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Steps to Healing

For many, healing from violent trauma can be a long, arduous process. Ultimately, the healing process is unique to each individual and, unfortunately, there is no pre-determined or predictable timeline for healing. The reality is that experiencing violence can change you at a fundamental level. But this is not cause for despair — it just takes time, determination and patience to adapt to the changes and to feel positive about life again. Those who have made it through the healing process are in many cases stronger, more vibrant people than they were prior to their violent experience(s).

The following are various steps or phases — not in any specific order — that most survivors face during the healing process, regardless of the nature of the violence or trauma experienced.

  • Shock or numbness
  • Denial or questioning the reality of what happened
  • Emotional releases or outbursts (anger, sadness, etc.)
  • Preoccupation with or disturbing dreams about the crime(s)
  • Physical and emotional distress
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Uncharacteristic hostility
  • Guilt
  • Depression
  • Mourning and recognition of loss
  • Withdrawal
  • Acceptance
  • Reconnection
  • Development of newer and more effective coping skills
  • Channeling of energy to positive endeavors
  • Reinvestment in the present (versus the past)

It is very important to understand that healing is a process. While you may not experience all of the above-mentioned phases, you will not be able to “skip” steps that are essential to your individual healing, and you will not be able to simply “will” your way to overnight healing or forgetting, as many of us can attest. Working with a counselor trained in trauma treatment can be very helpful in mapping out a course of action for healing.

There are some positive steps that you can take right away to facilitate the healing process. Following are some suggestions:

  • Establish safety for yourself
  • Recognize your loss
  • Honor the way you feel and your right to feel that way
  • Talk about your feelings with those you trust
  • Connect with other survivors of violence and talk about your experience
  • Do not be afraid to seek professional help if you are struggling
  • Recognize and avoid triggers that take you back to the memory and the fear
  • Be patient and avoid rash decisions — it takes time to figure out where you are, where you want to be and how to get there
  • Take care of yourself — exercise, eat right and take a deep breath when you feel tense
  • Do not abandon hope — believe that healing can and will take place
  • Do something with what you’ve learned: advocate, volunteer, start a moment… no matter your choice, doing something positive with what you have gone through will give that experience new meaning


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