Over the years, I have been trying to help people affected by violence and trauma through education and planting seeds of hope. I hope that the same will be done for those of us soon to be affected by COVID-19.
The loss that we humans will face in the coming months will be immense. This may bring to the fore severe psychological trauma that will take a long time to recover from. We must do all we can to help those affected by the trauma.
The disease will kill many but it will also leave its mark on those left behind. Trauma in the first instance happens to individuals, to human beings. Those who died are victims. Those who are left behind, those who grieve for them, the bereaved, are the victims.
Although this trauma may differ to those who were affected by violence, the effects will be similar in how people feel the loss. The individuals affected will attempt to pick up the pieces. The pieces of their lives that were once whole will now be shattered.
This is the first effect of trauma. It can shatter lives. It can shatter hopes. It can shatter beliefs, understandings, and assumptions about how the world works. What seemed normal before the trauma will be questionable post-trauma Trauma can leave individuals with a very negative view of the world.
This can become imprinted in the victim’s psyche and can lead in many cases to poor mental health. For many people a traumatic incident is considered a "turning point".
People that have suffered trauma – and remember that a trauma incident is most usually unexpected and unpreventable – can think of the moment of their trauma as the day the clocks stopped.
The traumatised individual can be left vulnerable. This vulnerability can be further impacted by how society deals with those left traumatised. This disease has already seen sections of our community being attacked and stigmatised.
Traumatised people can become voiceless, without agency, stuck in their victimhood. Left to fend for themselves. Silenced. Invalidated. The sheer scale of loss will leave many feeling that they cannot speak about their own loss.
We should not let this happen. We should encourage people to talk about their loss. To not feel shame. To not feel guilt. To not feel blame. It may sound wrong but we should help people to find some meaning in their loss and suffering.
We should plant seeds within those left traumatised that could eventually lead to “post-traumatic growth” (PTG). We should instil hope that people, with the proper support, can recover and embark on a new journey after the suffering.
Posttraumatic growth is not the same as an increase in well-being or a decrease in distress. Growth comes from the individual’s struggle with a highly distressing set of circumstances that significantly challenges people’s understanding of the world and their place in it.
We must help each other to find new ways of seeing the world after the trauma that will rip through our society. We must do our best to see that we come out the other side of this pandemic as a better society. One that learns to grow and thrive
There are 5 domains of PTG: Greater appreciation of life and changed sense of priorities; Warmer, more intimate relationships with others; A greater sense of personal strength; Recognition of new possibilities or paths for one’s life; Spiritual development
This involves: Meaning Making: Finding meaning in your trauma, making sense of your suffering; Identity Production: realising that the identity you had before may be gone, and where one must create a new identity; as well as Narrative Building and Re-telling one’s story: retelling enables the person to potentially bring into focus different aspects of the self not clearly considered before, "producing an elaborated identity, giving the trauma meaning and significance".
This should be our aim. We can all help. The role of others as “expert listeners” (not just professionals and practitioners) in supporting the individual in their journey towards post-traumatic growth is important.
“Supportive others can aid in posttraumatic growth by providing a way to craft narratives about the changes that have occurred, and by offering perspectives that can be integrated into schema change" (Tedeschi and Calhoun 2004, 8).
“The cognitive processing of trauma into growth appears to be aided in many people by self-disclosure in supportive social environments" (Tedeschi and Calhoun 2004 :11). Creating a better social environment (Post-Covid 19) is essential.
We must all play our part. We must become empathetic expert listeners. We must give the victims a voice. We must enable agency. We must grasp the opportunity by challenging our politicians to make significant changes to how our society operates.
We must create a trauma informed society. We must enable growth. We must not leave people feeling that they are on the edge of society. This disease must open our eyes once and for all that the way we live now is not working. Let’s change it.
Please do your own research on the effects of trauma and the possibilities for growth. Not everyone will experience this but as someone who did I feel it is my duty to share it with you all in the hope that I can plant these seeds in you and in society. Thanks for listening.