• Pierre Immelman

Losses, Crises and Trauma

There is no limit to the number of losses and crises that occur in life. And some of them are inexplicable traumas that affect an entire family: the loss of a job; the loss of a friend or supporting person; the loss of a position of status and respect; an incapacitating illness, operation or accident; the death of a parent, friend, spouse or child; the news that you are terminally ill; the discovery that a child is on drugs or is a homosexual; the discovery of a handicap in yourself or another family member; an abortion or unwanted pregnancy; experiencing a miscarriage or premature birth; a suicide attempt; separation or divorce; a child-custody battle; being drafted or discharged; the discovery that your child is a member of a cult; enduring a lawsuit; putting parents into a home for aged; living with a spouse who is experiencing a midlife crisis; living with chronically depressed person; the discovery that you or a spouse has Alzheimer’s disease; experiencing a heart attack and a bypass operation with ensuing loss of memory for your newly married spouse. The list never ends…

The journey through life is a series of losses, crises and, in some cases, traumas – some are predictable and expected, but others are total surprise. Some crises are developmental; some are situational. Being alive means that we constantly have to resolve problems. Every new situation we encounter provides us the opportunity to develop new ways of using our resources in order to gain control. Sometimes we have to try over and over again because our first efforts do not work. However, by being persistent, we discover ways to overcome these problems. When a problem is overwhelming, or when our support system – within ourselves or from others – doesn’t work, we are thrown off balance. This is called a crisis. Losses, crises and traumas are part of life. As they are inevitable, they should be anticipated and expected to occur, but some of us just don’t…

Sometimes father time and mother nature just don’t heal all the wounds and family and friends hesitate to become involved in the lives of others because they feel inadequate and don’t know what to say…

Supporting and working with someone who suffers from losses, crises and trauma is a process that requires being moved with compassion; accepting people for who they are crisis; helping people to acknowledge their worth; seeing the needs of people and to speak directly to them; basing one’s choice of words and inflection of voice on the situation on hand; emphasising the right behaviour; accepting responsibility; providing hope, and encouragement; and emphasising peace of mind.

How is this achieved, you might wonder? Well, listening is vital, which means that it is a necessity to learn how to listen because hearing is different from listening; also knowing when to speak and when to keep quiet; properly applying questioning for it to be effective; and honest reassurance.

Counselling can be painful as well as helpful for someone suffering loss, a crisis and trauma. For this reason, honest reassurance through all the various stages of the process is important. It is the opposite to “it will be okay” or “everything is going to turn out for the best” We don’t know the outcome, and counsellors, especially those claiming that they have word from God for someone, must be very careful when and how they offer honest assurances. One need to assist the suffering person to be honest with their feelings as to ensure them that they are being heard in order for them to be receptive to the support and comfort.

Realising that for some, change will be very slow, encouragement and faith is required to move along.

When we think of loss, we think of loss through death of people we love. But loss is far more encompassing theme in our life. For we lose not only through death, bit also by leaving and being left, by changing and letting go and moving on. And our losses include not only separation and departures from those we love but also our losses of romantic dreams, impossible expectations, illusions of freedom and power, illusions of safety and the loss of our own younger self. The crux is that at the heart of trauma and crisis is loss. For one to understand and appreciate fully the significance of crisis and trauma, one needs to understand first the multitude and complexity of loss.

With that said, what exactly is loss? Loss is part of the human condition and an unavailable fixture of life. The inevitability of major loss, however does not mean that many of us are well prepared to handle this type of stress. Significant losses in life are likely to engender overwhelming negative emotions, disruption in everyday life, and long-term problems in resolving the loss.

Nobody likes to lose. When a loss occurs, it means something went wrong. We are motivated in believing that life is supposed to be filled with winners – just consider certain teaching and look at the headlines on the sport pages… The accolades are given to winners not losers. Losing hurts. A small loss or a large one – it doesn’t matter – it hurts. And it hurts even more because we have not been taught to expect or know how to handle the losses of life We want winners. We want success. We want to be in control of our lives, so we build a wall around us with a sign saying “losses – No Trespassing!” And then, if they occur, we feel violated.

For healing to occur losses must be identified, discussed and understood, because whenever a loss occurs, it’s important to see it in the context of life experiences so that there’s an understanding of the full impact of what has happened. Identifying all of the accompanying losses, as well as the impact of the current loss on a person’s thinking, will help him/her learn to better handle future losses.

We live in a society and culture that has chosen to ignore and avoid two major issues of life – loss and grief. This is why people suffering loss and grief will need to be guided through the process of grief as well as being educated about grief.

Grief is emotion filled as there are a multitude of emotions involved in the grief process – emotions that seem out of control and often appear in conflict with one another. With each loss come bitterness, emptiness, apathy, love, anger, guilt, sadness, fear, self-pity and helplessness. Grief does not have a cookie-cutter solution, it appears different at different times and it flits in and out of a person’s life. However, grief has a purpose as it basically express three things:

1. Feelings about a loss

2. Protest at a loss as well as a desire to change what happened and have it not been true

3. Effects of the devastating impact of loss

Helping someone grief their loss is a process during which the grieving person is guided towards discovering new direction for the emotional investments that they once had in the lost object, situation or person. This discovery and recovery involves reinvesting emotional energy in something new that can give satisfaction and fulfilment, since the relationship with the person or object cannot. We are not talking about a replacement – a new cat cannot replace the old cat; a new dog cannot replace the former dog; a new person is not a replacement for the former person, and any attempts to make them into replicas are unhealthy responses. In the loss of a person, the person experiencing grief may benefit be reinvesting, not in another person right away, but perhaps in a service organisation, ministry or new career – it could be something immediately tangible or the pursuit of a goal. It’s not easy. It’s not without pain. But live go on – different and new. Yet how lives go on, how different lives go on and what is new in life depend on the person’s grief work.

If you are suffering the ball of emotions that is part of grieving – anxiety; confusion; panic; dismay; apathy; sorrow; loss; sadness; rage; vindictiveness; depression; dread; loneliness; betrayal; helplessness; hurt; distrust; rage; fear; anger; jealousy; envy; bitterness; guilt; regret; abandonment; pain; inadequacy; resentment; despair; emptiness; disappointment; anguish; yearning and you require guidance towards a new normal and recovery – you are more than welcome to contact HypnogeniXpert4Peeble – either email or +27 (13) 240 0139 or +27 (82) 468 6960

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