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How do we grieve when we have no idea what we are grieving for?

Trauma is an intense feeling of lack of safety that individuals feel every day. It’s the response to this “lack of safety” is what we call a traumatic response. Eating excessively, drinking alcohol, smoking, getting addicted to drugs, etc. are some of the symptoms of traumatic responses. Exercising, adventure-seeking, heavily focusing on work, etc. can also be symptoms.

Trauma is majorly attributed to extremely debilitating life circumstances that individuals can neither fight nor run away from. Wars, natural disasters, childhood abuse, accidents, etc. have been found to cause trauma in individuals that they have to fight their entire lives.

While PTSD is a marker of trauma, not everyone who has trauma is diagnosed with PTSD. Many people don’t even remember the original incident that triggered trauma inside them. In fact, a lot of us who are traumatized act like everyone else, believing that this is how it feels to be a human being. All the while, we are fighting these extremely traumatized parts in ourselves, parts that create huge disharmony inside us.

For those who are wondering what a “traumatized self” feels like — having trauma is like having multiple personalities inside you, with each having its own voice and opinions on what should be done in a situation. Half of the time, your energy is expended in fighting these disparate voices to achieve harmony. When you achieve such harmony, is when you can truly experience yourself and your intelligence as a single entity. While such moments of oneness are taken for granted in individuals without trauma, for those who are traumatized — we wait for such rare moments, every day, not knowing how to reach there with more consistency.

How can people heal from trauma?

“Trauma, in some ways, is resistance to grief. Genuine grieving is the opposite of trauma.” — Dr. Gabor Mate

Renowned Trauma researcher and author Dr. Gabor Mate identifies grieving as an important part of healing. But when you don’t know what’s causing you grief, how do you grieve? How do you get over something without knowing what it is that you are getting over?

This is where stories play a huge part in healing. For example, a middle-aged man who was bullied by his father as a teen might be able to explore traumatic parts of himself when he watches a movie about a 9-year-old girl who goes through sexual harassment at school. On paper, these two incidents and people are totally different. But underlying are elements of oppression and freedom that both can relate with. This is why stories play such a great role in helping us emotionally explore — even though the people and incidents are not the same as who we are. Have you ever found yourself moved to tears by another human’s story even though there is not a lot in common with you? And when you do grieve for that human being, in a way you grieve for yourself. You grieve for a part of you that you feel has gone through injustice, similar to the story you are hearing.

When we grieve, we don’t have to necessarily know what we are grieving for us to heal. As long as the process of grieving is emotional and connects with us, just allowing our conscious and subconscious selves to acknowledge such a moment is key to healing.


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