Like physical first aid, this guide can start an ongoing process of care to point you to skills and resources that will aid in recovery
If you have gone through a traumatic experience, you may feel like you were knocked off your feet emotionally and spiritually. This is normal. The writer of Psalm 42 tells God it feels like ‘chaos roars at me like a flood’ (Psalm 42:7). Sometimes people try to seem strong on the outside and hide the chaos they feel on the inside. This can slow your progress. It’s healthy to be honest about how you are feeling about yourself, about others, and about God.
You may relive the experience, either in nightmares or in flashbacks during the day. When this happens, accept the feelings and remind yourself of the truth: you are not in the traumatic situation again. You are here, now.
You may find yourself avoiding things that remind you of the event – places, smells, people, media, or topics of conversation. Or you may use drugs or alcohol, or work all the time, or eat too much or too little. Or, you may be more emotional than usual or act in ways that are simply not like you. And with all this going on inside, you may find it difficult to concentrate.
You are not going crazy. These are normal reactions to trauma.
You may be on alert all the time, because you are more aware that bad things can happen suddenly. You may feel tense and overreact to things. At times, your heart may beat very fast. You may have trouble sleeping. You may be startled by loud noises. If you are on alert all the time, you will wear out your body. You may have physical effects like stomach aches, headaches, or other illnesses. Be patient and do your best to care for yourself to help your body heal.
If you identity with any of the symptoms above, we invite you to download and read Beyond Trauma: A Practical Guide for Spiritual First Aid. It’s a resource produced by Bible Society in conjunction with the Trauma Healing Institute, USA. It is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure, but if you have survived a traumatic experience, this book can help you with practical ways to care for yourself and your loved ones. The Bible passages in the book comfort and give hope, helping you to experience God’s peace as you take practical steps forward.
You can read and reflect on it on your own, but the experience will be even more helpful if you go through the book with a friend or a group. Churches and Christian ministries will find it an invaluable resource to share with members, many of whom may be quietly trying to make sense of the swirling haze of trauma.
If you are a chaplain or require bulk orders of the physical book, please fill out this form.
Your journey through trauma will take time and go through stages. It may feel, at times, like things will never get better, but keep going. Every step you take starts an ongoing process of care, and God promises to be with you all the way.
‘The mountains and hills may crumble, but my love for you will never end;
I will keep forever my promise of peace.’ So says the LORD who loves you.
Image used under licence: Makoto Fujimura, Walking on Water—Azurite, 2012