8 Soothing Things You Can Do After Experiencing a Traumatic Event
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No one wants to have to live through a traumatic event, but they still happen anyway in our fallen world. After experiencing several such events, including the sudden death of my son over thirteen years ago, I have found the following things to be soothing to do during the healing process.
1. Listen to the Bible.
Sometimes when reading the Bible after a traumatic event, it’s not easy to concentrate. We can skim quickly through passages we have already read multiple times without really absorbing them. If you find yourself doing this, or you just feel too sad or angry to read your Bible, try listening to the Bible online. I use the ESV audio version at BibleGateway.com. I can rest and hear God’s word at the same time, and I have noticed important points by hearing Bible passages spoken that I have missed while reading them.
It is also interesting to note that the majority of people couldn’t read in the first century, and it was common practice for believers to learn from God’s word by hearing it read out loud to them.
2. Always pray honestly, even when you feel like God has let you down.
We can be both honest with and respectful toward our heavenly Father in our prayers. Perhaps something has happened where you feel like God has singled you out in a punitive way, or someone you love dearly, in allowing a great tragedy to occur. You are angry and confused, and your whole world has been rocked so hard that you don’t know if you can survive. You can tell God that you feel angry. You can tell him that you don’t understand one bit why you have to go through this. He knows all things. He knows you are hurting. He knows you are confused. He knows you can’t see the whole picture like he does.
Be honest with your heavenly Father and cry out to him with a humble heart. Ask him to help you understand the “why’s” and “what now’s” of your circumstances as much as he is willing to do. God has his reasons for allowing suffering in the lives of his children, and we can trust that one day we will look back from the other side of the shore and also say, “He has done all things well” (Mark 7:37).
3. Reach out to someone you know for in-real-life help.
Maybe you need a hug right now. Maybe you need someone to come over and just sit next to you. Please don’t be shy. Don’t suffer all alone. Reach out to a person who would be willing to help. I remember a day when I was going through a particularly difficult time. My husband was traveling, and I didn’t feel up to leaving my home to get groceries (this was before today’s grocery delivery services were around!). I called my friend and told her that I was struggling and needed some food, and she jumped right into action. She brought over several meals and then just sat with me while I cried on her shoulder. I don’t remember saying much. I do remember what a great comfort it was to have my friend take care of me.
4. Step outside.
Maybe you don’t feel like leaving your home—ever again. I get it. Still, it’s good to take at least a moment and step outside, weather permitting. Take a few breaths, pause, and feel the air on your face. Perhaps the next time you might be open to taking a short walk. There are likely people in your life who would go on a walk with you and talk, or not talk, along the way. It’s good to move your body and get some exercise if you’re up to it.
5. Read helpful books by people who have also endured great suffering.
While it can feel like hardly anyone has had to suffer through what you are experiencing, and sometimes that is the case, for the most part many of life’s traumatic experiences have been endured by other people in some similar form. One of the books that was most helpful to me after the death of my son is Jerry Sittser’s A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows through Loss. Reading about how Sittser was able to survive the sudden deaths of his mother, wife, and young daughter from a car accident gave me hope that I could also survive my loss.
6. Go easy on yourself.
You don’t have to pursue activities and goals at your normal pace all the time. It’s not always a good thing to be busy. Sometimes we don’t have a choice in the matter: after a traumatic event, we have to return to work, take care of the kids or our parents, or fulfill some other pressing responsibilities. Still, if you can take some pressure off yourself, consider doing so.
After my son died, my pastor told me, “Your job right now is to live.” His words helped me a lot. I didn’t have to figure everything out in my mind. I didn’t have to perform in some way. I just had to keep living, and that was still a lot to do at the time. Let this be a time when you give yourself permission to remove those extra expectations of yourself, some of which you probably shouldn’t have anyway!
7. Reach out to qualified people for counseling.
Not everyone is equipped to provide helpful counseling, so it is critically important to exercise great caution in this area. And just because someone is a Christian counselor doesn’t mean the person has a sound theological foundation or the skills to apply solid biblical teaching to your particular circumstances and struggles.
Even if you ask people you respect for recommendations, it may take meeting with several counselors to find someone with whom you can have fruitful dialogue. It’s worth making the effort, though, as a qualified counselor can be extremely helpful as you process the traumatic event over time.
8. Don’t pressure yourself to fully process what has happened in a certain amount of time.
Traumatic events take lots of time to process; some can even take an entire lifetime. Don’t allow people to put you on a schedule of when you should “get over” your pain and suffering and “move on.” Hold on to the sure truth that God has a reason for all he allows in our lives and this world isn’t the end of the story.
God is bigger than any situation in which you find yourself right now. He can redeem anything that has happened to you or will happen to you. God can—and does—make the most beautiful things out of the biggest tragedies of life. If you don’t believe this, remember the cross of Jesus Christ. Cling to your Savior, take a day at a time as he has told us to do, and rest in God’s sovereignty in your life, which is precious in his sight.
Le Ann Trees is managing editor of Beautiful Christian Life.
 Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003), 132; Brian J. Wright, Communal Reading in the Time of Jesus: A Window into Early Christian Reading Practices (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2017), 156.
A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows through Loss by Jerry L. Sittser