make that decision that you want to heal complete a personal inventory on your spiritual tank. Where is the gauge on you tank? If it’s empty decide to fill it with things that will bring inner filling (prayer, quiet time, reading and reflecting on spiritual passages, etc.) and continue in a disciplined fashion seeking out those things. Over time and practice keeping your spiritual tank full will become a daily way of life. J