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Dealing With
Life’s Traumas

by Lynn Marie-Ittner Klammer

(A summary of this month's Youth Update)

No matter how careful you are, unpredictable violence can enter your life. A friend can be injured or threatened. You yourself can have a frightening or even life-threatening experience.

How will you handle it? Once the crisis is past, will you feel the same as you did before? Why does God let bad things happen to people? This Youth Update wrestles with these questions.

1. Your heart will remember. Depending on your personality, you may become depressed or even suicidal. You may feel guilty. You are likely to experience a wide range of emotions, often in quick succession.

2. Your body will keep a record. A registered nurse, interviewed for this Youth Update, reports tremors, racing heart, rapid breathing, dilated pupils, screaming and uncontrolled crying as immediate post-trauma symptoms.

People often expect symptoms to appear only in the victim, but even friends and family can suffer as a result of a trauma. Insomnia and flashbacks, vulnerability to illness, long periods of tiredness, depression and feelings of hopelessness are not uncommon.

Parents should seek professional help for their teen if these symptoms continue at length. Teenagers should report these symptoms to them.

3. Reach out. Some teenagers turn to alcohol and drugs. This is a unhealthy support in times of trauma. Some schools have formed trauma teams, adults connected with the school who can spot these and other negative solutions before they become habits.

The first step in seeking help is to acknowledge that you may need it. It is also healthy to look at the trauma you have experienced with a view to learning from it. If you can learn from what happened, the legacy can be valuable.

4. Why does God allow bad things? Whatever happens in your life, it's natural to ask why. Sometimes the answer—to a person of faith—is to strengthen you, to invite you to deeper trust, to invite you to let go of your tendency to control.

We may not know why bad things happen, but we do know what can happen as a result. One youth minister, Kitty Murtha, says, "We are God's hands to reach out and hold....If we develop our faith now, it will be intact and capable of carrying us through life's catastrophes. Don't wait for something bad to happen before you pick up the pieces of your faith."

Teenagers from St. Mary Parish in New Albany, Indiana, previewed the complete manuscript of this edition and asked these questions. If you would like to preview a future edition in Youth Update’s private online chatroom, contact CarolAnn@franciscanmedia.org for information.

 

Q.

Why do some teens seem capable of dealing well with trauma and others have such trouble? Is it possible that some people are "trauma-proof"?

A.

No one is "trauma-proof," but everyone has a different level of stress tolerance for a variety of reasons. Some people just hide their stress better, though that's not always an asset.

Q.

I always wonder if it's better to give people space or to involve myself in their troubles. How do you know what's best—and when?

A.

What's best for each individual is different, depending upon that person's personality. Whenever in doubt as to what you should do, you can always ask the person in need. Simply offer to be there for him or her. That offer itself is a great comfort in troubled times.

Q.

Some people seem to swallow their feelings in a time of trauma. Others get angry, even with those who had nothing to do with their trouble. Can you explain this difference in people?

A.

Basically, people deal with their pain in one of two ways: by turning it inward or outward. Those who turn their pain inward are more prone to depression. Those who turn their pain outward often lash out at others. The behaviors you've noticed are the expression of different coping styles. They are probably rooted in basic personality, which is an area full of mystery, even for experts.

 

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