Updated: Jan 30
Trauma. Even the word sounds traumatic! It comes in all shapes and sizes, and can have a different meaning to different people.
For people that have experienced trauma, or maybe even experiencing it at this very moment, the holidays can be almost unbearable. For me, Thanksgiving was always a challenge for many years because it always reminded me of when my family was torn apart.
The meaning of trauma has changed dramatically for me over the years. In my early twenties, trauma might have been a colicky baby, a cancelled flight, or my husband getting traded to a new team. I shake my head at the thought of all the things that used to ruffle my feathers, or get me upset. All things that were easily fixed, and able to be adjusted or forgotten about.
While I may have cornered the market on difficult times, I feel I have not even come close to REAL trauma. I have no idea what a death of a child must truly feel like, but my sister does. I have no idea what battling cancer must feel like, but I have way too many friends that do. I have not had to bury a parent, or get a call in the middle of the night that my child or spouse has been killed in a car accident. My brain can’t even comprehend what that must feel like, and to me, that is real trauma and the people that have survived that, are true warriors.
The older I become, I have noticed I actually enjoy being around people that have been through seriously difficult times. They are softer and more authentic. They open up more easily, not afraid to show their flaws or talk about their children’s flaws, and far less judgmental. These people laugh and cry more easily, and I have cried laughing with friends countless times, as we talk about our sometimes crazy lives.
It’s liberating and therapeutic to know you are not alone, and can laugh about messy situations, free from the judgment zone. The last person I want to have wine or lunch with, is someone that can write the perfect Christmas letter, complain about the “trauma” of their bathroom remodel taking too long, or how their child didn’t make varsity. Check please!
Don’t get me wrong, I also love to celebrate the great moments with friends, but even those moments are looking different as I get older. It might be seeing a friend smile again after going through a devastating divorce that rocked her world. A friend getting a cancer free scan after a tough fight, a child surviving teenage addiction, or maybe starting a fabulous new job or starting their own business as a middle aged woman.
Those moments all deserve a celebratory excuse for happy hour and hugs, and I feel it is a privilege to be included in those moments.
No one is immune to real trauma, and if you are lucky enough to not have experienced it, you will at some point. For those warriors going through something difficult during this holiday season, from the bottom of my heart I am so very sorry. Your pain is real, and may even physically hurt in ways you can’t even understand right now.
You might feel as if no one understands what you are going through. Chances are they don’t, but someone does want to listen and be there for you, I promise. You just have to be brave and reach out to them.
You WILL get through it, but it will be so much harder, and will take so much longer if you go at it alone. A big hug and a movie date with a friend, can be a game changer in times like this, and preferably with wine involved.
Yes, any form of trauma sucks and will always leave a scar in some way or another. I think of those scars as reminders that I am human and lead a perfectly imperfect life. Those scars remind me that I am strong and they have prepared me for the next challenging event that is sure to come. Those scars remind me that I am alive and living each moment without regret, or fear of what others will think of me.
So wear your scars from trauma proudly, because you are a survivor, and that is something to be proud of, not ashamed of.
Sarah Swindell's memoir, Rounding Home, is now available here! http://bit.ly/RoundingHome