3 Ways to Support Someone Recovering From Trauma {Guest Post for Relevant Magazine}

In my days as a novice therapist, I was terrified to work with trauma survivors. I had been given tools and plenty of support from supervisors, sure. But as a trauma survivor myself, I worried I wouldn’t support them adequately. My greatest fear was to re-traumatize people. Graciously, in the decade since, God has utilized therapy, relationships and His goodness to mend me and grow my confidence to walk with the wounded. 

Lately, there is no shortage of news regarding survivors of trauma and abuse. Just recently Time magazine named the “silence breakers” of the #MeToo movement as their person of the year, and as I write, fires plague Southern California. While sexual assault is finally making headlines, it’s not new, nor are the multiple ways people can be traumatized. 

Picture via Relevant Magazine 

Picture via Relevant Magazine 

Defining Terms

But what exactly do we mean when we say trauma, or more accurately, traumatic stress? According to leading researchers like Bessel van der Kolk and Peter Levine, it’s when a person’s natural threat response is activated in their body, but their ability to cope becomes overwhelmed and ultimately stuck in a hyper/hypo vigilant mode.

Thus, the traumatic event(s) become “stuck” in a person’s body instead of being stored as a normal memory. This inability to properly integrate the event into the narrative of their life is what results in symptoms such as flashbacks, disturbing thoughts, physical ailments or emotional volatility.

According to The Sidran Institute, 70 percent of Americans will experience at least one major trauma in their life and 20 percent of those folks will go on to develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As Christians who want to love well, it’s vital we recognize our role in supporting the hurting within and without our walls.

Click here to keep reading at Relevant Magazine. 

 

Waiting for a Miracle {Guest Post for The Redbud Post}

Happy Advent, dear readers!

If you've been following along with me for awhile, you'll recognize this piece from last year, written prior to the birth of our new son. However, I had a chance to contribute to the newest addition of The Redbud Post which features experiencing Advent: The Sacred Amidst the Secular, and I knew this piece would be a good fit. I pray it meets you in the hustle and bustle of the season and invites you to see God in your moments. 

Grace + Peace, 

Aundi 


Growing up in the Catholic tradition, I learned Advent was rich with meaning and longing. I remember how the time between the initial Advent mass and Christmas Eve felt like a sacred eternity. One year, I decided I would stick it out and stay up until midnight mass with my dad. When the hour finally rolled around, I was full of food and heavy with exhaustion. I barely remember the service, but I do remember the sense of beauty there.

While I no longer identify as a Catholic, I have always connected with the significance infused in this season. Perhaps, as a person who frequently searches and yearns for meaning, I find goodness in honoring the wait as much as the arrival of Jesus. I see a metaphor for our lives here on earth. We are the “already, but not yet” people. Jesus came to us over 2,000 years ago and brought his kingdom. And, though his work has begun, it’s not yet finished. So we wait, still, for the fullness of his arrival.

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While Advent has always been sacred for me, this year feels especially precious. Even now as I write, we are waiting for the arrival of our own miracle due on Christmas Day—a baby boy; one we’ve longed for and dreamed about for several years now.

Last year, a few weeks before Christmas, we found out I was pregnant with another deeply hoped for baby. We went through Christmas expectant for what was to come. My perceptive four-year-old daughter knew something was happening, and we shared with her our exciting news. Then January brought heartache and difficulty, as we found the baby in my belly didn’t seem to be growing. 

I'd love for you to keep reading over at The Redbud Post {And while you're there, check out the other beautiful offerings too}. 

The Spiritual Act of Honoring Pain

"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other." -Mother Theresa

I awoke this morning and the air felt heavy, maybe because sometimes grief can be sensed before it is spoken. I looked at my phone and saw an alert telling me the deadliest shooting in modern history occurred last night.

Is it stranger that this happened, or is it worse that these horrific events don’t seem so unique anymore?

My husband was starting the morning routine with our daughter, and so I stole those five minutes to read my Bible, and I felt, I’m sure like many of you—angry, sad, and confused. Why God? Why?

pic: James Walsh via Unsplash

pic: James Walsh via Unsplash

All morning I’ve been trying to take it slow and articulate in some logical way, what is on my heart. Mostly, this is what comes out: how do we engage, or for some of us--re-engage--the practice of valuing the personhood of others? How do we recognize they too are the image of God (imago dei)? How do we slow down the escalation of hate and fear that seem pervasive and replace it with curiosity and respect?

How do we keep our hearts soft, grieve our sorrows, but maintain a fierce resolve to fight for goodness—for God’s kingdom come here on earth?

Sometimes I think when the pain feels too much; we become hardened to the plight of those around us. We create our own narrative of why they are less valuable or less worthy of human dignity. In my clinical opinion, this is the reason we usually stop valuing the stories of others, it simply feels too much, and we don’t have the resources to process the pain.

