Yesterday, my husband and I discussed the deep sense of loss he feels over the lack of understanding he has received from those in his family he once looked up to. He’s recognized in their responses to his suffering that they live much of their lives in denial of the pain that their family has suffered. He expected so much more from them, and what has resulted are crushed expectations and the loss of relationships. Their refusal to acknowledge the depths of his pain without giving him pat answers or sugar coating how terrible things really were during his abusive childhood has resulted in separation at a time when he really needs others the most, but it is too painful for him to sit in the presence of those who do not accept him where he is.
Dan Allender says that we heal in an environment where we are able to tell our stories and they are honored and we are loved and accepted. He says we are retraumatized when we tell our stories in an environment where our stories are not honored and we experience rejection. Yet finding a place where others will hear our traumatic stories and understand is not an easy place to find. Which reveals another painful consequence to trauma – a lack of understanding which leads to feelings of isolation.
Most people are uncomfortable with great pain that they cannot fix, especially emotional pain. I listened to the wife of a minister share in a Bible study one night how she felt bad that she was often worried about others who were emotionally needy latching onto her. She cared, she explained, but she just didn’t have time to deal with their problems. She said she often attracted others who were like that. I heard from another minister’s wife, as well, who stated that they were a small church who needed “healthy church members,” because they just were not equipped to deal with those who were hurting deeply. I don’t think that either of these women intentionally wanted to hurt others in what they said. Rather, I think it revealed what a lot of ministries have become – a place for those who have their pain under control and appear emotionally healthy on the outside.
Sadly, when I was covering up my own pain I did the same thing and avoided emotionally unstable and needy people that I could not fix. I recognize now the reason I did this was because of the tremendous amount of energy it required for me to cover up the things in my own life, and I just didn’t have energy for anyone else’s pain. Because I didn’t know how to have healthy boundaries in my own life, I was unable to put those boundaries in place with others who were hurting, so it was just easier to avoid them. As a result, I continued to suffer in my own pain and so did they. Often Sunday morning for me was just a charade. But I cannot do this anymore. Now that I finally brought my pain out into the light, I recognize that stuffing it back in the darkness will only cause it to fester and grow. It is crucial for my survival that I not pretend anymore. But it also means I have to be careful about who I tell what, because other’s rejection can retraumatize me.
Thank God for the counselors who have wanted to hear our painful stories and have reminded us of God’s love and that we are never alone. They’ve listened to hours of our pain, loved and accepted us where we are keeping healthy boundaries in place and never causing us to feel like a burden.
Thank God for those few friends who have come alongside over coffee and through email, those loving and compassionate people who’ve suffered many of the same things and who are humble enough to just listen.
Silence sometimes is the most wonderful sound a hurting heart can hear when the pain feels like it is too much to bear.
All of these people have represented Jesus to us, and I thank Him for them.
God said it is not good for a man to be alone, yet trauma often produces isolation because others cannot or will not try to understand. I believe this grieves God’s heart very much. For He is known best for His great compassion for all of us.
If you are suffering from trauma and the isolation it brings, please know that Jesus knows and He is with you and never leaves. He is praying for you when the pain is so horrendous you cannot even speak. He suffered in all the same ways, and He did it so one day the painful trauma we suffer would cease and He will wipe away all the tears.
I’m here, too.
God bless, Liz
Listening to podcasts has been my sanity through so much confusion. This fairly new podcast from Sarah Taras and Marci Prehiem has really helped me to feel understood. I highly recommend the Fundyland Sees Red podcast. Thanks, Ladies, for making me laugh and taking the pressure off that religion brings.