“The mourning process is a perfect example of flawless dyadic regulation of categorical emotions: The individual’s immersion in the full experience of grief (core affect) is contingent upon the availability of a support system.” – Diana Fosha, Healing Trauma: Attachment, Mind, Body, and Brain

Many of us strive to be well, perfect, or successful. But few voices in our culture teach us what it’s like to be sick, or how to cope with a loss, how to navigate chaos, or how to die.

Here are some important ideas to remember:

Trauma is unavoidable. Trauma and hard times are part of being human.

Traumas shut down ways of being. Create space to heal from losses, big and small. Grief works—it is our natural way of healing. Embrace the ongoing process of grieving.

Every trauma is different. The trauma of growing up in a disadvantaged community is different than physical violence, which is different than public shaming, a painful illness, or a childhood spent with emotionally unavailable caregivers. Everyone’s story is different.

You are not broken, deprived, or less-than for having experienced trauma. You are right where you need to be. Resolution of your circumstances may or may not be possible, but your mindset can always evolve.

There is no such thing as normal or perfect health. Physical bodies are dynamic systems, always breaking down, getting sick, and dying. Likewise, there is no version of “mental health” that is optimal for all circumstances.

Emotions can’t kill you. All your thoughts and emotions are valid, but that doesn’t mean they are “you.” Giving into despair and shame is often a choice to side with those who hurt you. Side with yourself first. There is always a part of you that can observe your suffering—that “observer” is not suffering.

Get help. Also: avoid or lovingly detach from people, things, and patterns that don’t seem to help.

You are not alone. You are normal. You are loving. You are loved.

Understanding trauma

In an Unspoken Voice, Peter Levine
The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel van der Kolk
Coping with Chronic Illness, Dr. JoAnn LeMaistre
Mindfulness in the Treatment of Suicidal Individuals, Luoma and Villatte
Trauma and Its Aftermath, Peter Goetz
The Assessment and Treatment of Complex PTSD, Bessel A. van der Kolk
Healing Trauma, Daniel J. Siegel and Marion Solomon, et al
The Shutdown Syndrome, Gregg Henriques
The Science Behind Stress, Apollo Neuro
SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach

Practical wisdom

When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron
How to Be Sick, Toni Bernhard
The Posttraumatic Growth Workbook, Richard G. Tedeschi and Bret A. Moore
Bouncing Back, Linda Graham
Trauma and Abuse, Helpguide.org
Emotional and Psychological Trauma, Helpguide.org
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Helpguide.org
Treating Trauma Master Series, NICABM plenary (2017)
The Non Linear Life, Bruce Feiler
“What neuroscience and neurofeedback can teach psychotherapists in the field of complex trauma: Interoception, neuroception and the embodiment of unspeakable events in treatment of complex PTSD, dissociative disorders and childhood traumatization,” Anna Gerge

How we heal

The Wild Edge of Sorrow, Francis Weller
The Trauma of Everyday Life, Mark Epstein
Working with Narrative in Emotion-Focused Therapy, Angus and Greenberg
Uncovering Happiness, Elisha Goldstein
Life in Three Acts, Mari Andrew
The People Who Can’t Stop Grieving, Andrea Volpe
Transitions, William Bridges

Personal stories

Rebirth, Jim Whitaker
Arash Recovery, Arash Bayatmakou
Little Big Steps: What if you were told you might not walk again?, Arash Bayatmakou
Through the Flames, Allan Lokos
The Red Parts, Maggie Nelson
A Grief Observed, C. S. Lewis
Stephen Colbert and Anderson Cooper discuss grief

Artistic works
One More Time With Feeling, Nick Cave
Elegies, William Finn
“Just Saying Our Goodbyes”: Elegies‘ Queer Interventions into the History of 9/11, Michelle Dvoskin
Birds in Fall, Brad Kessler
Die Tote Stadt (Simon Stone production)

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