Can you look back on your grief journey and find a moment where you just felt completely frozen?
Maybe you just wanted to just run away from it all?
How about a fit of rage or a time when you could not stand up for yourself?
These are all examples of our brain trying to process our trauma.
Trauma and grief often go hand in hand. Oftentimes, our culture does not recognize the loss of a loved one as a traumatic experience but, as you well know, the death of a loved one is one of the most difficult things that we walk through in life.
Trauma is defined as your emotional reaction to a terrible event in your life. Prior to the terrible thing happening, your brain was working just fine. You were able to process things that are going on in your life with relative ease, your nervous system was fairly regulated. Insert a difficult experience into your life and your brain sends your body into protective mode. We typically have one primary trauma response; fight, flight freeze or fawn. I mentioned them in the beginning of the post. When something bad happens we default to one of those and stay there until our nervous system gets regulated again and we feel safe again.
We have spelled out each trauma response for you and given you a tip to help regulate yourself. As you read through them, try to see if you can identify your primary response.
When your body or mind detects danger or change it activates the amygdala part of your brain which begins a cycle in your body, sending you into fight, flight, freeze or fawn mode. We go from the hippocampus running the show to the amygdala calling the shots. We are not able to respond normally any longer, we are operating from the “lizard or primitive” part of our brain and our sole focus is survival.
When we operate from our trauma response our bodies signal to shut down and conserve energy. Your body will slow down things like digestion and blood flow to the extremities. When this becomes our normal way of functioning it can have long term impacts on our health. We are all going to experience trauma but the best thing we can do to help ourselves is become aware and educated on how we respond so the trauma does not have a hold over us any longer.
We also can experience triggers and flashbacks when we are grieving. A trigger is any sensory reminder of the traumatic event: a noise, smell, temperature, other physical sensation, or visual scene. A flashback is re-experiencing a previous traumatic experience as if it were actually happening in that moment. It includes reactions that often resemble the your reactions during the trauma. Flashback experiences are very brief and typically last only a few seconds, but the emotional aftereffects linger for hours or longer.
If you feel triggered or are in the emotional after effects of a flashback. We have a grounding exercise that will help you re-orient to your present moment.
Affirmations are also a very helpful way to re-wire your brain after trauma, there is no pressure to change your mindset until you feel ready but we want you to be aware for when you are ready
Affirmations are simply “I am” statements that can help you shift from a negative to a positive mindset.
Affirmations help our brain create new pathways and in turn help us heal.
Simply put ” I am” before something you want for yourself.
I am at peace.
I am able identify my trauma triggers and heal from them.
I am able to grieve my losses in a healthy way.
I am able to accept I am human and struggle with difficult emotions.
As always, give yourself a ton of grace while you are grieving. We are here to support you in any way that we can.
-The Retreat Bereavement Team