"Without tools, trauma rules." -Peter Levine

Did you know that grief is a normal response to not only loss, but trauma as well? Although people experience different levels of trauma, trauma is a fact of life. We need tools and “supportive others” to help us to shift and heal.

Dr. Levine talks about contracting and expanding as part of the process of healing trauma. He explains his “self-hug” as an experiential tool of this; as one crosses their arms and gently squeezes on the upper arms to hug themselves, it does two contracting things: it causes the muscles to contract and it’s also a contraction in the sense of how we can hold (feel and “be with”) emotions that are difficult for us. Then after squeezing the arms in contraction, one releases the squeeze which is an act of expansion. The self-hug process continues in this squeeze/release (contraction/expansion) process to assist our healing.

This reminds me of a woman in a grief group who told me after a couple times that she didn’t think she was going to come back because she “felt worse” after participating. She thought something was going wrong—but she was contracting as she experienced some of her feelings. I looked at her with excitement and said, “Congratulations! You’re experiencing this because you ARE feeling your feelings which we need to do to heal!” She made the decision to return every week and not stop her process. Learning to be with her feelings was difficult. However, she also started to experience healthy release, and this created space (an expansion) inside herself to hold more—which led to even greater healing. As the group came to a close, she expressed her gratitude and how she was consistently integrating some of the tools learned. It facilitated healing “in the now” and would assist her in continuing her healing process long term.

Please let’s not allow “trauma to rule” in our lives. There are so many tools today to choose from—along with an assortment of healing modalities for trauma. Each of us need to find our “supportive others” and tools that work for us. Healing from trauma is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves; and, very naturally, our personal healing will expand to create a wonderful ripple effect in the world. Win—win!!

Cheri Thomas

Cheri works as a Peer Support Specialist for RI in Arizona. She has experienced loss and grief which has led her to write for the masses to bring voice to those in similar situations. Cheri possesses a deep passion to share with, encourage, and inspire others on what she calls the Journey of the Heart.