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Coping With Trauma During Anniversaries

For the older generation of Americans it was the day JFK was assassinated. For the younger generations it was 9/11. Many people remember where they were, what they were doing and the absolute shock and trauma they experienced as these events unfolded.

For many people in Lebanon, the Middle Eastern country where I’m from, the fire and partial collapse of the grain silos in Beirut’s (the country’s capital) port this week is a visual reminder of the explosion there that rocked the city on August 4, 2020. The explosion has been reported in the media as one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history. It took the lives of more than 200 people and injured more than 6,000.

Having just come back from summer vacation there, I feel the weight of the second anniversary even more. Because anniversaries can be triggering for trauma survivors and grievers, practicing self care can be an effective way to stay regulated. So I’m applying in real time some exercises I practice with trauma survivors – noticing the body sensations, emotions and thoughts that come up in the moment, and acting in a way that helps me cope.

As I remember the day by watching videos of the explosion, I pay close attention to my body and notice my eyes watering, my nose feeling runny, and sense butterflies rising from the empty pit of my stomach to my chest. I feel an immense sadness well up inside me – sadness that I wasn’t there with my family and friends at the time, and that I can’t be there with them now. I grieve the lives that were lost, and the lives that may continue to be lost. This is because there are too many traumatic anniversaries in Lebanon – in the last 50 years alone there was a civil war, massacres, assassinations and bombings.

What makes the situation more difficult to cope with is there were no truth and reconciliation committees or prosecutions to hold people in power accountable or bring justice for trauma survivors. Many questions come to my mind in such an environment. How can people there feel safe? What was the meaning behind such tragic loss of life? And how can we move forward? I was fortunate to have been able to leave Lebanon and feel safe in Canada. I have also found meaning in my own life by supporting survivors.

In this moment, I’m trying to cope and move forward by writing this article. As I do so, I feel calm and hopeful. My body feels calm as my mind focuses, and I am hopeful when I think of the progress my clients have made in session – when they discovered a resource or took back their power. I feel growth through connection, and a purpose in life that is larger than myself.

I saw this larger purpose on full display this weekend as the LGBTQ+ community celebrated their victories during Pride. I was happy for them, and hope that one day my fellow Lebanese will also be able to feel safe and come together to celebrate their victories.

If you’ve experienced trauma and struggle to manage jarring or unpleasant body sensations, dysregulating emotions and negative thoughts, I invite you to get in touch by clicking on this link. I would be happy to work with you using a Sensorimotor Psychotherapy approach. This form of therapy was specifically designed to help survivors understand trauma, recognize symptoms and gently release it by listening to the body. 

Videos

Warning: the videos below contain images of explosions that may be disturbing to some viewers

Port silos collapse

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BdAfqtYNlI

Beirut explosion

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93tV6-0Ugwk

Bride photoshoot

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_L7SlqDtRnc

 

Marwan Noueihed
Marwan Noueihed

Marwan Noueihed is a Canadian Certified Counsellor at Thrive Downtown with 7+ years of experience, offers various therapies for managing mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, stress, and burnout. He specializes in Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, Trauma-Informed Therapy, CBT, Emotion-Focused Therapy, DBT, and Solution Focused Brief Therapy. Contact to schedule a session and start healing.