We are in the middle of a civil rights movement that is bringing more awareness, unity, and change than ever before. It is inspiring to see that people are not backing down—the protests, demands for justice, and real action have been ongoing. People are not tiring of marching, posting messages and videos online, contacting government agencies, and signing petitions.
Even with all this action towards change going on, as a young Black teen, you most likely have a mix of emotions that you’re feeling right now. You might be phasing in and out of emotions like fear, anger, sadness, worry, and hopelessness. The trauma of witnessing the injustices that are still happening at the hands of toxic law enforcement officials can be overwhelming. Maybe the trauma has happened directly to you or someone you care for.
How can you start to grieve the murder of another innocent, unarmed Black person when the trauma continues? How can you start healing when videos are emerging daily of the abuse continuing to happen across the country and even in many parts of the world? There is no straightforward answer. Your fear, anger, sadness, worry, and hopelessness are justified! We are going to discuss a few ways that you can cope—methods you can apply to try to develop some resilience to face the chaos and injustice that is all around you. Right now, resilience, support from peers, friends, and loved ones, and searching for meaning in the midst of these hard times will help you get through the difficulties you’re facing—internally, in your everyday life, and in your community.
Resilience—Your Fuel for Coping with Trauma
When you hear talk about resilience you might think this is an overly idealistic concept—maybe even an entirely unrealistic goal. When you’re going through hard times, hearing someone tell you about developing resilience, staying strong, and being courageous might feel the same as someone telling you to ‘think happy thoughts’ when you’re sad or depressed. Easier said than done, and many times unrealistic, right?
But resilience isn’t about denying how you feel, minimizing your pain, or putting on a brave face. It’s actually the opposite. Resilience is allowing yourself to hurt—to feel the pain and fear and anger, but being able to continue moving forward towards whatever your goals are right now. It could be work, school, helping others, or trying to emotionally stay afloat yourself. Resilience is about being able to talk about how you feel, fall apart if you need to, but picking yourself back up, refusing to let your hardships get the better of you.
Social Support—Why You Need Good People
When you’re trying to cope with trauma—with hardships, barriers, failures, or any struggle in your life—surrounding yourself with positive and supportive people is critical. But, the thing with going through trauma is that when you are in the midst of it, you might be wondering where these people are or how you’re supposed to find them. It’s true that sometimes, when you need the emotional support from others the most, you might find yourself completely alone. This makes trauma so much harder—so much more like a constant, uphill battle. Feeling isolated can even make you feel like giving up sometimes. But you can find this support. Supportive people, good people are out there. Sometimes it just takes some searching to find them.
Some young people like you join community groups, like volunteer organizations. Some find like-minded, supportive people faith groups. Schools and universities have these types of social support resources. Search the Internet for local support groups in your community or even virtual support groups. There are good people out there—people who are struggling or have struggled just like you. Search for supportive people during hard times. This is what will get you through—knowing that you’re not alone and there are people out there trying to make it through tough times and in search of this support, just like you.
Finding Meaning—Why is this happening to me anyway?
Trauma can feel like a punishment—like some type of price you’re paying. It can feel unfair or unlucky. You might wonder, Why me? quite often. People have different answers for this question. Maybe you have your own answers. But if you’re struggling with understanding your trauma, some people find it helpful to think of it like a journey—maybe a very twisted journey, but still, an adventure of some sort. Some compare life to climbing a steep mountain: It’s a challenge, with many ups and downs.
Your experiences are your own; they are personal and unique to you. What you need to figure out is what your trauma has brought to your life—both good and bad. What have you learned? How have you grown? What has been the most painful? What happy times have you experienced in between the ‘down’ moments? How has your trauma formed part of your story? Afterall, this is your story of survival and although your trauma has taken a lot from you—it has controlled you in many moments—you have control over the remainder of your story. Tell it in whatever way you envision the rest of this journey to look like.
Stay strong, we need you.