Co-written by Drs. Yvonne & Scott Rheinschmidt Ph D LPC
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God; have faith also in me.”
For the past two weeks, we have written about grief. Today, we can say that as a church body we find ourselves experiencing grief in one way or another. Some have shared with me that they are experiencing strong emotions and are troubled at heart. Others have expressed sadness, but are adjusting to change. Last Sunday, the fifth Sunday of Easter, remarkably the gospel communicated Jesus’ commandment for us to trust him, to have faith in him. Nevertheless, hearing about trauma can disturb one’s mind and heart. Hearing of change can affect individuals as they adjust to new norm.
A few parents asked me how to speak about a trauma to their children and how can they tell if a child has experienced a traumatic event. Dr. Jerry Bubrick, Child Mind Institute psychologist, states that how a child experiences a traumatic event and how it is handled by those around him have a direct effect on how traumatizing it can be. When parents are aware that their child has experienced something traumatic, they are encouraged to talk with their children in a calm, supportive, and non-judgmental way focusing on the child’s feelings/emotions about the traumatic experience. If parents are unaware their child has experienced some form of trauma, they can recognize that something has happened by a sudden change in behavior that does not go away. According to The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (2009), children who have been abused may display a range of emotional and behavioral reactions. These reactions include: an increase in nightmares and/or other sleeping difficulties, withdrawn behaviors, angry outbursts, problems focusing on projects, school work, anxiety, depression, not wanting to be left alone with a particular individual(s) and sexual knowledge, language, and/or behaviors that are inappropriate for the child’s age. It is important for parents to recognize the signs of unhealthy coping that would indicate a need to seek professional help.
Similarly for adults, in hearing about a traumatic event, they too may experience strong emotions and may struggle with how to handle the news. These unwanted and unforeseen emotions can take an adult by surprise. This reaction is normal yet can lead to lasting emotional problems if not dealt with in a healthy manner. The same signs of unhealthy coping can show up, like those of children, and may need professional support.
Our reactions to traumatic events, the ‘how’ we handle the event, can lead to personal growth aka., Post Traumatic Growth, or can lead to debilitating negative thinking and even post-traumatic stress. Healthy coping strategies will help alleviate traumatic symptoms and allow both children and adults to return to a balanced emotional state.
During his Regina Caeli address on May 10, 2020, Pope Francis invited the faithful never to fall into despair, but to trust in Jesus in the knowledge that he is always at our side and that there is a place awaiting us in Heaven. Pope Francis explained that “God indicates two ‘remedies’ for a troubled heart. The first is faith: ‘Believe in me’. He knows that, in life, the worst anxiety, anguish, is born of the sensation of not being able to cope, of feeling alone and without points of reference when faced with events, when one difficulty is added to another. The second ‘remedy’ for a troubled heart is expressed in Jesus’ words: ‘My Father’s house has many rooms… I am going there to prepare a place for you’. He reserved a place in Heaven for us. He took our humanity upon Himself (…) to Heaven where there is a place reserved for everyone. We do not live aimlessly and without a destination. We are awaited, we are precious. We are made for Heaven, for eternal life, to live forever. This forever will be entirely in joy, in full communion with God and with others, without any more tears, resentments, divisions and troubles.”
Jesus, according to Pope Francis, is the way for healing. “It is not the way of my self-centeredness, it is the way of Jesus, Who is the center of my life. It is to go ahead every day saying: Jesus, what do You think of this choice I made? What would You do in this situation, with these people?” (Pope Francis, 2020). When we do not see or understand our reactions and choices, know that help of a professional counselor is always available.