3 Ways Past Traumas Made Me Stronger For COVID-19

Photo: getty
3 Ways Past Traumas Made Me Stronger For COVID-19
Self

No one ever sees trauma coming. And no one ever anticipated COVID-19.

I never dreamed that the traumatic events in my life would eventually become the very strengths that I am using now to get through this.

Healing from trauma seems almost impossible. And COVID-19 is a traumatic event that's wreaking havoc and loss in many people’s lives.

RELATED: 6 Ways To Manage Depression & Feelings Of Hopelessness While Isolated In Quarantine

Many of us are living in fear. 

My heart aches for all of those who have been affected by this virus — those who have gotten sick, those who died alone, the healthcare workers who choose not to go home to protect their loved ones, and the graduating seniors whose ceremonies may never happen.

Across the world, people are living in fear of this little-known yet powerful virus — fear of the unknown, for their lives, the lives of those they love, their livelihoods, and what the future will look like.

Uncertain times make us feel powerless.

As creatures of habit and predictability, we're used to operating from within the realm of the known and vehemently resist change. When we lose predictability, we feel out of control.

Not knowing what’s coming next, we feel powerless and unprepared for what's coming next — we freeze in fear of the unknown.

And when gripped by fear of the unknown, we are most likely to forget or minimize what we do know about ourselves, our strengths, and our inherent capacities and capabilities.

We forget what we know about the innate and intrinsic strengths, deeply embedded within each one of us.

I know how powerless I felt the first time I faced trauma in my own life. Now, I can look back now and recognize all that I learned from it.

Trauma ultimately made me strong and empowered me to become who I am today.

You, too, will get through this crisis better if you draw on inherent strengths that already lie within you.

You may not yet have identified these strengths, but you can by succumbing to grief. When we allow ourselves to grieve fully, inner space is created to encounter aspects of ourselves we are unfamiliar with.

Surrendering to pain and fully grieving is key. 

It is not easy to surrender to the pain of loss in this way. Yet, it is the first step to health and honest healing.

By surrendering to pain and loss, we identify and label those additional capacities we still possess. In recognizing what you still have, you access and activate resources and treasures that go beyond your loss.

You are free to encounter myriad strengths within you that comprise your core self, where the divine lives through you.

And by accessing your core self, you find the courage to let go of things you once knew to move forward into strengths that you haven't identified yet.

You never saw this coming — and that's OK. 

Yes, you never saw COVID-19 coming and you could not have prepared for it. There is no shame.

I learned this through the traumatic event that I was completely unprepared for: the end of my marriage. I never saw it coming.

Oh, I protested mightily and did all that I could to save it, but I had no say. My marriage was over.

Facts and information did not matter. What mattered was that I make it through to the other side.

Don't stand in your own way. 

I was terrified and didn’t want to let go, but until I surrendered to my loss, it would define me. I wouldn't be able to move myself and my children forward. They still needed me, as I needed them.

As I surrendered to the facts, I learned and found so much more of what I never knew was there before. I would have stood in my own way if I had not let go.

It wasn’t fair, but loss never is.

Trauma is a raging storm that ultimately leads to greater horizons.

It taught me to live without a lot of things I thought I needed and nurtured my spirit to recognize who I really am.

I’m not talking about material things or clutter or the distractions that divert attention away from knowing myself. I’m talking about motion and commotion, activity versus stillness, distraction versus silence, and centeredness.

I’m talking about reactions versus resonance and outer-directedness versus inner-presence. I’m talking about silence that doesn’t reveal absence, but the presence of what’s inside of you that you can draw upon to find purpose and meaning for who you are.

You can get caught up in the distractions of what you lost.

When you become distracted, you may miss how you’re getting through it and where your new path might lead you.

Too often, you may end up in a battle with yourself looking for fairness or asking circular questions about "what if" and "why me?" You’re human and that’s what you do.

But after a period of time, you'll begin to comprehend that some situations are not fair, they don't make sense, and they're beyond your control.

RELATED: 8 Amazing Mental Health Benefits Of Gratitude To Remember During The Coronavirus Pandemic

How you invest your energy into moving on and healing will help move you forward.

Here are three things to focus on to let go and move on from trauma.

1. Mindfulness

Access your inner strengths and focus on what you do have to work with, rather than what you have lost by engaging in the practice of mindfulness.

Be mindful of everything you're feeling within. Go inside and sit with those feelings. Be still with them, and allow yourself to grieve, mourn, learn from, and resonate with everything your feelings are revealing about you.

2. Compassion

Feel self-compassion for what you are going through. Be compassionate towards those you love and are likewise struggling.

3. Letting go

Once you let go of the trappings of information and clutter you believed you needed to survive, you will hear and sense the truth of who you are and what you need.

Hearing who you are will help discern a beating heart within you, helping you move towards a more expansive life.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Join now for YourTango's trending articles, top expert advice and personal horoscopes delivered straight to your inbox each morning.

When you do, your ego-driven self will become quiet while your newly emerging contemplative self grows stronger, telling you what next steps to take.

Here are 3 ways past trauma can make you stronger in the face of COVID-19.

1. You have unique energy and strengths that guide you.

As much as you operated on "facts and information," you will hear, listen to, and follow core strengths that are uniquely your own.

Once you are attuned to your inner-self in this way, you will find the strength to face loss and trauma in a way that you never knew before.

Core strengths through trauma and loss are transferable skills that were gathered through unique situations and remain applicable across a diversity of positions.

So, tap into your prior experiences where you've gleaned and identified transferable skills that will help you get through COVID-19.

2. Recognize and embrace the ways your identity is strengthened and clarified through trauma.

Inner strength and determination are often byproducts of growing through trauma.

There is something about succumbing and surrendering to trauma that intuitively and realistically reveals a great deal about who you are.

As I began my life as a single parent with four young children, I learned a great deal over the years about my identity, where my commitments lie, what resonates for me, how much I care about my children, why I decided to become a psychotherapist, and so on.

I learned that I may not be able to control events that come my way, but I have all that I need to control my attitude and the choices I make.

How we approach challenges — whether we stay rigid or bendable — are choices that we make every day of our lives.

Facts and information about COVID-19 are unclear and unsettling. However, as you draw on what you know about yourself from this and other losses you have faced, you will be amply fortified to face the unknown of COVID-19, as well.

3. Re-learn yourself and life.

Re-learning life occurs after you've let go of what you've lost. You take the best of what you had in the past without denying what was good or acting as if it never existed.

How could you when who you are now incorporates the best of all that precedes this moment in time? You re-learn your self within a new and ever-unfolding, expansive present.

For me, this meant taking the best parts and memories of my marriage with me, including my children, and moving them into a new home.

For you, it might mean taking your memories, dreams, and pre-pandemic reality with you as you re-learn life and relationships now. You take the new inner self that you've worked so mindfully hard to discern and embolden it, so you face life without holding on to the past.

In having the courage to surrender to the past, you will find the present!

The present truly reveals and illuminates gifts of a lifetime that you may never have otherwise found had you held on too tightly to the past.

Upon reflecting on your trauma, you may feel guided and strengthened through the unpredictability of COVID-19 so you can find true healing.

RELATED: 6 Steps To Calm Stress When The Coronavirus Crisis Has You Feeling Frazzled

Dr. Geri Kerr practices psychotherapy in Morristown and Hacketstown, New Jersey. To learn more about her and her work, visit her website.