I’ve been thinking about memories and trauma – my own, and those of our children from “hard places.” Experiencing a very traumatic event has given me insight into my children’s brains that I never expected to have.
Will there ever be a day when I don’t think about our accident and losing Kalkidan? It hasn’t happened yet in the 22 months that have gone by.
Nearly every time I get quiet and still, memories begin to surface.
Last night I woke at 2:30; one of the kids had left the light on in the hallway outside our door and the light seeping in illuminated our room.
I must have stirred just enough to wake Russ who got up and turned off the light – which turned out to be three lights upstairs and several downstairs as well.
Once back in bed, I reached for his hand and his fingers closed around mine – safety wrapping around me.
Moments from the accident began to surface, as they so often do. Memories of Kalkidan, both happy and sad, flowed through my mind, and I thought of her birthday coming at the end of the week.
Think about this.
If every time I get quiet, memories of the most tragic moment of my life begin to surface, what might that mean for some of our kids who have experienced trauma?
If I just keep moving, then I won’t remember.
If I just keep talking, then I won’t feel.
If I don’t relax for even a moment, I can keep the memories from coming and I’ll be okay.
If I just keep myself from going to sleep….
Interesting, isn’t it?
Our children come to us with memories, some they can share with us, and others buried so deep they can’t. Some are implicit memories, memories that can’t be consciously recalled. Before children are verbal and when they are very young, memories are encoded implicitly.
I was talking with one of my children recently, and my child shared that the death of his/her mother had recently become very painful and is feeling like a significant loss. My child didn’t understand this since he/she couldn’t remember losing his/her mother. (I apologize for the awkward language – it’s essential that I protect my child’s privacy.)
I said, “Oh, sweets, you do remember losing your mom. You may not be able to remember it right here (and I tapped my forehead) but you remember it here (I touched my heart) and in your body. The memory is stored in your brain, it’s just not one that you can easily recall. When your mom died, it was very sad and frightening.”
Memories are a gift when they bring forth moments that remind us of warmth and happiness, but when they remind us of our loneliest, or most frightening experience, or when they are confusing and we can’t make sense of what happened, they may hinder us and impact our lives in negative ways.
We can work through our memories with someone we love and trust or with a professional who can help us process them in a therapeutic environment. My faith in Jesus is also part of the healing process for me.
My brain is trying to make sense of a traumatic experience. My children are trying to make sense of their traumas. Kalkidan worked very hard to process her past trauma and heal enough to be loved and part of our family.
Thank God – truly, we thank God, that with many people helping along the way, that healing happened, and was continuing to happen.
She was loved by God, by us, by friends – she had joy.
We are forever thankful.
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