For some, trauma isn’t the result of a single event, but instead a pattern of life without a single day to reflect or grieve. For us, a window of just minutes encapsulates the traumatic and horrific shooting at our church. December 9th is certainly not the only day we deal with the events of that day—our lives were forever changed in those moments. But unlike other aspects of trauma recovery which force their way into life through loud noises, flashbacks, overwhelming grief, or confrontation of loss, anniversaries provide an opportunity to be proactive—to remember on purpose.
That purpose is to advance healing. Public ceremonies are important for victims and their families, as it acknowledges the pain, which is significant in the healing process. Beyond public ceremonies, I believe it is imperative for anyone affected by the trauma of violence to be intentional about the anniversary of the event. This last week, for some reason it was the memory of the police taking photos of my injuries at the hospital that stirred in my mind. Sometimes I think remembering these particularly painful aspects helps me to recognize the tremendous healing that has taken place and God’s faithfulness throughout.
No one invites trauma or the lingering, victimizing effects of it, but avoiding painful memories or trying to forget in the name of “moving-on” can delay healing. Move forward by deciding to remember, grieve, celebrate life, reflect in the way that you choose. Allow emotional margin in life around the anniversary, visit important sites, schedule a massage, lunch with a friend, or arrange a counseling appointment well in advance, just in case you need it. Let it remind you to tell people you love them and live life as a gift. Overcoming trauma doesn’t just happen; it is a willful and courageous feat.
Tonight we look forward to reflecting and celebrating life together around a family dinner, followed by decorating our Christmas tree. This day is always marked with grief and gratefulness; opposing, yet tandem emotions.
1 Peter 5:6-7, 10
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. …10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.