Forgiving our Trauma
I was hit by a car when I was 12. My friend Toby and I were riding our bikes in my home town and I crossed a light on a hard yellow signal and was hit by a sedan at a pretty good clip. The impact threw me up in the air and I landed hard on my back on the car’s hood. The funny thing is I was so scared not because I could feel my chipped teeth in my mouth or the fact that my right leg was already beginning to swell, but by the fact that I was on my sister’s “10-speed” bike. And I didn’t want to get “in trouble.” The rim was severely bent and the bike was not usable. I was so scared that, instead of going to the hospital, or even waiting to see how badly I was hurt, I grabbed the bike and we just left. Not the smartest thing and looking back, not what I would have done now. No, I wasn’t seriously hurt and thankfully no one else was, but I still wish I would have handled that situation differently.
We all have injuries and traumatic events that we wish we could take back. Things we did playing sports, showing off, not “paying attention,” the list goes on and on. Sometimes we aren’t the only ones hurt because of our actions. I often have patients that tell me they are embarrassed or ashamed about the things they have done in their past, and unfortunately, some of the pain from those old events linger years or decades later. I have seen tears from memories of trauma that people would like to forget. Sometimes forgetting is the easy part because it’s not discussed and the pain doesn’t interfere with activities of daily living. Other times, it is nearly impossible because the memory is reactivated every time the pain shoots through the body.
Forgetting the event is important for healing, but what I think is even more beneficial is forgiving ourselves. If we can’t forgive our actions, sometimes the trauma will just linger and eat away at us, and having the constant reminder of pain is just another way to not let us forgive and forget. Forgiving our actions is difficult, but it is an important part of the healing process. We have to overcome the guilt and shame that comes from these reminders. Time should heal most wounds, and what’s done is done! Fortunately, when the right kind of rehab is done, the physical pain can be significantly lessened and the reminders can begin to fade. The forgiving part has to take place inside of us, and we are always here to help! If you are suffering from trauma from your past, don’t you think it’s time to get on the right path toward forgiving yourself and forgetting your pain?
Dr. Jason W. Haas