Update from Dr. Lori Leyden

The Importance of Distinguishing Between Trauma and Coping With Grief

It is now seven months since we’ve established our community-based trauma relief project using EFT/Tapping to help those here in Newtown who were affected by the tragic events that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary.

I’m not sure which is harder to believe – that this horrible tragedy occurred in the first place or that so much time has passed already.

But the wounds are still fresh and there is still much work to do. Although our fellow Newtowners and the community as a whole are sincerely trying to put the pieces of their lives back together and return to a “new normal” of functioning, disabling emotional and physical effects of trauma exist and persist. The potential long-term impacts for those who do not seek treatment continue to reveal themselves in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

Trauma Versus Grief

We have found in our work that very few people understand the difference between trauma and grief.

Grief happens as a normal part of living and refers to one’s personal experience of loss; it includes physical symptoms as well as emotional and spiritual reactions to the loss. It is generally a process that takes most people several months or years to work through.

When we lose someone we hold especially dear to us, the pain and sadness we feel at their passing can create a monumental moment in our lives. Their love becomes a part of us and informs so much of who we are. Coping with grief and eventually overcoming it is natural, temporary and healthy.

However, if they pass away under particularly tragic circumstances – which we may even be a part of in some way – that difficult stir of emotion can calcify in our hearts, brains and spirits and make it difficult to go on.

This is trauma, and it’s not just difficult, it can be debilitating.

You can have grief without trauma but you cannot have trauma without grief.

Trauma is characterized as anything that overwhelms a person’s normal ability to cope.
Here are the four conditions that most often lead to trauma.

The event:

1. Is unexpected.
2. Threatens your perceived sense of survival.
3. Triggers a sense of isolation and being completely alone.
4. Triggers as sense of powerlessness with no obvious solution or resources to cope.

Recent research at Harvard Medical School has documented, however, that the most effective treatment for trauma seems to be found through Energy Psychology techniques, such as EFT/Tapping. The stimulation of certain acupressure points on the body have been shown, through MRI and PET Scans, to calm the amygdala in the brain and stop the fight/flight/freeze process that occurs in trauma. Moreover, research has also shown that the hippocampus and other fear sensors in the body are similarly and often very quickly affected and discharged.

The result is that memories are retained, but they no longer carry an emotional intensity and ‘charge’ to trigger the trauma response in the body, thus allowing a full healing of the original trauma.

This is one of the principles that guide our work in Newtown. Trauma is a shock state, and if it isn’t properly addressed, it self-perpetuates. EFT/Tapping is a powerful tool in trauma relief as it directly tackles the neurological state that may manifest as chronic stress, body pains, headaches, trouble sleeping and a whole host of other symptoms.

And once we release trauma from the brain we are finally able to resume coping with grief so we can go on with our lives.

We continue to offer free EFT trauma relief sessions for those affected by the tragedy as well as discounted EFT Certification training for licensed mental health care and healings arts professionals. For more information, please contact Dr. Lori Leyden in Newtown: Lori@CreatGlobalhealing.org