But what if God is asking us to care for our hearts, as they are the wellspring of life (Prov. 4:23), but also, to never ever, ever, stop believing others matter too.

What if part of the way we begin to change our culture is exactly as what Jesus said, “love your neighbor, as yourself ” (Mark 12:31b, emphasis mine).

**

As a counselor, I too often have seen folks become numb and overwhelmed amidst pain and trauma. Always, always this shows up in other ways in their lives. We simply don’t get a pass on reality. If we don’t process the legitimate emotions we experience it will come calling somehow, someway. It shows up as addiction, or panic attacks, or relational issues, or unexpected anger, or complicated grief, or even physical ailments.

We simply can’t pretend something isn’t happening.

Our body tells the truth of the experience. As Bessel Van Der Kolk’s wise book, “The Body Keeps the Score,” attests to, we are whole people and what is not dealt with will always come calling.

And so my hope and challenge for you today is this, what practices do you need in your life to give way to legitimate expressions of grief and emotion? Who do you need to call? Do you need to make an appointment with a counselor or a pastor? 

Where are you stifling these experiences and how has that affected your ability to connect or make space for the Imago Dei in others?

This is what I know to be true: God has made us for connection. And if we choose to numb, to leave, to disconnect, to shame others, so we don’t have to deal with the sorrow—we will always see the consequences in other ways.

**

May we care for our hearts and souls, and those around us well today. May we be empowered by the God who loves us to choose the harder, more courageous way of love.

Grace and peace, dear readers.

 

What I Learned This Summer (Or Why I Didn't Blog Much This Year)

As you may (or may not) have noticed, I’ve been scarce on my blog this last year—but especially during the summer.

The truth is, we have been in the middle of high levels of transitions with moving, getting kiddos settled, managing our own emotions around all the upheaval, and simply trying to live. One of my goals in my online sphere is to attempt to practice what I preach. Obviously, I don’t practice it perfectly either (!), but if I had a client who told me they had a baby, were moving to a new town, selling/buying a house, and saying goodbye to beloved friends—I’d likely counsel them to give themselves permission to step back from non-essential responsibilities.

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So here we are; trying to both follow my goal to continue working on writing my book while also allowing myself to go as slow as needed.

It’s exciting to feel inspired by something—but let’s face it—it’s hard work, too. And so with all these things occurring, this little blog space has gone a bit to the wayside.

Recently though, I read Addie Zimmerman’s blog, who also took a note from Emily Freeman, and they were both writing on what they learned this summer. Have you read either one of those lovely blogger’s writings? They both make wide spaces available to people and I am grateful for their work.

And so, I realized I wanted to write out some of my thoughts about what I’ve been learning this summer. Here they are:

1.     Remembering to embrace my limits.

I know, it seems pretty obvious, but I have been learning this one in a new way this summer. As the needs of our family have increased in this season, I saw how much I had to return to the reality that I am finite. Each of us can only do so much at one time, and that’s okay. Plus, my limits look different than your limits—and this is also okay. The beautiful thing I continue to remember is that God meets us in our lack, and this can be a gift if we let it.  

2.     Getting outside is the best thing.

I’ve always adored nature, but this summer I was reminded how much I need to see God’s handiwork. In the midst of feeling overwhelmed and taxed by moving boxes, construction, and so so many jackhammers—I experienced the wonder of getting outside and it was awe inspiring and needed. One of the amazing aspects of this is that God designed it this way. Plus, research supports the reality that getting outside can literally change our moods.

3.     Goals are helpful.

Approximately 7 weeks ago, I realized that if I am actually going to write this book, I better get myself in gear. I had been working on in it in spurts and fits. Between naps and tantrums and outings I had tried to work it in—but I was finding it extremely difficult. So, one day I decided I would write everyday and aim for 400-500 words. It hasn’t been perfect, but it’s been helping. There have been a few days, especially after sleepless nights with littles, when I have barely been able to squeak out anything of value. But it’s felt encouraging to see even if the process is slow, it’s still going.

4.     Even when we feel untethered, we can still find home.

My most recent post, way back in July, was all about feeling untethered. If you didn’t get to read it, you can catch it here. I’m happy to say, we’re starting to feel grounded once again. It’s certainly been a process, but one I’m grateful for. One of the most humbling aspects about all this, is that it reminds me we will always be a bit untethered on this earth; there won't ever be a time when we are completely settled. This is because as a final destination, we were made for heaven.  It's a paradox that we can feel both at home here in our life and with our people, and yet long for more. With this in mind, I'm reminded to embrace the tension and the bittersweet of loving life right now and longing for the fullness God promises us. 

And so I'm grateful. Grateful for the good and the hard, and the still in process parts of the summer. 

How about you? What did you learn this summer? Tell me below--I'd love to hear!