It is a common belief that once someone has talked about a traumatic event, they should not need to talk about it again. And I can completely see why it feels that way especially if they felt better or gained some relief from doing so. It feels as if the first time should have been enough, and in some ways it does feel like it is enough. And yet there are always instances in which those traumatic events, large and small, still follow the person into the present day.
I urge anyone who has had any sort of trauma in their life to challenge the belief that once is enough. It is important to give yourself the space to process any lingering emotion as many times as is needed. There is simply no ‘expiry date’ for such things. We need to be more compassionate to our trauma and how we are feeling.
In some ways, children show us how it could be done. They are prone to repeating stories endlessly – and it is so important that they do so. It is their way of processing what happened, and a way of organising their thoughts. Without the repetition and attentive audience, they are unable to properly remember what happened or to move past it.
To assume that because adults are older and wiser they do not need the same experience of repetition is detrimental to our emotional health. We owe it to ourselves to share the trauma and experiences as many times as we need.
As with children, it allows us a chance to organise things properly and to make sense of things. There is also the potential that something new is discovered along the way, with a slightly different perspective offered as a result of sharing again. With the right listener, whether that is a counsellor, friend or family member, the right questions will be asked that allows the person to reflect on their experiences. To make it even more meaningful, there might even be meaningful reflections that allow the person to feel safer in the present and looking towards the future. It might allow the person to feel more secure in themselves if they know how to prevent a similar incident from happening again.
Exploring past events more than once allows a space to empower ourselves so that we feel more in control of things, rather than feeling like our memories and feelings control us.
Give yourself whatever is needed so that you can move into the next chapter.