Many who suffered childhood trauma grow up feeling that there childhood has been ‘stolen’ from them.
They may have grown up feeling worthless and uniquely unloveable, lacking, too, in feelings of safety and security. They may also grow up with a lack of confidence and find it extremely difficult to trust anyone or to believe that they will not be betrayed again. They may have experienced no joy or carefreeness in childhood such as other children take for granted.
As an adult, realizing what one has lost will often give rise to powerful feelings of sadness and grief. This is quite normal. Indeed, grief is an intrinsic component of the recovery process.
We may find ourselves grieving for the kind of parents we would have wished for, but, in reality, never had.
If the relationship with our parents or those who who were supposed to be caring for us and looking after us in childhood was deeply fractured, we might, nevertheless, hold out hope that these deeply problematic relationships will improve now that we’re adults; but we may, in due course, discover this is most unlikely to happen. In such cases, we may find ourselves grieving all over again – this time for the loss of our hope. Ideally, we will eventually come to accept this depressing state of affairs and realize, also, that we may never fully understand why we were treated as we were.
Some people are already familiar with the stages of grief, but, for those who are not, I will very briefly summarize them below:
1) a sense of feeling numb (as we saw in a previous post, this is also sometimes referred to as a DISSOCIATIVE state).
2a) a strong, sometimes overwhelming, yearning for what has been lost, which can develop into:
2b) a preoccupation or obsession with what has been lost
3) anger can follow which itself may lead to:
4) feelings of guilt, particularly if we have expressed our anger in a way which is unhelpful to us (lowering ourselves yet further in our own view) or to others.
Eventually, one emerges from the grieving process the other side and the feelings of emotional pain and suffering are ameliorated. However, a less intense general sense of loss may remain, but often we can cope with this and move forward in our lives.
PUTTING THINGS IN PLACE OF LOSSES
Many things may have been lost in our traumatic childhoods. For example:
-fun and enjoyment
-peace of mind
-positive relationships and friendships
However, as adults, we are in the position to COMPENSATE ourselves for such losses. Examples may include:
– bulding a social life and support network (perhaps joining appropriate support groups)
– putting aside time to do things that we enjoy
– putting aside time for tranquillity and relaxation
Also, if we lacked good parenting as children, we may have felt worthless, frightened, insecure and unloveable. But, to remedy this, at least in part, we can start to ‘parent ourselves’ in the manner that we wish we had actually been parented. This is sometimes also referred to as ‘SELF-NURTURING’. This can include showing ourselves the same level of compassion we might show to a friend: forgiving ourselves, perhaps, for our own failures of behaviour in adult life that were largely brought on by our difficult childhood experiences, stopping blaming and punishing ourselves, building our own sense of self-worth (independent of, and, unreliant upon, the approval of others) or simply giving ourselves permission to be happy and to enjoy life (which protracted and intense guilt makes impossible).
The ultimate goal is to resolve the problems caused by our traumatic childhoods and no longer to let the pain associated with the past remain the predominant feature of who we are or the defining feature of the lives that, despite everything, we still have in front of us.
David Hosier BSc; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).