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Stage Two: Adaptation

Last week we explored the first stage of trauma recovery, which is Safety and Stabilisation. With this in place, the second stage of Adaptation can begin.

Stage two is often referred to as ‘remembrance and mourning’ because painful memories can often resurface. This provides a great opportunity for these memories to be reviewed and discussed.

The main work of the carer in stage two involves supporting the young person through:

  • Reviewing and/or discussing memories to lessen their emotional intensity and to revise their meanings for one’s future life and identity.
  • Working through grief about unwanted or abusive experiences and their negative effects on one’s life.
  • Mourning or working through grief about good experiences that one did not have, but that all children deserve.

Although the carer needs to be available for all of the above, it is up to the young person how deep they want to go at this point. With support, they may come to any of the following conclusions:

  • Deciding that thinking and talking about painful memories is not actually necessary to achieve their goals in the short term, so they may better revisited at a later date.
  • Carers can also help them to be mindful of the potential pain and risks involved in formal therapy at this point in there life.
  • Some young people find that the memories are no longer disrupting their life and are of little interest to them in the short them and reclaiming a sense of stability is far more important to them now.

It is likely though that a person will experience grief for the losses s/he has suffered due to a traumatic childhood. For example, many who experienced severe childhood trauma feel that their childhood was stolen from them. This can lead to them not wanting to engage in any deep work that will further impinge on what’s left of their youth.

Our key goal here is to support the young person to accept their past, as this brings great strength and power. This strength and power comes from having faced one’s life head-on, having truly experienced the worst of the past, and having arrived at a way of being that is free from either running away from painful truths or getting caught up in them. We are supporting the young person to find the resilience to truly ‘move on’ as a person of greater courage, strength, hope and wisdom.

Next week we will be looking at the final stage of trauma recovery.