Want to know the most significant trauma healing stages you must understand when recovering?These are the three main stages you need to know about.
The healing journey can feel overwhelming, but understanding the trauma healing stages can bring significant clarity. As a healer who specializes in trauma recovery, I am going to share the most important trauma healing stages you must know that will transform your recovery process.
You will learn the three trauma healing stages, complex trauma healing stages, stages of emotional trauma, and signs you are healing from trauma.
After learning about the trauma healing stages you will feel more confident, reassured, and prepared for the recovery journey.
This post is all about the significant trauma healing stages you must understand when recovering.
The 3 stages of healing from trauma
Stage One : Safety and Stability
Recreating a sense of safety within your body and in your environment is the first stage of trauma healing. Depending how long the trauma occurred, this can take a month to a few years to establish. Be patient with yourself as you start to understand what still feels unsafe, whether that is an emotion, a location, a person, or within yourself.
After you begin discovering safety and stability the autonomic nervous system will switch from sympathetic (fight or flight), to parasympathetic in order for emotional and physical healing to begin.
Physical safety can look like: securing a safe home, away from impending danger. Having a roof over your head, food, clothes, and warmth (the basic necessities covered).
Emotional safety can look like: surrounded by loved ones, finding a counselor who specializes in your type of trauma. A space to be honest with yourself. Feeling strong emotions without consequences.
Stage Two: Grieving and Processing
Once all impending danger is removed and the nervous system begins regulating, you will move into the second stage. The second trauma healing stage is a process of mourning what was lost during the experience and processing what occurred. Grief is a very powerful emotion that occurs not only when we lose a person we love, but when an aspect of ourselves or our childhood is lost as well. I wish someone had told me earlier in my own recovery the amount of grief that I would face. It would have saved many moments of wondering if there was something wrong with me because I was crying nonstop. It is normal, and it generally is based on how long the trauma had occurred. Be gentle with yourself during this phase.
Processing the trauma will come in waves and layers. You will begin to answer tough questions like: why did this happen to me? How did it impact me the way I view myself? How do I feel?
The best recommendation is to not force this stage, and to try a variety of techniques. EMDR might be an appropriate fit. While others might benefit from journal prompts, meditation, somatic healing.
Keep in mind this one key phrase: when the time is right, more insight will reveal itself.
Stage Three: Empowering and Restoring
The third stage of healing trauma is one of the most important and yet the most missed. This phase of healing is about moving forward, creating a life that feels empowering and restoring a sense of normalcy. Again, much easier said than done. The switch out of survivor mode and into living again can feel very scary. And yet you owe it to yourself to start feeling joy again.
During this stage you may notice massive steps forward and then mentally challenging days that send you back. That is completely normal. When we progress, there is a part of us that wants to keep us safe. This part of us will start using phrases like “you can’t do that. It’s impossible. You’re not good enough. No one will accept you/love you.” You may have the sensation that nothing is getting better, that you rather play small or hide.
This is an ideal time to remind that part of you, that today you are safe and capable. The more you talk back to that voice, the more you reclaim your power and progress forward in building a beautiful life for yourself.
Complex Trauma Healing Stages
The three stages of healing trauma remain the same within complex trauma healing, however there are additional impacts and stages of healing that are important to take into consideration that occur when the trauma was prolonged.
Step `1: Understanding the cognitive impact. Most clients who have suffered from complex (long term) trauma have their self worth and self esteem affected. They also tend to diminish the severity of the trauma, diminish their needs, and have increasingly high expectations for themselves (nearing the point of perfectionism in order to be loved). This combination can generate situations equally unhealthy and harmful for the client. Placing them in work environments and relationships that include being underpaid, overworked, under loved, bread crumbed, and significant anxiety.
This step of recovery is undergoing a deep evaluation of how the trauma has impacted your sense of self, sense of safety within your body, your belief systems, and expectations. This takes time. I highly recommend my healer workbook, as it will walk you through each step and dive deeper into the cognitive impacts.
Step 2: Flashbacks and Triggers. Prolonged exposure to trauma will equate to remembering events later in life when it is safe enough to process the emotional impact. Certain sounds, smells, movements can trigger the nervous system as well as images. You may either feel like you are reliving the event or you are seeing the event from the past play out before you. During these times, it is important to remember you are safe.
Step 3: Somatic Healing
Feeling comfortable within your body is one of the most empowering moments of complex trauma recovery and something to celebrate. It is a process of reducing the hyper vigilance, reducing anxiety, improving sleep, and improving self care to name a few. Like with everything, it takes time and occurs in waves. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t get it on the first try.
The beauty of somatic healing is the more you practice and invest in this type of healing, the closer you become with your physical being.
Examples of somatic healing include but not limited to:
- Sensation awareness
- Dance therapy
- Grounding exercises
You may also like to read the 7 Secrets of Mind Body Healing You Need To Know.
Step 4: Integrating back into life
It may take time before life feels normal again. And that’s okay. Many go through a process of relearning how to breathe, eat, sleep, speak, and interact with others. Significant shifts occur during the integration process. You get to first meet yourself and understand what makes you truly happy.
Eventually you will start integrating back into relationships and feeling enough and comfortable within those dynamics.
The 5 Stages of Emotional Healing
Within trauma healing it is very common to experience the 5 stages of emotional healing, which are:
- Stage One: Grief And Denial
- Stage Two: Anger
- Stage Three: Bargainin
- Stage Four: Depression
- Stage Five: Acceptance
Outlined by https://www.hcf.com.au/
Each stage is a natural progression of healing something that may at one point of time felt too overwhelming and confusing to understand. Bargaining is when you plead with a power higher than yourself to restore what you think is right. Concluding with acceptance that it has occurred, it is occurring, and that life will be beautiful once more.
Signs You Are Healing
One way to monitor your healing progress is by tracking your symptoms. I recommend making a chart of your most prevalent symptoms and mark off anytime you might be experiencing those symptoms within the month (or day). It can be sleepless nights, triggers, hyper sensitivity, anxiety, depression, and so forth. Overtime you will start to see your symptoms reducing, which will motivate you to keep going!
Other signs you are healing:
- You are able to feel emotions easier
- You feel safe
- You sleep better
- You no longer minimize pain
- Your home life is improving
- Your work life is improving
- You maintain relationships that are healthy and significant
- You are able to live in the moment instead of numb or run
- You are able to reach out for support when in need
- You are able to be honest with yourself and others
- You are a contributing member in your community
- You love yourself (truly)
This article was all about Trauma Healing Stages