I recently attended a workshop by the psychologist and trauma counselling specialist Michael Tunnicliffe.
He said that he is sometimes called to events like bank robberies, mine accidents or shootings where people are shocked and distressed.
He told us that usually he is taken to the person showing most outward signs of distress. This person may be sobbing and yelling. He explained that there may be other people from the same event sitting staring ahead in silence.
In our culture the wailing folk are regarded as not coping and the silent are considered to be coping well.
Michael then carefully explained that the sobbing person is already adjusting and adapting to the reality of what they have just experienced. The silent person might be numb, not feeling anything, as if the event did not happen.
He told us that he saw his job as helping people who get stuck at some point along the path of adjusting and adapting to their new reality.
I am bringing this up because people have often told me they don’t know how I cope. They tell me this because I am acting normally and therefore labelled as coping well.
If your child is suffering on a fairly regular basis you can suffer a chronic fatigue and get numb and detached. Our culture rewards this by labelling it as “coping well”.
We run the risk of tuning out to our child’s reality because we feel powerless and overwhelmed.
I think kids are remarkably able to adjust to what they have to deal with.
One thing they do need from us is the ability to be present, to share how things are for them. That doesn’t mean doing or solving, that means sitting with the truth of how things are whenever we can.
I think coping well is not being numb and detached from what is happening in your life. Rather I think it is feeling as much as you are able, when you are able, and getting help if you get stuck along the way.
Photo courtesy of timcaynes at Flickr Creative Commons