Why Witnessing Abuse & Trauma Is Still Trauma — Plus, How To Heal

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sad woman lying down

Did you grow up in a so-called dysfunctional family? How often did you witness siblings, a parent, relative abuse someone else either physically or emotionally?

Witnessing trauma is also trauma.

How long have those of us who have witnessed trauma held it in, not only for the person (in your mind's eye) who is full of compassion and worry about how it has played out in their lives but also for yourself?

How has it affected your cellular matrix, your psyche, and the way you view and respond to the world?

In most cases, the witness is not attended to, not by their own awareness of how much it has had an impact on their body, mind, and soul but also by those who were at the direct end of the abuse.

Then, there's the responsible party who directed the impact or abuse who may now be in contrition and seeking reparation.

RELATED: How The Impact Of Trauma On Your Brain Helps You Heal

How can you find healing after witnessing something traumatic?

Each party — witness, victim, and the abuser or perpetrator has experienced trauma. Often, the focus for healing neglects you, the witness.

Bessel van der Kolk, MD, discusses this in his book, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.

"After trauma, the world is experienced with a different nervous system. The survivor’s energy now becomes focused on suppressing inner chaos, at the expense of spontaneous involvement in their life."

If this gives you pause and resonates with how you've held that experience in your body, emotional foundation, and mental habits, there are a few things you can do right now that may help along with seeking professional help if warranted.

Here are 5 ways you can heal and move on from the trauma of being a witness to a traumatic experience.

1. Release with statements.

Consider saying a few statements forcefully out loud to help release the trauma.

"Everyone is on their own journey in this life."

"What happened to (…) is not my fault. I was young and did not have the coping skills to manage the effect of what I witnessed."

"I forgive myself for not being able to act."

"I am so sorry. I'll send love to them right now and will hold them in my thoughts and prayers, but not my body and cellular energy."

"I release this memory now and forever."

It helps to ask for assistance from your guardian angel, spirit guides, or any deities or religious saints you trust.

2. Create your own ritual.

Use a vision of water or while you are in the shower, imagine the stream of water washing away the pain, the hurt, the need to hold on to it.

I like the vision of standing under a waterfall or sitting in a beautiful pond, with a glorious angel pouring water, light, and sparkles over my head gently, lovingly.

RELATED: How Adding Structure To Your Life Can Help Heal Trauma & Make You Feel Safe

3. Try flower essences.

Some folks use Rescue Remedy by Bach Flower Essences, found easily in most drugstores. They come in spray, pastille, and tincture.

The value of tuning into flower essences can’t be overstated. From connecting to a flower ally in your garden and capturing its beloved essence through sunlight and water — becoming a medicine to settle the emotional state.

It's blessed by nature and infused with the energy of that one beautiful flower.

I like to make one during transitions from one season to the next when we are in that liminal space.

4. Create a self-care protocol for release.

This can include expressive writing to allow yourself to write whatever comes to mind every day for a week or more — burn or bury it — feel the release.

I remember sitting in my college cafeteria writing a letter to my mother expressing all of my pent-up feelings and then throwing it in the trash can on my way to class — it was a grand release.

5. Love your body up every day.

Take a sticky note and write an affirmation on it such as "You are beautiful" or "I love you" and put it on your mirror. A dry-erase marker works well, too.

It's said that when you heal yourself, you heal the world.

Right here and right now, start with your own history and how you can begin to heal your own trauma.

In love and compassion, gratitude and grace, let go of what does not serve your highest good every day.

Think of it as a detox for spring, a time to embrace new growth and the planting of seeds to heal.

RELATED: What Is Past Life Traumatic Stress Disorder + Signs You Have Unhealed Emotional Wounds

Marie Frohlich is a Health Coach and Herbalist. For more information on her services, visit her website or Taproot Herbals.