Finding The Strength to Heal from Trauma

In the midst of increasing femicide in our country, South Africans are reeling from the traumatic and violent deaths of countless womxn, trans womxn, and non-binary femme bodies. There is a profound sense of collective trauma that has seeped through every part of our lives causing us to slow down, feel clouded and confused, and not know how to begin healing or making sense of the increasingly violent and toxic world we live in.

Grief and trauma are never easy burdens to bear. They manifest differently in each person: Some people feel physically ill, some people feel an uncontrollable sense of rage, and others become silent and retreat because the outside world becomes too much for them to handle. The few days we had off of campus were not enough even to begin healing from the twisted emotional pain and earth-shattering shock we felt in the wake of Uyinene Mrwetyana's murder. It appears to be following everyone on campus like a dense cloud. Students are lethargic, emotionally spent, exhausted, scared, and above all devastated. This only continues to worsen as more and more womxn, children, and foreigners are raped, attacked, and brutally murdered.

 

Image by Brenton Geach on UCT News

 

Trauma has urgency and persistence about it. What often makes it so difficult to overcome trauma is not knowing how to continue life as it was before. But, what you need to understand is that life does not return to the norm after a traumatic on such a large scale. It's not as if you can jump back where A is the norm, B is the trauma, and then you go back to A. Moving forward means leaving A, or the norm, in the past where it existed before B, the trauma. You have to reimagine and reconfigure your life where you can work with and through the trauma to find C, the new norm. This new norm is not a place where the trauma has been magically wished away, but rather where it finds rest. This new norm is where you need to work with your trauma to find how you can become strengthened and renewed in the face of your grief. This is where your skin toughens, your mind opens up, and your heart pours out.

Moving on or moving forward is not the same things as forgetting. Some choose to forget in the face of trauma and grief because remembering and mourning does not sit right with them in their lives. Forgetting means not letting the memory of the trauma pervade your headspace in order to keep a sense of sanity. Moving on or moving forward, on the other hand, implies going through a period of mourning, remembering, and memorial in order to bring yourself and your heart peace. This can be through reconnecting to spiritual healers, praying, attending protests and memorial services, writing poetry, attending workshops, and anything else that promotes working through your emotions constructively in a hands-on fashion.

 

Image by Ashraf Hendricks on Ground Up

 

Westernised societies promote individual growth, competition, and profit over community values and the strength of the family unit. Reconnecting with your loved ones is one of the best ways to strengthen yourself when healing from trauma. It reminds you in your most vulnerable and fragile state that you are not alone in your suffering, and can help you step out of your clouded head space to allow more love in.

While trauma may be a lifelong walk, you do not need to journey it alone. Whether it be through friends, family, extended family, or other relationships and sources of comfort, you can find the strength to heal and revitalize yourself in the aftermath of adversity.

For more resources, see the South African Depression and Anxiety Group website for contact details and helplines:

  • Pharmadynamics Police & Trauma Line: 0800 20 50 26
  • Suicide Crisis Line: 0800 567 567
  • SADAG Mental Health Line: 011 234 4837
  • Akeso Psychiatric Response Unit 24 Hour: 0861 435 787