Surviving Trauma and the Healing Power of Love
Cheers, dear readers,
This past weekend, my husband Eric and I sent out an invitation for our tenth wedding anniversary celebration. Wow! I am having a hard with the realization that ten years ago this October, we said our vows we wrote together in front of our loved ones, creating at that time our family of two. We were blessed with a gorgeous day in front of a beautiful lighthouse in North Carolina. We have always believed that a lighthouse was a symbol of hope – beckoning us all to her warm light and to her safety. You have all come to know Eric as the heartfelt and amazing writer that he is – brave, eloquent and humorous at times with his word choices and sentiments. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you this beautiful poem that he wrote for our wedding day that our dear friend Rev. Raymond Boyd read to all in attendance (and we have framed in our bedroom to this day):
THIS SACRED LIGHT
I am like love.
I speak of discovery, evoke journeys into the unknown and memories of sweet homecomings. I conjure childhood dreams, treasured tales and grand adventures.
Like love, I have nooks and crannies, deep silences and mysteries all my own. For the lost, seeking shelter and the peace of home, I am literally the guiding light that beats back the vast, empty dark. I reach out into the void and say, “Steer to me. Here is safety and warmth, here is life.”
I am like love, mostly unnoticed when the sky is clear, but remembered and relied on when the storms come. I stand fast when the tempest roars, I shine brightest when the blackness is deep.
Like love, I grow richly older – smoothed and beautified by my lines and fractures, aged and charactered but unbroken by the years, deeper in quiet dignity with each round of the ceaseless tides.
I am like love.
— By Eric Olson on his wedding day – October 7, 2006
Wow. He is really an amazing and beautiful writer, isn’t he? Thanks for giving me the opportunity here to gush about my awesome husband, as well as reminisce sharing this lovely poem with you.
The part that stands out the brightest for me today is this:
“I am like love, mostly unnoticed when the sky is clear, but remembered and relied on when the storms come. I stand fast when the tempest roars, I shine brightest when the blackness is deep.”
I share this with you because I know so many marriages dissolve partly after the trauma of infertility – the trauma of being unable to create your own offspring, create life in the form of your children. The creation of family is a very natural inclination, desire, and human right. I feel so very fortunate that Eric and I were able to weather the storm of infertility, side by side. He truly was to me a beacon of light, strength, and someone that I knew and still know that I can always count on, including when the blackness is deep, when trauma or depression rears its ugly head – such as the days of another failed pregnancy test, another embryo lost, another miscarriage, another hopeful moment squashed again.
Experiencing and surviving trauma can rip families apart. Make no mistake that surviving infertility can be a very devastating event for both men and women. At a workshop on trauma at a conference that I attended this weekend, I learned that trauma is highly prevalent in the U.S. where exposure to multiple traumas in a lifetime is the norm (89% of the population). Trauma reactions can happen at any time, such as the recent experience I detailed in this post. Self-care is paramount in getting through these experiences (even if it’s running to the ladies room to hide momentarily to avoid sobbing in front of others at a celebration).
To help explain further, one definition of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is an occurring intrusion or recollection of a traumatic event. Some of the ways many manifest dealing with PTSD is to “numb out”, avoid any triggers in a self-protection attempt (eg. avoiding baby showers), or feeling persistent “fight, flight or freeze” experiences in general.
It’s important to note also that trauma, like grief, is not a linear experience. Oftentimes many can get “stuck” in trauma. Why? Sometimes we don’t get to “complete” going through the feelings, such as not letting it physically out (by screaming or shaking to release the feelings). Or we can get “shut down” when trying to disclose our trauma to people who are uncomfortable or don’t want to hear it. I told a tale surrounding that in my piece here “Listening is an Act of Love.”
So how can you support someone if they are telling you, a trusted friend, about something extremely upsetting that happened to them, such as their infertility struggles? One way is to remember that we ALL experience trauma at different points in our life. So help “normalize” it for the other person. Say things like:
“Thanks for your bravery in sharing that with me, and for your trust in me by confiding in me. How can I support you through this?” This fosters connection, creates trust, and warm feelings of love.
“You poor thing” as this implies this experience only happens to them and creates disconnection, separation, and possibly resentment. And if the disclosing person is not given a safe space to talk about their troubles, remember that this essentially “shuts down” their healing process, prolonging their pain.
Some ideas on creating resilience in your life around healing are:
- Have supportive friends and loved ones in your support network that you trust to confide difficult experiences with.
- Reach out for other support networks and free resources that are available.
- Practice various “grounding exercises” and have those in your toolbox. One grounding exercise is to close your eyes, take a deep breath, think of a calming place vividly and of your own worthiness to lead a life you are proud of… or whatever thoughts are comforting to you.
- Applaud yourself for taking positive action in your own self-care!
As always, remember you have a support network here at Slow Swimmers & Fried Eggs. We understand as we have been there through the dark days. Feel free to reach out to us anytime.
Please join me next week to hear more about my personal journey down the infertility path. I look forward to speaking with you. I wish you the best on your journey.