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Photo by David Wirzba on Unsplash

In the course of 2020, we’ve all experienced a massive collective trauma, haven’t we? I heard a talk recently that covered this, and the speaker brought up an excellent point. He talked about how trauma is processed: if trauma of any kind is not processed in and through a community, through relational support, it can end up becoming toxic. Trauma, he points out, is ‘pain that has no relational home.’

We’ve all been through a collective trauma this year, with both the pandemic and the political unrest in our country. Not to mention all the normal life traumas that don’t stop just because we’re all dealing with COVID! Death, illness, relational issues — those keep happening, even now. It doesn’t seem fair, does it? But those of us who have the ability to talk about it, who come together in community — whether in your relationship, a support group, zoom calls, therapy, or other supportive relationship — when you’re able to process trauma in some safe space, that can lead to powerful growth: “Post-traumatic growth,” as John Mark puts it.

The question we face now is, are we going to allow this very difficult year to make us bitter, divided, isolated? Or are we going to find a way to grow through it — through processing it in community?

In this talk, John Mark points out that if we can process this trauma in a supportive space, we then allow ourselves to go into the mode of growth, rather than stagnation. When we’re in a space of growth, we see five particular things happen:

We have a deeper appreciation of life.
We experience more relational growth.
We gain and see new possibilities in our life.
We experience spiritual growth.
We experience emotional and personal growth. 

Growth, then, is the solution for how we can thrive, not just survive, this year. And in trauma, growth comes from processing in our relationships.

When you look back on this year, the year 2020, and think to yourself: “2020? That was the year that I became _______!” Will that ‘blank’ say stronger, healthier, more steadfast and resilient? Or will it say more anxious, more angry, more torn asunder?

Trauma is when severe emotional pain exists without a relational home. 

Being held by one another, opening up to each other and receiving support, is the single most important factor in the ability to process pain. Making meaning out of suffering shifts our soul from being debilitated by the trauma, to growing and gaining something more beautiful and powerful from it.

Lean into your relationships. Process this trauma together, and see 2020 through a new lens.