We had just witnessed a horrific accident. We narrowly escaped injury. A breath either way and it would have been us. I had never witnessed such violent devastation and I was vomiting on the curb of the road. We were safe, but the people involved in the head on collision were not. It took over 2 weeks for the feeling of trauma to dissipate, but I can safely say that this was the first experience in my life where I dealt with trauma effectively and I did it with gratitude. Before I explain what we did, let me first chronicle our histories with traumatic experience.
Our relationship is perhaps odd. After 3 months of dating, we realized we had many unresolved “traumas” that we needed to deal with. We weren’t writers. We were just 2 people starting a new relationship who sought healing. We wanted a fresh slate. Our journey of healing became “The Letters of Gratitude” book. It took us 30 days to uncover our unresolved traumas. It took us 30 days to begin the process of healing. It took us 30 days to begin to change our lives.
Here is some of what we found…
- Forgetting doesn’t work. All of the pain and all of the memories were still there. Yes, they were hidden underneath everything else, but it was ALL still there and it still hurt.
- Time doesn’t heal. As much as we loved to buy into the cliché, “time heals all wounds”, this wasn’t working either. Perhaps it dulls the trauma, but it is still left unresolved.
- Denial is useless. Lying to self is only effective if you actually buy into the lie…It buys some time, but in the end we were still left with the truth.
- Undervaluing experience only offers temporary relief. People often offer comparisons of worse scenarios to make us feel better, but it is our journey and the reality is still the same.
- Trauma is individual. The way each of us defines a stressful/distressful situation is totally relative to the individual. What is traumatic to you is not necessarily traumatic to someone else and vice versa.
- Silence is a close relative of denial and so we made the decision to speak.
- Stress is a teacher. It reminds us of what is important to us. It may not feel that way at the time, but there is always a lesson we can be grateful for.
As life would have it, not even a year after writing “TheLetters of Gratitude” we had another trauma. Rob was diagnosed with MS. So, through the teachings of the book, we had learned to heal our past, but now this…How do we deal with a stressful situation “in the moment”?
What we took away from that was that we needed to REALLY live and what I mean by that was hit our bucket list. We didn’t want to wait anymore. We didn’t want to create and buy into excuses. We only had one problem: the only problem was we didn’t have a bucket list…
Over the next while, we did make one and thankfully it said the same thing: TRAVEL. And so we bought tickets, we gave everything away and here we are. It is through trauma that we have learned how to live.
Let’s get back to the accident. This was a whole different type of trauma.
Here is how we dealt with it and what we took away from it:
- We listened to our emotions with honesty and shared them with each other. When we felt horrible, we shared that and expressed exactly what thoughts we were having.
- We supported and respected each others process and experience. We both dealt and felt completely differently and we respected that emotions are individual.
- We shared our fears and dealt with them. For us, I was scared to drive as a passenger again. Rob ensured we drove again right away so that I didn’t create a phobia.
- We created solutions. Our bodies were tense from the trauma, so we immediately went for a therapeutic massage.
- We gave ourselves time to sleep. Sleep is extremely healing for us.
- We didn’t use quick tickets to mask our emotions (alcohol or pharmaceuticals).
- We created a balance between dwelling and living. What I mean by this was we dealt with how we were feeling but that is not all we focused on.
- We didn’t cover over our feelings with something really fun. This is not to say that we avoided having fun, but we didn’t seek a fun situation to persuade our emotions.
- We focused on GRATITUDE. How can we be grateful? What did we learn? How can we live differently? How can we live better?
We do not have any imparting wisdom for you. Nor do we have any advice on how you should live your life. What we can offer you is our story and it our desire that within it you can see hope. We hope that you can see that healing is possible. We hope that you can see that regardless of what you are going through, or have been through, it doesn’t have to define the rest of you. It is never too late to begin again and redefine the rest your life.
It is only when we have the courage to see what hurts that we are able to heal.
And it is only when we dare to dream that we are able to pursue them.
Rob and Jacq
Authors of The Letters of Gratitude
Our Questions to You:
Please Comment Below, or feel free to email us personally.
- What has trauma taught you?
- What lessons of gratitude have you taken away from stressful experiences?
- What techniques do you use to deal with trauma?