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Trauma, Community and Holistic Care

During a traumatic experience, parts of the brain go offline and disrupt memory storage. When parts of the brain go offline, the event lingers in the body as a traumatic imprint, a sensory memory, or an emotional echo. A trigger is a reminder from the nervous system of this disruption that needs attention.

Trauma can occur by commission, which are events can be communicated. Trauma also occurs by omission, which are events that should have happened but didn't. For example, if an individual dealt with unmet emotional needs as a child, the result is trauma by omission. Trauma can also occur vicariously by witnessing, or hearing about an event.

The mind and the body work together. It is imperative to attend to both during trauma treatment. Holistic care honors a person's entire history, and considers how each component affects the whole. Focusing on the mind-body connection assists in creating space for safety, developing healthy self-esteem, and learning how to be embodied and present.

A holistic approach is comprehensive, and includes movement, mindfulness, and spiritual practices. This approach considers the impact of culture, upbringing, worldview, and life experiences. Other components of holistic care are connection, communication, and community. The Body Keeps the Score (Van der Kolk, 2014) points out that feeling safe within one's community (whether society at large or intimate communities) contributes to mental and emotional wellbeing. According to Van der Kolk, togetherness prevents individuals from becoming overwhelmed during periods of stress by providing a space to discuss difficult topics. When communities prioritize protecting tradition and familiarity, individuals do not receive the support they desire and require to process life-changing experiences.

Think back to the global health crisis and the impact of community through social media. We learned how to bake banana bread, renovate, dance, engage in self-care, and laugh. This virtual community provided an avenue for collective coping, collective healing, validation, and served as a buffer for loneliness and fear. Community creates an opportunity to share the burden of the experience, which fosters hope and empowerment through a sense of belonging. Belonging is a fundamental need for every human being.

Survivors deserve healing, respect, a life free from shame and guilt, and freedom. These can be achieved through a community of care and a holistic approach to healing that instills safety, hope, and empowerment. Holistic care leads to understanding, and a more unique and person-specific approach to the healing journey.

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