Overcoming insensitive comments
Dear Annie: I endured a very traumatic childhood. I was verbally abused. I was physically abused. I was sexually abused and raped.
I’m writing because I want to know the best way to respond to ignorant and insensitive remarks about my childhood. I have been told, “just leave it in the past”; “focus on the positive”; “it’s all a mindset”; “forgive and forget”; and “just let it go.” I don’t feel angry at these people for their remarks. I know they are trying to help and that they just don’t understand.
People don’t understand that the traumatic events I endured as a child will stay with me for the rest of my life. I have nightmares and flashbacks all the time. I could be doing anything and, all of a sudden, a horrible memory or image pops into my head. With therapy, I have learned to cope and push aside these memories, but they keep coming back. That is why I can’t just leave it in the past or forget about it. All I can do is learn to cope.
I feel that trauma is much like grief. For instance, I have lost my father, my brother, and my niece. The two seem similar in that grief stays with you for the rest of your life. You’ll always miss your loved one. Grief strikes you at any moment just like trauma. Grief is painful and difficult to endure. And for someone who is grieving, other people wouldn’t dare tell them to “just leave it in the past” or “just let it go” or “it’s all a mindset.” Those comments would be considered highly insensitive.
How do I respond to people who make these insensitive remarks to me or to others who have endured trauma? — Grieving My Childhood
Dear Grieving My Childhood: What an important letter. Having to endure any type of trauma is awful and potentially an ongoing process. It is insensitive for someone to convey the message that you should “get over it.” My guess is that these words come from a place of their not knowing what type of trauma you experienced, or what grief feels like. If they did know what you went through, they might give you a huge motherly hug and just hold you, or they might know that you need space and time.
You are correct that the memory of the trauma will never go away, but with a good therapist, which you seem to have, you could find both physical and mental release. Somatic Healing is a great option in helping with PTSD and can lessen some of the nightmares and flashbacks.
Your letter will help other people understand trauma better. Good luck to you, warrior woman. My hope is that you will continue to transcend the trauma from your childhood and live a life that is not just coping but one that is shining bright and that allows others to heal as well. You are on the right track by showing so much wisdom.
Editor’s note: “Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org