It has been 26 years and some months since a major trauma happened in our family’s life. It has continued to impact my life ever since and despite the years passing, I have never really felt a healing of my largely broken heart and spirit.
When I met and married Adrian, he was a minister of religion and this continued for the first 10 years of our married life. We were serving in our second parish when he was removed from our busy thriving congregation and asked to resign his ministry. Without going into too much detail, we at the time, were treated very poorly and not given natural justice. Lies and criticisms were told in confidence to church officials and because of the confidentiality, we were never told what they were. They were believed – we were not!
So, after training unpaid for 7 years and serving in the field for what we thought would be forever but turned out to be just under 10 years (just short of long service leave), my husband no longer had a job and we no longer had a home as the church had provided housing. We had 2 little boys at the time, one had to change schools and the other had to be told he wouldn’t be attending the school he had lived next door to for the whole of his life!
The next 10 years of our lives was spent trying to find some stability, emotionally, spiritually and financially. Looking back … I believe that Adrian had a reasonable success at this. Me … not so much!
And then cancer took over as our prime concern in life.
When you lose your job, you might go to your church for support, if and when things get tough BUT what happens when your job is your church? Who do you turn to then? You turn to those friends and family that have always believed in you and will continue forever. You turn to God but often you find that you no longer have the right words and so you turn inward and retreat into your safe place.
Many times over the next 15 years, I tentatively stuck my neck out and attempted to seek peace through a conversation with someone I thought might be able to help me but I wasn’t really sure I knew exactly what effect the trauma had on me and how it was manifesting itself. I only knew that I cried a lot when I attended church – any church and I felt guilty a lot but I didn’t really know about what!
When I returned to therapy 3 years ago, we made a conscious effort to not dwell on the event but just see it as one of the contributing features to my depression and anxiety. I was keen to concentrate on actually learning techniques to help me move forward, rather than looking back.
But after 3 years of consistent therapy, something changed. I had been dabbling at attending Sunday service back at my local church, which just happened to also be my “trauma church”! Why, you may ask would I choose to go there? Well, it is my local church, some of my dearest friends attend there, I was very happy there 26 years ago, all of the key players in our situation are either deceased or no longer members, I had been attending a Bible Study with some members who continued to show great care and concern towards me and I liked the pastor’s sermons. But I had been totally controlling my attendance by swapping around the services I attended, sometimes the early service, sometimes the late one and often big gaps of non attendance in between. This meant that people weren’t to sure who I was and if I was indeed a member (which I wasn’t!)
Then a few weeks ago, an invitation came in the mail, inviting me to attend and represent my husband at the 40th Anniversary at said church! Well I decided then and there that I would attend but as the days wore on and the date grew closer I began to feel a dread descend on me and a fear of meeting people I hadn’t seen for 26 years. I knew I would be safe but I wasn’t sure if the other people would be!! God had obviously been protecting them for 26 years, as despite living in the area for most of that time, I had never once had I so much as laid eyes on them!
So off to my Psychologist I trundled, with a head full of questions and fears. For the first time in 3 years we decided to have a look back at what had happened and most especially how I felt about it then and now. I was totally surprised at how close to the surface my emotion is. Within a few moments of beginning the regression thoughts, I had a large weight sitting on my chest and tears very close to bubbling over. What we discovered is that much of my lack of self belief, fear and unwillingness to engage socially seems to be rooted in my trauma 26 years ago. Having been criticised for using my abilities and having had friendships used to gain information that was then used against me, causes me to be very wary of making new friends. I no longer trust myself to make suitable choices in all aspects of my life.
By recalling the specific events and how I am affected, I am able to rewrite the story playing in my head. I can identify what I wanted or needed to hear at the time and make certain I hear them today, by saying them aloud to myself or through a friend telling me. Either way the story on loop in my head changes. This will be ongoing therapy for me and it is hard work but definitely worth it.
I attended the 40th Anniversary of my “trauma church” over the weekend. It was a wonderful celebration and I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon. I had many guardian angels that went to great effort to make me feel at ease and so that I wasn’t confronted by any unpleasant surprises.
Healing comes in many forms and through many different people and situations. Healing is ongoing and for me, slow! Movement is progress no matter how small. There are people who are a part of that church who care for me and want the best for me and I feel loved by them and God.