Trauma - by Ann Sherwood

Almost two years ago my entire existence changed and I’ve been captured in a repetitive wave of loss and grief. Sometimes, we have to experience something a second time in order to reflect back and understand what was happening the first time. These current breaking headlines, higher numbers, and ever-increasing deaths remind me of those waves of loss and grief. Unfortunately, life has been teaching me that when you come up for breath in order to assess the new normal, you can’t possibly fathom that your head is about to be pushed down again as you grapple with the unknown.

If this sounds familiar to the trauma that we are collectively experiencing right now, then I have some unsolicited life lessons that God has helped me to learn since having a traumatic brain injury:

1. It’s okay to feel scared. - Your instincts are telling you to be on guard because something just isn’t right. Trust your gut-things are not okay.

2. You are right, you’ve never been here before. - There is no doctor, expert, mystic, or politician who can teach you everything you need to know to get through this unchanged.

3. Slow down and be present. - When we don’t understand what is happening around us, every cell in our body is screaming for us to slow down and take in all the signals, symbols, and solitude that comes with existing in a new reality. I promise, one way or another, your body will learn from and remember this trauma.

4. Diversify your views, your conversations, and your self-care. - Focusing on one narrative for too long will warp your understanding of what is important and will prevent you from resting, healing, and loving.

5. You don’t know how to be alone. - Today’s culture means you are never without options for interaction. It is far too gratifying to have constant stimulation and never truly be alone with your self, your anxiety, your grief, and your pain. Take this time to learn how to sit with your self. It is harder than you think. But trust me, there are parts of your self that you do not know, parts that are crying out to be known.

6. Be creative and be open. - Turn your face to the sun as much as possible. Cry as much as necessary. Color. Paint. Paste. Crop. Edit. There is nothing to be afraid of anymore, so go back to what you have been too busy for. It will heal your soul.

7. Talk. - Tell others how you feel. Tell them you are angry, anxious, or lonely.

8. Learn to accept help from those who are offering and able to give. - We will only get through this together.

As a driven, high-achieving, and intense person, I was not prepared for the alterations I would have to make after a brain injury. I was forced, kicking and screaming, to leave a state of productivity and a career that I had built my life upon. I didn’t know who I was without my achievements and my career that measured my worth. I had to learn to value different things. I had to learn that some days, just getting out of bed and facing the world was a victory.

If you are searching for words to describe our current shared experience, then reach out and we can struggle together. We must work to create a new language and give space to each other to properly describe the world we now live in.

We are now living in a world that is experiencing the worst crisis that most living human beings can remember. I want to argue with myself over that statement. How can we possibly be more affected than the 6+ million Jewish people who lost their lives to an infordamable power? How can this be worse than genocide, nuclear war, or climate change? But I cannot deny that this power, this living entity, this enemy, this virus, has a power that is not sexist, agist, racist, or xenophobic. How do we join together in faith and form a successful response to this threat?

By being brave and simply saying, “yes.”

Say, “Yes,

-my child matters;

-my lover matters;

-my parents and siblings matters;

-my neighbor matters.”

Be mindful of your responsibility in this crisis. And don’t forget that God is with you as you grieve what has been and is being lost.

Comfort Me

Come, enter my broken fortress.

Come, process through these embattled gates.

Come, bear witness to my grief.

Comfort me.

Come, sit with me and observe my plundered treasures.

Come, see the dull gold I once protected.

Come, feel the heaviness of my tear-soaked garments.

Comfort me.

Come, listen to my broken dreams.

Come, relive the horrors and the sorrows.

Come, bury the dead.

Comfort me.

Come, lift my weary head to the heavens.

Come, scatter the ashes in my garden.

Come, bathe me in lavender and roses.

Comfort me.

Come, together, let us mourn, grieve, die, and be reborn.

Come, together, let us tear down, burn, destroy, and rebuild.

Come, together, let us dream, heal, love, and comfort one another.

Comfort me.

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