Collective trauma is the term used to describe a shared emotional response to a devastating experience. This past year presented more than its fair share of traumatizing events. From COVID-related fear and grief to horror and outrage at race-related tragedies, our collective well-being has suffered in unexpected and overwhelming ways. While there are no easy resolutions to the trauma, we can take steps to heal ourselves and our communities.
Sharing our stories helps us make meaning of events and this is key to healing collective trauma. Encourage organizations and community leaders to sponsor gatherings and memorials that acknowledge loss and validate suffering. Open forums and town halls build connection and can provide support. Allowing ourselves space to put “out there” what we feel “inside here” -- in our hearts and heads -- helps us gain perspective and make sense of what we’re feeling. Try journaling, talking to friends, or working with a counselor.
We also need to re-claim power we lost through trauma. Giving back to others, being actively involved in work that has meaning, choosing activities that nurture our emotional well-being, or participating in faith-based or spiritual practices can help us heal. Reaching out to others and volunteering in small and large ways also generate a sense of agency and power. Emotional and physical exhaustion may be what you’re feeling at the moment, but taking action to begin healing is a proven path to restored well-being.
I’m Suzanne Degges-White and that’s my perspective.