By Allison Auld, Crosswalk.com
When asked “What is your most distinct childhood memory?” there is a high likelihood that you are able to come up with at least one account. When God designed man and woman, He created them with a brain that develops and retains memories. This allows us to sit in the joy of nostalgia, the wisdom of a lesson learned, and in some cases the pain of a traumatic event.
Trauma is defined as overwhelming psychological, emotional distress due to a life-endangering or disturbing event. This can occur through experiencing an event or witnessing an event. Symptoms of trauma can include anger, persistent feelings of sadness and despair, flashbacks, unpredictable emotions, physical symptoms like nausea and headaches, intense feelings of guilt, an altered sense of shame, and feelings of isolation and hopelessness. If you have experienced any of these, it is important that you talk with a doctor or counselor.
Childhood trauma can include the events and symptoms listed above. Due to the way the brain develops, trauma deeply impacts development for children. This may look like a number of different things such as learning disabilities, behavioral issues, or mental health concerns. It is important that any child with a history of trauma has met with a doctor or counselor to rule out any concerns.
Why Do We Have a Hard Time Dealing with Our Past?
There are many reasons why dealing with our past is difficult. When we have experienced hard things, it is not easy to talk about what has happened. To deal with the past means that we have to think about and process what happened. It takes an incredible amount of courage to talk about hard times in the past and vocalize the way it affects life. We are often so focused on moving forward, that we do not take time to deal with events of the past. When we do not process events that have occurred or grieved a loss, the healing process is stunted. It can affect us physically, emotionally, spiritually to suppress these hard times. To face what has happened, rather than distracting oneself, is the way to promote growth and healing.
What's the Right Way to Deal with Difficult Childhood Memories?
If you are concerned you have not handled a difficult childhood memory well, the best thing to do is to seek out a counselor. As a client, you will be able to process and verbalize what occurred to a professional who has been trained specifically to deal with difficult childhood memories. Due to the nature of the difficult memory, it is imperative that it is discussed in a safe place. If the issue is not addressed, it does not just “go away.” The first step to dealing with the issues that have affected us is to acknowledge every part of them. This can be heavy work and should be accompanied by someone who has been trained to walk through these memories.
How Can We Heal from Hard Things That Happened in Our Past?
1. Ask the Lord to help you and grant you patience.
It is not easy to walk through the hard memories that may have impacted us since childhood. You do not have to do this alone. First and foremost, the Lord longs to walk beside us as we search for healing. As the God of healing and reconciliation, He desires us to do deep work so that we can further know His character and bring Him glory.
The Lord has time and time again told us to come to Him and cast our burdens on Him (Psalm 55:22 Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.) He has told us that in this world we will have trouble (John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”), but he has also told us that He cares for us and wants to walk alongside us as we seek healing.
2. Talk to a counselor.
It can feel scary or overwhelming to make an appointment with a counselor. Know that you do not have to go into every detail of the situation at your first appointment. You can start slow and small. You can begin by sharing with them that there are some things in your past that you are having difficulty processing. Build trust and rapport in the relationship, then allow them to guide you through to hope and healing. A licensed counselor has been trained to use therapeutic skills to help clients process these memories.
3. Allow yourself to grieve.
There are 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. To be able to successfully go through these stages, we first have to acknowledge every loss that the traumatic event caused. Then we are able to grieve the loss and truly move towards acceptance. Without knowing, we can never address what happened. There is no timeline for grief, it happens at different intervals with every person. It is also not linear, although you may be improving there will be some hard days. It is important to recognize this so that when a difficult day comes, you can remember that you are still healing and that growth is still happening even if it does not look “perfect.”
4. Thank yourself for doing the best you could to get through that time.
Sometimes when difficult events occur and we have to process them as children, we can look back and think “I should have done this” or “I could have done that instead.” The reality is that as a child, it is likely you were doing the best you could with what you had in those moments. Thank yourself for getting through those times, don’t shame or judge the response you had at that time. Many children that have to handle difficult situations are unaware that their situation is “out of the normal.” If a person is not aware that what they went through was difficult, they do not know it is something to process and work through. It can be incredibly powerful to acknowledge what was hard and move forward.
When we ask ourselves the question “How can I deal with hard things that happened in my childhood?” it can stir up many different emotions. When someone starts this process, it is important to have the right support system around them. This starts with laying it all down before the Lord. Giving your thoughts, feelings, and emotions over and asking God to guide you and hold your hand as you work through these difficult memories. The next step should be to talk to a professional. Prioritize talking to someone who has been trained to work through these traumatic experiences with you. It is not an easy road, but it is important and leads to healing.
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Photo credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes
Allison Auld is a young professional living in SC. She is a clinical counselor with a passion to help others grow and heal. She enjoys spending time with her friends, family, and good coffee.