Trauma – grief and loss

Grief and Trauma

When it comes to trauma, grief and loss isn’t talked about enough. In fact some psychologists believe that grief is a more important factor in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. After all once the trauma (s) are over there is almost always loss. Loss of meaning, in some cases loss of identity, loss of childhood, loss of dignity, loss of power, loss of control. Does this make sense? So while the symptoms of PTSD can absolutely be treated, grief is something that takes time to sort itself out.

New meaning comes out of  processing the grief and there is no time limit. You can’t treat it in a few months weeks or years. While the grief tends to get less and less as time goes on;  the sorrow of what was lost is always there even though it changes over time.

Grief can feel a lot like depression but its something very different than depression. You can’t challenge negative thinking when you are grieving because there is nothing to challenge. Its painful period. We have to move through it no matter how much it sucks.

We can medicate it with alcohol, substances, addictions, or distractions, but it isn’t going anywhere. The best we can do is make sense of it so that we can come to a place of acceptance with what happened. This doesn’t mean we have to forgive, or like what happened, but simply to come to a place of acceptance with it so that we can move on with our future.

Who we were before the trauma is gone. Who we will become is up to us.

The meaning that we make of the past is also up to us.

How we make sense of it, as well as what we decide to do with what happened to us is a choice.

This we absolutely have control of.

 

Parts of self trapped in trauma time

 

pexels-photo-296301.jpegWhat are parts of self? Do I have parts? Does everyone have parts?

We all have different parts of ourselves. You likely have a part when you talk to your kitty: and another part when you talk to your boss, partner or friend. These parts are not rigid – they are flexible and malleable.  You can move in and out of these parts with ease, usually in a matter of seconds. Furthermore, you can properly switch from talking to your cat to your partner.  When you use the appropriate part at the right time and in the right situation, we call these parts integrated.  Parts are also sometimes called ego states. However, if a person has experienced extensive childhood trauma, they will be vulnerable to dissociation and in these dissociated states, move into parts that are trapped in a time when a traumatic event took place in their childhood. Sometimes a person will move into the child state.  Other times, a protective part such as an angry  teen part will move into the person’s consciousness to try to protect the child part.  When a part shows up at an inappropriate time or place, we sometimes call this a dissociated state.

Parts are ego states split off at the time of a childhood traumatic event or events. For example, a child experiences feeling intense pain and vulnerability after being physically abused repeatedly at six years old. The six-year-old doesn’t grow up. Instead this six-year-old stays six even though real-time child continues to grow up. Once an adult, she finds herself triggered, or distressed when the threat of feeling the same way she did at six presents itself in a present day event. She may then move into this child part, or more likely, move into a protective and angry part that reacts in a defensive, dismissing way to protect the vulnerable child part. For this person, interpersonal relationships are challenging because every time in the present that this person is reminded of  the past, they will act from another part – a vulnerable six-year-old part, an enraged “monster” part (in the worst case), or some less intimidating but still challenging angry part. They may continue to feel triggered in the present over and over again until the trauma of the past has been processed.

These parts or ego states don’t integrate. Put simply, these parts are trapped in trauma time. They are child parts, teen parts, or infant parts. The older parts (such as teen parts) typically try to protect the child or infant parts.  This process has been carefully outlined in two important theories: Structural Dissociation Theory and Internal Family Systems Theory.  Sometimes a part can appear as a monster, or demon part, however, this part isn’t really a monster, or demon but rather a part doing its best to protect a vulnerable child part. A monster will almost always dissipate, or disappear from a person’s system once it believes that the adult (Functional Adult State) can take control of their internal system, and the trauma that drives the monster to activate is processed.

For more information on dissociation read blog posts at this site on dissociation.

Ways to integrate parts include group processing therapy and E.M.D.R. In group you talk about your trauma and process it with a trained facilitator.  This therapist creates a safe place for you to re-experience some of the feelings that created the need for protective parts in the first place.  With E.M.D.R. you process the original traumatic events in a controlled safe way once you master skills to control dissociation.

 

Crystal Arber MSW RSW

 

Making Sense of Trauma Group

Crystal Arber:

Making Sense of Trauma

Making Sense of complex and post traumatic stress injury.

Making Sense of Trauma Group is back by popular demand.

When 

Every Wednesday evening  starting

October 11th from 7:00pm – 8:30pm for seven weeks.

Where

 Vancouver 

There are six seats available with the possibility of another group running on Thursday’s should the group fill up fast.

What 

  •  An educational skills building group for those who are interested in learning how to contain distressing symptoms caused by past traumatic events or PTSD like symptoms.
  • In this seven week closed group you will learn how traumatic experiences affect the nervous system, and brain.
  • You will learn types of treatment available.
  • You will learn the difference between complex developmental trauma and PTSD.
  • You will learn skills to manage and reduce distressing symptoms, i.e. dissociation (zoning out) anger, avoidance of people or places, mood swings, hypersensitivity to sounds, attention…

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