The following is the opinion and analysis of the writers:
Trauma – it’s a terrifying word and one often associated with life- changing events. At its core, trauma causes an individual or community to experience fear, extreme stress, lack of control, overall sense of unknowingness and loss of the things that once protected us. The pandemic we are currently experiencing has all of those components.
All of our lives have been impacted by the current events, some more than others, in more than one way.
Day-to-day predictability and consistency have gone away; once stable factors of employment, relationships and resources have shifted; and the information we receive about this pandemic changes on a daily basis.
We — our world, nation, state, community and families — are living through a traumatic experience.
So what can we do? How can we help?
There is plenty of information regarding how a traumatic experience can have an impact. However, recovery from a traumatic experience is also possible. The following trauma- informed concepts not only can help you cope with our current experiences, but can be used to help others in your life as well.
One of the basic concepts, but arguably most important, is the change in perspective from “what is wrong with you?” to “what has happened to you?”
During a traumatic experience, we often place blame on a person (“what is wrong with you?”) rather than considering what is happening to them and the response they are having (“what has happened to you?”).
This causes us to lack empathy toward others and place responsibility on someone who does not have control of the situation. During this pandemic, many of us are expecting ourselves and others to “deal with it”, be productive, “figure it out” — when that does not allow us to take stock of “what has happened to us”?
It is important to take the time to consider what is happening to you and others during this time and the impact it is having on you.
The second consideration is the important role positive relationships play in recovery from a traumatic experience.
Relationships are an essential protective factor in helping prevent and reduce the impact of trauma on individuals and communities. The more positive relationships and connections we have in our lives, the more buffers we have to help us reduce the impact of trauma.
So use them. Use your connections. Reach out to friends, family and coworkers. Check in on your friends, family and coworkers. Help others stay connected.
Even though our physical connections with people may be limited at this time, we can still utilize the emotional connections we have and either offer support or ask for it.
Lastly, there are recognized essential trauma informed principles that can be summarized into five concepts: safety, choice, collaboration, trustworthiness and empowerment.
Many of these have been threatened or impacted in some way due to COVID-19. However, they are not gone.
What can you do or others do to help you feel safe? To help your children feel safe? What choices can you give others or choose for yourself right now? How can we work together to manage this?
What or who do I trust right now and how can I be a trusting person to others in need?
And, lastly, what can I do to empower myself and others during this time?
What power do I have and how can I use it? It is important that during this time we recognize, engage in and support others in utilizing these concepts, as well as ourselves.
COVID-19 is a traumatic experience. But it does not have to traumatize us or the ones we care for. By applying these concepts to both ourselves and others, we can mitigate the potential impact of this current experience and support one another along the way.
To learn more information about trauma informed concepts and how they can be applied, please visit www.casadelosninos.org.
Cassandra Loller, LMSW, and Lourdes Lopez-Escobar, MS, LAC, are child and family therapists with Casa de los Niños.
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