By Courtney A. Faunce, M.A.
We live in a world where we have access to information with a click of a button. Solutions to everyday problems are met with "There is an app for that." Our days are scheduled to the minute, our lives are planned step by step, and time is our greatest currency. With all of this access and freedom to choose, is there possibly an illusion that we are safe from tragedy? In hindsight, is there always something we could have done differently?
There are moments in our lives we simply cannot explain and more so difficult to fully understand. When we experience loss and the overwhelming burden of tragedy, the physical damage can sometimes be a fraction of the pain we feel. After trauma, there is no one size fits all remedy to this pain and no google search that will provide relief. As a mental health counselor, I can tell you sometimes the answers you are looking for are not exactly clear, apparent, or easily prescribed.
So what defines trauma? When we have been affected, hurt, damaged, heinously beaten down, dreams shattered… What happens when we become the victim?
A traumatic event is an occurrence that is deeply distressing and according to the American Psychiatric Association, an event(s) that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others, and which involved fear, helplessness, or horror.
It is important to understand that we individually experience a traumatic event, meaning my experience will be different from the next person. So if there were 5 people who were there at the same exact time, the same event will have created 5 different experiences. Some may walk away unscathed while others will need time for recovery. This is also one of the reasons why being a victim can be extremely isolating and lonely. It can be difficult to receive help when we know no one else experienced what you have experienced.
Sometimes we may even refuse to be labeled as a victim as this word conveys a sense of loss or weakness. We may deny our trauma altogether in fear that to admit being a victim would mean that is who we really are; helpless.
It is my belief that, we as humans cannot avoid tragedy. We cannot control every aspect of our lives no matter how advanced we as a society become. The essence of our being is our ability to adapt to negative change and to find peace after tragedy.
Clinically, the term is Trauma Resiliency. The healing process requires us to choose what we do with our pain and what we make of our lives. This choice is made every day and sometimes one minute to the next. Like a muscle in our bodies, we exercise this choice to regain strength. When we are resilient after trauma, we own our stories and we choose hope over fear.
I am writing to tell you, there is life after loss. There is peace and meaning in this world, you will find purpose, and you will be the author of your narrative. Being a victim is a momentary label used to solidify, "Yes, I have experienced unavoidable tragedy." The moments in your life after "I was a victim" will be your decision.