Recording memories for future generations
Finding peace within

The personal history of tragedy

What happens when the very foundation of your life is shattered, when everything you leaned on for support, love, mentoring and protection is no longer there? That tragedy, unfortunately, is a significant part of your personal history.

With a child abuse scandal rocking the Penn State University football program this week, the traditions and beliefs that generations of families have come to associate with an organization that prides itself on “doing the right thing” are annihilated.

Finding peace within

In a perfect world, the victims would easily recover and go on with their lives. That’s not so easy. A country is praying for them right now, wrapping their emotional arms around these young victims’ souls, just hoping beyond hope they do recover.

Tragedy happens every day. All kinds of tragedies. A priest in my church once gave a sermon about overcoming tragedy in life.  He is from a large extended family. His church family is even larger. Even in a loving environment surrounded by faith, the family – like any other – still had drama, disagreements and, yes, sudden tragedy.

That hurt is a part of your life, he told the congregation. The problems and challenges you face are a part of who you become. They do not, however, have to define the rest of your life.

Yes, they hurt. You should allow yourself time to heal, but don’t allow that hurt to control you.

I was reminded of that sermon, which I heard in the early 1990’s, when the blogging world exploded with commentary about Penn State. Previous child abuse victims wrote about how this particular story dredges up every raw emotion again. They have one common message: they will not let their abusers win by controlling them forever. They also felt compelled to share their very personal and private history with the world.

When it comes to memoir writing and recording personal histories, I tread lightly on personal tragedies. If a client wants to discuss it, then we will talk it through. I prefer when clients have already sought the help of a professional therapist. There are many cases when they should.

They must decide what part of the story they want to record: The whole problem, the healing journey, the lessons learned and how they grew forward.

There are numerous benefits to using story telling in therapy. It allows people to record their feelings, emotions and stages of grief and recovery. I have seen great work done by people using Dignity Therapy as a means to move forward. It helps them to find their strength.

I just read a story about woman who researched how three generations of women in her family used faith to overcome tragedy. What she learned along the way strengthened her own troubled journey.

That’s a program you can build on.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,