This will be counterintuitive to a lot of people, I’m sure, but there is a broader narrative at play as the bedrock of all our maladies.
Whether we’re talking about trauma from known experiences (whether it’s one or many, trauma does not discriminate), trauma from unknown experiences (childhood, amnesia, unacknowledged angst, etc) or loss in all its myriad forms, we can be sure of one thing.
All of these equal grief, and there is a great degree of that which cannot be resolved, because it amounts to loss. Again, it might be counterintuitive to say this, but once we’ve experienced loss, how can it be that we’re ever found again? Life changes when we would never have chosen that change.
What ends up happening when we’re deep in grief, is we aspire to be elsewhere without the wherewithal to be there. We’re locked interminably out of that elsewhere place. We are in essence stuck in the in-between.
But what happens when we’re no longer deep in grief, is the emotional memory of that trauma encoded deeply inside us. What was lost cannot be found. But it can be reordered. It can be denied, which is not the healthiest of options. It can send us into conniptions of resentment; another far-from-healthy option. It can also be locked away and be irretrievable. Indeed, any of these places of spirit we can find ourselves locked in. But it can be reordered, and that’s our hope.
The new name to call trauma is grief, for contrary to popular and historical opinion, we don’t get “closure” from loss. By definition, again, loss is irrecoverable. We do find ourselves in a “new normal,” but very often this is a state we’re far from satisfied with.
Like trauma that sticks to us just like our experience has, because we cannot undo what is written in the body, loss that we also cannot undo changes us. We don’t so much reach acceptance as we accept what we cannot change BECAUSE we cannot change it. We learn to live with it even if that means we learn to live a kind of foreign experience of life.
Deep down inside us, we live estranged to an experience of life we would expect is possible. We can feel cut off from what life should be like. We might as well call this depression.
There is hope, but it’s not what we expect it to be. We must incorporate our experience if we hope to live beyond the pain of it. It must be faced. It must be discussed. It must be described. It must be delved into, at least to a point where its sting isn’t so noxious.
When we’ve found that within our trauma, our loss, our grief, we find we can discuss it as a normal part of our narrative—without the pain—we’ve reached a destination along our journey where we’ve learned something. We may not even know what that something we’ve learned is.
There may be no tangible benefit to enduring loss and trauma, and the unresolved grief of it all. The fact that we cannot prevent loss and we cannot go back to what was before the trauma took place indicates that the best we could do is accept the unacceptable.
That is such a harsh concept to swallow, and I for one don’t ask you to imbibe it.
What we can do, however, is learn to be a little gentler with ourselves as we learn what we can. Much grief is unresolvable, and you don’t just get over it. But it does teach us compassion, and strangely enough, these experiences do grow us up. These experiences teach us much about boundaries, the importance of safety, much wisdom and discernment.
Most of all, perhaps, and I owe this to a most recent conversation, we do best not to associate with people who just don’t understand us. They may or may not be toxic in and of themselves, but their perceptions and experiences are toxic to us, for they bear no compassion and no desire to understand, which is confounding.
Even the best scholars, therapists and doctors can barely understand suffering.