Trauma and Spiritual Beliefs

by Laura Russell Ph.D.

Painful Life Events

Painful and traumatic life events can be compared to a fierce electrical storm with lots of lightening and thunder. Storms are universal, and can be very destructive. They are strong forces of nature. Out of our control. Not our fault. Lightning, tornados, hurricanes do real damage to peopleís lives. And they do not occur for any reason related to people. No matter how hard weather scientists have tried, storms remain essentially unpredictable.

  So it is with all other painful life events:

     Airplane Crash 
Death of a loved one 
Gang violence 
School failure 
Handicapped Child 
Witnessing a crime 
Business failure 
Political Torture 
Child Abuse 
Marital problems 
Personal injury 
Natural Disaster 
Financial reverses 
Loss of job 
Death of a friend 

Spiritual Questions

The sudden and overwhelming nature of a violent trauma creates many spiritual questions for the survivor.

Helpful Suggestions

Here are some ideas to help you console a survivor of a traumatic event:  

  • Give them hope that they can still have a full and satisfying life. 

  • Show them they are not to blame. 

  • Respect their unique healing process. 

  • Use patience in answering spiritual questions. 

  • Understand that traumatic reactions are real. 

  • Learn about the three sets of symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

  • Realize that healing takes time. 

  • Reassure them it is not their fault. 

  • Avoid judging them for their feelings or symptoms. 

  • Prepare yourself to hear disconcerting events and feelings. 

  • Try to avoid distancing yourself from the survivor. 

  • Do share your struggles with painful life events if that is comfortable for you. 

  • Be open to discussing the survivorís questions about God and life. Do not perpetuate any blaming the victim. 

  • Comfort people with this idea: painful life events are just that-life events. 

  • Encourage people to grow and master their traumas. 

  • Refer out when the situation is beyond your knowledge base. 

  • Show people they can learn about their situation and become empowered. 

  • Believe in peopleís capacity to grow and heal. Help people come to terms with their lack of control over life events. 

  • Show people they do have choices over what they do about their painful life events. 

  • Let people know they can face their painful life events, and grow. 

  • Encourage people to give their awful events some positive meaning. 

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