How You Can Help Your Family Overcome Collective Trauma

Canada is pulling out all the stops to address the coronavirus pandemic, but there is still a growing number of people who are out of work or facing job insecurity. Some families also have to care for someone who caught the virus; others may have lost loved ones. The psychological and emotional impact of the pandemic has led to families experiencing collective trauma.

Our psychotherapist in the York region believes that communication is the best way for families to overcome the shared turmoil. Talk therapy is one of the most effective ways to move forward as a unit.

Recovery Starts with Acknowledgement and Acceptance

Healing becomes more difficult when you sweep negative experiences and emotions under the rug.

The major public health threat, job insecurity and general uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic may lead to collective trauma. Other traumatic experiences include acts of terrorism, domestic violence, motor vehicle accidents, natural and man-made disasters, and loss of family members.

One-off incidents, like motor vehicle accidents and natural disasters may result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This could lead to heightened fear and anxiety when feelings are not voiced out properly. Your family will have an easier time processing the traumatic memory and re-learning that you’re in a safe environment if you acknowledge the incident and the emotions that its memory triggers.

Younger family members are prone to a more complex form of PTSD called developmental trauma due to repeated incidents, like domestic violence and emotional abuse. This is also not unusual among families that have to look after a member with a life-threatening illness.

PTSD symptoms to observe include destructive behavior, intrusive memories, negative thoughts and emotions, nightmares, and poor concentration. These symptoms usually surface within three months of the incident and may last for at least one month.

Alternatively, members of your family may experience acute stress disorder (ASD) within one month of a traumatic incident. The most common symptoms of ASD include anxiety, dissociation, poor concentration, trouble sleeping, and withdrawal from people.

As uncomfortable as it seems, you have to acknowledge these symptoms when they manifest in your family. Acknowledgment is the first step towards acceptance, and this plays a vital role in how your family will overcome the collective trauma and emerge as a stronger unit.

Working Together Makes the Healing Process Easier

The road to recovery isn’t easy, but it becomes more manageable when you take that path together.

It’s normal to feel stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed when your family undergoes a traumatic experience. But you have to understand that through family counselling and constant communication, you can heal from the collective trauma.

Although all families experience and recover from trauma differently, here are general steps that may help you all to move forward as a unit:

  1. Learn to trust each other.

There are families who know about everything that’s going on in each other’s lives, and there are families that don’t interact with each other outside of the dining area. You all have to put in the effort to make conversations and confide in each other, especially because nobody understands your trauma better than one another.

  • Be patient with each other.

Even though your family was together throughout a traumatic experience, each one of you has unique reactions to the situation. Some may feel more comfortable opening up than others do. Just be patient until everyone’s ready to talk about it and to listen to each other. Forcing each other to talk may be counterproductive.

  • Be aware of your limitations.

Most people find it difficult to open up about a traumatic experience even though others already know about it. You need to have that self-awareness to pause and unplug when you feel like it’s too much. On the other side of things, you also have to respect the boundaries and limitations of your family members.

  • Take things one step at a time.

It’s not easy to dump your thoughts and emotions in one go. It’s also not easy to process another person’s trauma, no matter how close you are to them. Don’t expect everything to be OK after one counselling session as a family. Break things down into measurable and achievable means of recovering from collective trauma.

  • Focus on what you can control.

As much as you want your family to stop suffering from trauma, you can’t take away their pain in a snap. Together, you have to acknowledge and let go of the things you have no control over. Focus instead on thoughts, actions, and emotions you can manage. Otherwise, you may experience greater distress.

  • Establish and maintain a routine.

It isn’t healthy to sweep issues under the rug and pretend that everything is normal. But there should still be a semblance of normalcy at home. Stick to your daily household routine and encourage each other to maintain a daily schedule. This could help prevent your family from overthinking and isolating themselves.

Only you and your family understand the level of stress and burden of your situation. It’s more important than ever to maintain strong filial relationships and let each other know that you have a solid support system.

Long-term healing starts with reaching out to one other.

Healing Takes Time, Talking Gets You There

Levinta Psychotherapy and Counselling believes that psychotherapy is the key to emotional healing.

Talk therapy is all about maintaining healthy connections with the people who can help you heal the most, especially when you experienced the same devastating incident. Your family will find it easier to overcome trauma when you’re open and understanding about each other’s emotional struggles and mental health concerns.

Communication is particularly important for a family that’s trying to heal from a horrific event because children and parents don’t always see eye to eye. By talking about individual concerns and acknowledging the different challenges you face, you will find it easier to support each other’s recovery.

Our family counselling service starts with discussing your family’s problem and concerns. In learning the cause of the conflict, we’re able to map out a recovery plan that saves you time and money. Book an appointment today.

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