There is within every soul a search for happiness and meaning.
~ Thomas Aquinas
No one ever expects trauma to come their way much less that it's a path to spiritual awakening.
Trauma and loss are generally life-changing experiences. One moment you are coasting along, happily living the life you carved out, while the next you are struggling to cope.
It is in those early moments when trauma first intrudes into your life that you seriously question whether you are being tested; or worse, being punished. Hopefully within a whisper of a moment you begin to recognize that God is right beside you, weeping with you and holding you through pain that is greater than you can bear.
Initially you may beat up on yourself, wondering why you did not see the event coming. Then logic and reason return, reassuring you that there is no way that you could have predicted what was going to happen.
You have prayed hard, asking God for guidance to help make sense of your loss. But no matter how many times you replay what has happened, there is no sense. The trauma that occurred and changed your life simply makes no sense.
Consider the following examples...
You are happily married, living a life of security and trust with your partner and your children, when your spouse suddenly announces that he or she wants a divorce.
Or consider that you waited a very long time to find the love of your life, only to have that person die in an accident or from an illness in a way that you never could have anticipated.
Maybe you have lived a life filled with integrity and hard work, giving the best you had to family and friends. You were just ready to slow down when you received a life-threatening diagnosis. Cancer, a brain tumor, or some other serious illness is nothing you ever anticipated or considered, yet this is what you are contending with now.
Or, sadly, perhaps you are a parent whose child has died. Not in a million years did you ever consider that your son or daughter would die before you. You would do anything to have your child back. You simply do not know where to put the intensity of your loss and pain.
Perhaps you grew up in a dysfunctional family where you were the strong one. Now, with a healthy marriage and family of your own, you want to include your family of origin into your life. Sadly though, their deeply ingrained dysfunction alienates and distances you from them.
Traumatic experiences occur in myriad ways that may include existential threats, near-death experiences, or loss of life and limb, all of which lead to broken dreams and expectations that change our relationships and our contexts forever.
If you have experienced trauma on this level, you may feel that physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually you are at a loss to know how to find your path forward. You need to move forward, yet you are not quite sure of the way. Your path is filled with so many unknowns that you may not be aware that spiritual awakening could lie ahead.
What makes grief and loss traumatic?
We all live through the lens of a predictable world where our assumptions and core beliefs about life become our context for feeling secure and stable. In the face of trauma and loss, these beliefs are shattered.
Disorientation and even panic can set in.
We feel lost and betrayed.
What we always knew is no longer the known.
These are normal reactions to abnormal events.
Trauma may be defined as an overwhelming experience that exceeds one’s coping ability (Siegel, 2020).
That said, each of our coping abilities is tempered by past events, including un-resolved prior loss and trauma.
Traumatic reactions occur when your secure and stabilized way of seeing life and the world with you in it, is suddenly jolted.
Sometimes un-resolved prior traumas are reactivated by current trauma.
Prior to this event, your life was right on track.
Now, you are simply at a loss to know how to move forward because nothing about your loss makes rational sense.
Talking with family and friends no longer brings the comfort it once did.
You recognize that re-telling and re-living the story over and over actually keeps your pain alive.
Intuitively, you sense that there is more. You just do not know how to access this. . .
You likely never connected trauma as a bridge to spiritual awakening.
Until one day, you begin to feel a slight shift in your consciousness.
Your mind and your heart seem to be moving beyond where you have felt stuck for so long, expanding and opening to something more within you.
Re-living the experience and continuing to try to make sense of it rationally begins shifting ever-so-slowly toward acceptance.
You feel your Self beginning to surrender to your loss.
Where you once wrestled with pain, you now breathe deeply into that pain.
Releasing that pain into surrender lightens your very heavy heart.
You begin to feel serenity.
You will always ache for your loss, but you are also becoming aware of a spiritual awakening; a clearing that is helping lift your spirit beyond your trauma and loss.
There is something about trauma that leads you to the window of your soul where you see who you are, with God in you.
There is a Oneness and an awakening to more inside of you than you ever knew was there.
An awakening is an act or a moment of suddenly becoming aware of something.
Spiritual awakenings are frequently the paradoxical gift that lies beyond the loss of trauma.
No longer limited by the confines of rational reasoning where right/wrong, either/or thinking dominates, you begin moving toward something more expansive and whole in yourself.
Your mind and heart are shifting to a higher level of consciousness.
You are becoming spiritually awakened to your contemplative mind and heart.
You feel your heart moving beyond the confines of your smaller self, into a oneness and unity of Being with God within you - your true Self.
From your contemplative mind and heart, you know that God is with you.
You know that God knows right where you are.
You can feel the Spirit gently breathing you forward.
You can feel it. Even though you do not understand it. Nor have you ever been here before.
Your whole life experience is becoming clearer.
Old wounds present themselves, able to be understood and healed in ways that were unavailable to you before.
Negative thought patterns are released as your thinking moves beyond rationality into contemplative mind and heart.
Love fills the space where trauma and loss robbed you of your warm feelings toward yourself and others.
Through spiritual awakening, you surrender and allow yourself to become transformed into higher consciousness in love and union with God, where you are free to find purpose and meaning through your loss and your life.
One thing you know is that where you are now, is exactly where you are meant to be.
In Thomas Merton’s words “You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.”
It is in silence that God speaks to your heart.
It is in silence that the tiniest seeds of faith planted in our earliest childhood, mature and ripen.
In early life, we learn about God.
Through trauma, we experience God.
Through spiritual awakening we understand perhaps for the first time, that endings allow who we are, made in God’s image and likeness, to be revealed to us. Through endings, we are free to find so much more about ourselves that we never knew before.
God guides us into new beginnings.
We take the best of who we always were, merging into new beginnings.
New beginnings, or new Life, is filled with grace and blessings that we might not ever have found except through the endings of our loss.
There is something humbling and freeing to realize that had we continued to use logic and reason alone to try to resolve our pain, we might have remained tethered and bound to our pain forever. Our ending might not have been transformed into a new beginning.
We might not have allowed our pain to transform us into so much more that we are capable of becoming!
We might have stood in the way of becoming exactly who we have always wanted to become, finding meaning and purpose in our life.
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. (Ecclesiastes, 3:1-8)
You see, if you remained stuck in the pain of the past, you would likely become bitter, angry, depressed, rigid, isolated, lonely, ill, and shut down.
Your anger, disappointment, and resentment would hold you back from finding your new place in an abundant, loving world.
Whatever life you cherished before trauma and loss would fail to flourish. Remaining stuck would affect you, your family, your work relationships, and a whole beautiful future ahead of you.
More significantly, all that you have to offer to others would be left undeveloped.
If you believe as I do, that we really are all interconnected as the one family of God, then you recognize that what you have learned about trauma and loss as a source of growth must be shared more broadly.
Our world is in so much pain with trauma and loss, that your experience is more valuable for others to learn from than you may be aware.
We are all sojourners on paths that at first, are unfamiliar to us.
Increasingly as you find your way, there are others in the human family who need (and want) your help.
This is the best reason not to spend another day wallowing in the “If only” and “What if’s”.
If I may be of help to you as a guide to help you feel more secure in your next steps, I am here for you.
Together I will help you navigate a more vibrant, awakened world, where you will feel less isolated and alone, and where you will feel fulfilled extending that necessary hand to others.
God is love. And God’s love is ready and waiting to fill the void that helps you to feel healed and whole again.
The chief thing that separates us from God is the thought that we are separated from God.
~ Thomas Keating