“In tragedy, it’s hard to find a good resolution,
it’s not black and white, but a big fog of gray.”
– Paul Dano
I can’t help but my heart sink while watching below video : a homeless man plays piano (Come Sail Away) he found at street, this bring me have an urge to write about common myths of healing after traumatic events.
Donald Gould, a 51 year old guy started played piano as a kid and later in US Marine Corps. Studied music at University since he wanted to teach music.
In 1998, his wife died unexpectedly – he was totally lost and hit rock bottom of his life. Not only started struggling with substance abuse but also lost custody of his only 3 years old son. He became homeless and live in the street for years.
This until one day he found a piano at street and was videotaped by a passerby, who posted it online thus he became famous suddenly
Pain is uniquely personal experience
People who never experienced traumatic events, e.g. abused / tragedy will have difficulties to fully understand why and how it takes so long for victims to heal (or so-called “get over it”).
Truth is every human is so unique, different person experience same event is not necessary behave or react the same. Some people survived from accidents/disasters may move on easily and quickly, but other survivors may suffer from PTSD or depression. The way how individual respond to incidents are various and can be affected by many other internal / external factors, e.g. characteristics, family background, past experiences, support systems etc. Numerous unpredictable elements will alter how different individual coping with grief, loss or pain.
In my opinion, it’s unfair to judge any individual’s own experiences according to our own perception. We are not that person, or if when we never experience the same situation, it’s impossible to imagine how exactly it cause their pains. Simply throwing irresponsible comments such as “that person can move on after that incident, why can’t you?” is unhelpful.
Healing process can’t speed up
Many outsiders primary have good intentions to support victims, hope to round things up quickly. To protect and stop victims continuing indulge in hurtful feelings / memories, they may try to weaken the seriousness of trauma, comforting survivors by saying “past is past, let’s move on, or even more worse blame-the victim by saying “I told you so…”., etc. Or never bring up the matters again, in their philosophy “out of sight, out of mind’.
Unfortunately, the most damage that any traumatic events bring to a person is not only physical but more importantly are emotional and psychological effects. Physical wounds can be seen and healed over times, but emotional scars are invisible and difficult to set a timer on it.
Anyone who experienced an abusive relationship / history or other kinds of trauma will experience “frozen moments”. They can walk, speak and live like a normal personal psychically but psychologically act like a zombie wandering around without soul.
Healing needs time, but how much time is enough? We can never get the clear answer because every individual survivor is so unique, each one healing schedule is so different. Terrible consolation to an abused survivor is asking them to pull themselves together. Some take weeks, months, and others may need years or even a lifetime.
That’s why law sentenced abusers (child molesters, child abusers, human traffickers etc) severely because it’s not about physical damages but uncountable emotional / psychological turmoils that survivors need to carry years after trauma.
Push survivors to heal without honoring their own schedule or blame the victim can never help victims. In fact, the more you push the more they shut down and scare away. They just not ready yet and need time to figure things out on their own speed / agenda.
Many survivors may feel the guilt / shame for not forgiving / healing as quickly as possible, or have pressure of being judge as “too sensitive”, “over-thinking”, so they act like nothing happened, cover up wounds, swallow anger / sadness / frustration inward. All so-called helps may simply adding salt to the wound
Above mentioned guy obviously experienced traumatic event on his life. He might has personal issues originally but his wife’s death was a trigger that lead his life go further south afterwards. It’s sad to see a talent person reached that point I can imagine one who gave up his life in such great degree was suffering from a tremendous grief of loss.
This story indicated how big impact of trauma can do us, and how little we do as support system.
How you feel about the story of this man?
Photo credit : Unsplash