Courses in Christian Grief Counseling: Effects of Traumatic Grief on Society
In the previous article we discussed what traumatic grief is and how it affects the survivor. We utilized Lifton’s five major themes that correspond with traumatic grief. In this segment, we will analyze the recovery procedures for people of traumatic grief. We will also include Christian principles that can heal the wounds of traumatic loss and grief.
The first step involves understanding the nature of the trauma. The trauma is so severe that it has
brought one to the jaws of death. The realization that death is inevitable and was so close can negatively affect a survivor. Lifton’s first rule is to manage the symptoms of anxiety that correlate with the trauma.
It is the goal of counselor to help the patient identify and face the pain associated with the trauma. Only then can the counselor help the patient feel less alone and push them towards a sign of hope. Strategies for symptom management help the patient realize they have control and hope. Some strategies include cognitive and behavioral therapies such as relaxation, or techniques for interpersonal skills. Medication is also an option to ease the emotional anxiety so the person can focus and heal. Support groups of people who share similar stories of trauma are also encouraged.
The second step involves reconstructing meaning. In this element, the person begins to find a place for the traumatic event in their life narrative. They face the trauma and then reconstruct their life story with the trauma of the past. This is the very definition of metaconstruction which integrates one’s past and future self conceptions into a new story.
The final element involves finding new spiritual wholeness. This is the final step of healing. In this step, the survivor must recover a new meaningful sense of purpose, return to society, and move towards a healthy self-acceptance of who one is. Some create survivor missions which give them a sense of destiny and ultimate value. Some find this value in God as its source, while others find non theistic means such a good of community or justice. In many ways this final step is a self acceptance and forgiveness of the past that eliminates the negative energy and produces good energy via praxis.
Obviously, God as the source produces the greatest recovery. However, some may remain bitter towards God for the evil that befell. These are signs that a full recovery is not there yet. The bitterness is negative and only until they are able to remove that darkness from their soul will they be healed. The saints and
mystics focused their energy on Christ who suffered the most traumatic death. They focus on the trauma the Blessed Virgin faced seeing her son brutally murdered before her eyes. In that grief, they find love,
support, and healing. They realize in this fallen world, they are not alone. No matter how traumatic the event, the end is resurrection in Christ. If survivors are able to go through the three steps of recovery, they will then be able to unify with Christ their sufferings and elevate it to a higher and supernatural level that the world cannot comprehend. This is the great mystery of Christian grief: through suffering comes redemption.
While traumatic grief and the pains of survivors are immense and require long periods of recovery, it is possible through good counseling, therapies, and God that one can again find meaning, wholeness, hope and love. This does not entail that the healing process eliminates the scar or the memory, but it does allow the person to accept those scars in a healthy manner and continue to carry their cross with dignity, hope, happiness and Christian charity.
Please review our courses in Christian Grief Counseling.
By Mark Moran, MA