Sound asleep, I thought it was our kitten that pounced on me in my bed. But even in my sleepy state, I know whatever just jumped on me was too heavy to be one of the cats. I started feeling this "figure" in the dark...hair (ok, it's a child), long hair..."who are you?" I asked, very groggy and confused as my children are far too old to pounce on me in the middle of the night. "It's me, Heather." I hugged her. She's a "lover" and she requires a great deal of physical affection in the form of hugs.
"What's the matter?" I asked.
"I don't really know. I just had a dream that made me feel bad."
I hugged her tighter, stroked her hair and told her I loved her and that she was safe.
I have learned that I don't have the ability to hug out her sadness and fear. I don't ask the details of her sadness - if she volunteers them, I always listen but I know enough that sometimes her sadness is more than any human can express in words, let alone a child.
The aftermath of trauma is like that. When you've been through something traumatic, life-changing, there are often no words of comfort from others that will make it better. In my own recovery, I found that when people tried to make it better with their words it only frustrated me because I felt like it minimized my experience.
Over the last few years when I was struggling the most and feeling a sadness so strong, it felt physically heavy, it was the people that didn't try to fix it but instead let me know I was safe and I was loved, that helped me heal the most. The people who simply embraced me with their presence brought me comfort and peace and so much healing.
Life ins't fair. My daughter told me this last week on our drive home one evening. "Why do you say that?" I asked her. "Because. Other kids have a goldfish and I don't. It's not fair." I could have spewed a bunch of cliches about how "everything happens for a reason" and "if God brings you to it, He'll bring you through it." And while I believe those are the truth, they invalidate our truth sometimes. They minimize our pain. She is right. Life is not fair. Her goldfish chose not to do what was necessary to be in her life and that's got to be painful. Nothing I can say will make that better. And so, the best I can do is acknowledge her: "You're right, life isn't fair" and let her know that she is loved and she is safe and I will not waiver.
We think we need to use words to help people but really, it's our presence that helps people the most. Knowing that they are not alone. Knowing that they are safe and loved. This is stuff we need when we hurt the most.
The people who have done this for me over the last few years have not only helped me heal but helped teach me how to help others heal, most specifically my own children. We don't need to be "fixed" we need to be loved, we need to be safe and we need to be heard.
The best gift we can give in our relationships is to let others know:
You are safe and you are loved.