Tiny details in the expression on a person’s face, the way they sit, the look in their eyes, the sound their breath makes leaving their body can all communicate how heavy a person’s burden feels on any given day. Yet, even as the weight of that burden becomes unbearable, it is hard to reach out for help.
Working overtime, our brain is trying to figure out a way to process all the changes we are experiencing. Our thoughts during this time often sound like, “Is this real?” “This can’t be true” or “How did we get here?”. But, we actually have this really amazing defense mechanism that kicks in.
It’s called denial. Sounds bad, right?
Being in denial is usually always identified as a negative reaction but when we experience denial, it’s actually our body’s way of defending itself. It’s how it deals with the sudden rush of emotions it is experiencing. In trauma, denial is not a refusal to see the truth; instead, it’s an inability to process the truth. It’s like a forced time out.
“Denial is the shock absorber for the soul. It is an instinctive and natural reaction to pain, loss, and change. It protects us. It wards off the blows of life until we can gather our coping resources*.”
Before we reach out, our body and brain need time to shift beyond the initial state of denial. For some people, this shift happens quickly, and for others, it just takes time. Everyone is different, and our past experiences usually influence how quickly we can move into the next stage.
If this is where you find yourself today, I just want you to know that what you’re feeling is normal. Having support during this stage is just about having someone talk to who understands what you are going through. It sounds really simple, but studies actually show that just by talking about our problems we almost immediately begin to experience a release of physical and emotional stress.
Usually, when we are ready for support, we choose someone close to us to confide in. That makes sense, right? But what if there’s a level of shame attached to our emotions or our circumstances. In those situations, it can help to talk to a neutral party. That’s why more and more people turn to therapists to help them work through the mess of life. Healing begins with talking.
At Pathways to Hope, we are not licensed counselors, but we can identify with feelings of shame, fear, or uncertainty you may be feeling. If you are a parent with a child in crisis, I encourage you to talk to someone about what you’re feeling.