Healing from childhood trauma can be the most painful, yet liberating experience of your life. When we go through something traumatic, it is human nature to try suppressing our emotions as a way to not deal with the pain. However, trauma does not just disappear. It gets stored in our bodies.
When I first started my healing journey, I did not know where to even begin. My childhood trauma was like a puzzle that I wanted to solve. There were missing pieces, and those missing pieces were me. I was pouring from an empty cup- putting the needs of everyone before my own.
I am sharing with you things I wish I knew when I first started my healing journey in this post. You will learn about 10 things I learned along the way and my hope is you can reflect on these 10 tips as you are starting your healing journey.
This post is all about healing from childhood trauma.
Healing From Childhood Trauma: 10 Things I Wish I Knew When Starting My Healing Journey
1. Feeling guilty is normal when healing from childhood trauma
Think of the time when you first started thinking about pursuing your healing journey. What were some of the thoughts that came up? Personally, I could hear my inner critic saying, ‘you are fine,’ ‘your parents need you,’ ‘what will people think,’ ‘you are bringing shame to your family’, etc. As a South Asian woman, this is something I struggled with the most. We are raised in a collectivistic culture where putting the needs of others before our own was celebrated. Then, you can imagine the guilt I felt wanting to dissect my childhood trauma and talk about something extremely uncomfortable.
I wish I knew that feeling this guilt was completely normal, and the voices get quieter with time. Figuring out the source of where the guilt was stemming from is extremely crucial. When you hear your inner critic, who does the voice belong to? For me, it was my family.
2. Your siblings journey will look different than your own.
Many of you wanted to know why you and your siblings cope with your trauma differently, despite going through similar situations. Some expressed anger that their sibling was doing okay, and they weren’t despite going through the same trauma. Some expressed fear for their siblings’ safety and mental health, and some of you were healing together. Many variables can be in play- age, gender, resiliency levels, coping skills, support system, the level of trauma they endured, etc.
I always stress this- you can only be responsible for your healing journey. You can’t force someone to take on their healing journey because you feel it’s necessary. Do the inner work, validate your experiences in a safe space, and move forward to creating a more fulfilling life for yourself. That’s where it starts.
3. Reading the material rather than applying it.
Man-O-Man, am I guilty of this. Growing up, books and writing were my escape. I loved getting lost in stories and reading about how other people overcame their struggles. When I first started my healing journey, I went through so many self-help books and materials. I was obsessed with finding ‘the answer.’
What I was not doing was applying what I was learning. You could read about the benefits of breathing to calm your nervous system all day, but if you are not actively practicing it, it will not work. You have to practice what you are learning.
4. Journaling is an underutilized tool.
For someone who loves writing, journaling did not come easy to me. I always thought journaling was highly restrictive and forced me to write about things I did not want to face. This is something I learned was not true at all. Journaling is what you make of it. It is not meant to be restrictive, and if it is, you are not doing it correctly.
Write about whatever comes to your mind that day. If you are happy, write about what makes you happy. If you are angry, write about that. Journaling is what you make of it. When you regularly practice journaling, you will discover patterns about yourself that you didn’t even realize you were engaging in. My sister used to journal every day. When she reads through them four years later, she can see firsthand how much progress she has made.
If you are struggling with finding journal prompts, community members have really found 17 Simple-But-Powerful Healing From Trauma Quotes You Need To Know. extremely helpful.
5. Forgiveness is not a prerequisite to healing.
I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness and what value I think it brings to my healing journey. When I started my healing journey, I believed that to heal, I needed to forgive. I no longer believe that. I also used to think I needed to receive an apology from those who wronged me, and honestly, I would be waiting a long time if my healing depended on that. Something had to shift.
I think everyone views forgiveness a little differently, so while some may agree with this, it may not be your reality. For me, forgiveness was never as simple as ‘I forgive you.’ I had levels to it. I had to do some grief work, process a small part of it, accept it and then let go of that piece. Then I bump up to the more significant part of the traumatic experience. This made things less overwhelming for me, and I was able to develop self-compassion.
At some point in your healing journey, you may choose to forgive. That is okay.
At some point in your healing journey, you may make a choice not to forgive. That is okay.
At some point in your healing journey, you may choose to forgive but keep your distance. That is okay.
At some point in your healing journey, you may make a choice not to forgive right now but make a choice to work on your relationship to find space for forgiveness. That’s okay too.
What works for one person isn’t always the reality for the next person. Sometimes there’s no going back, and sometimes there is room for improvement. You decide what’s best for your mental health and choose to heal accordingly. 💛
6. Your family may never engage in your recovery process.
Your recovery process is about YOU. It is about giving a voice to your experiences, sharing your story, and releasing your past to move forward. Unless your family is engaged in their healing journey, their chances of understanding what you are saying are slim.
When I first started therapy, I rushed through wanting to speak to my family about the past. They did not comprehend my choices and continued to repeat their old patterns of behaviors. I had to learn to let go of this expectation that they might apologize or choose to engage in the process. With time, I did share my perspective, but I did not take on the burden of sharing their pain. The issues didn’t resolve directly, but I was able to be at a place of self-acceptance. It was enough to move forward.
Release this idea that you have to fix everyone around you to get what you need. You are capable of continuing on this journey.
7. Small steps should be celebrated
This was something I really struggled with when I started my healing journey. I would watch my sister celebrate her little wins by taking herself out for chai or taking the night off. I would always think to myself, what is the point of celebrating the small successes, it is the big wins that matter. That could not be further from the truth.
Every small step you make is a step towards healing yourself. You journaled every day for a week, reward yourself with something that will continue to motivate you. This idea of ‘big win’ is a myth. Want to know the secret of how to heal from childhood trauma? Celebrate your small wins.
8. Healing from childhood trauma is a lonely process (but doesn’t have to be).
Loneliness is a side effect of healing from childhood trauma that we do not talk about enough. I wanted to talk about what I was going through but feared that no one would understand. I also didn’t want to burden anyone with my pain. There was also a sense of control over me when I first started my healing journey. It was the one area of my life that I could finally control. I was fighting for my survival which meant trust did not come easy to me.
I wish I knew that it is okay to reach out for help, and some people may not understand it but were there to support me. You do not need to carry the weight on your own. It can be your close friends, therapist, teacher, family member, or anyone you find a sense of safety with. Healing from childhood trauma can be a very lonely process because people may not understand it in your life. However, it does not always have to be that way.
The first time I read about this 7 Ways to Heal From Childhood Trauma I realized I was withdrawing as a result of my trauma, and connecting with other people was not a bad thing.
9. Outsourcing my healing
You may have done this yourself. Waiting for your therapist to tell you a magical cure for your traumatic experiences, relying on your spouse or friends to ‘fix you,’ putting it out in the universe, etc. Trust me, I have been there.
Your healing is your responsibility. The expectation that someone else can do the work for us and feel better is just not accurate. You have to sit with those uncomfortable moments and be there for yourself. Have your own back, show up for yourself. You are the expert in your healing, and you need to use that to your advantage. For me, I had to start spending time with myself. What do I like? What are my current patterns when I am emotionally flooded? Can I try something different?
No one else can do the work for you, and I promise you don’t want them to.
10. It is okay to take a break
I wish someone would have told me this. I wish someone would have just told me, ‘It is okay if all you did today was breathe. You made it through the day, and that is what matters.’ This misconception that we are focusing on healing 24/7 is untrue and, quite frankly, harmful.
It is okay to take a break. It is okay if all you did today was breathe. You made it through the day, and that is what matters. You are okay.
This post was all about healing from childhood trauma.
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