Shouldn't I be over this by now?

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If you’ve confided in anyone about the sexual trauma within your family, someone has probably told you it’s time to “move on,” to get used to your “new normal.” You might be questioning yourself about why you are stuck here. You may wonder it it’s wrong to continue to be so consumed by this awful reality.

 

In his book Life is in the Transitions, Bruce Feiler writes about “lifequakes.” He defines lifequakes as once-in-a lifetime events that require a major reorientation in personal meaning and functioning. His research indicates that the median time it takes to recover from a lifequake is four years. This means that half of those who experience a lifequake can expect their recovery to take more than four years.

 

If anything qualifies as a lifequake, it’s being sexually traumatized by a sibling, or finding out that this happened in your own family and home, or having the most shameful acts of your past brought to light. This lifequake is not a one-time event. The lifequakes of sexual trauma within a family come with numerous aftershocks. So the four-year mark is probably a minimum.

Give yourself time. Allow yourself to rest. Learn coping skills. Take a break once in awhile. Distract yourself with a change of scenery, something beautiful, something that makes you laugh. Get help, get support, get a therapist. But don’t let anyone tell you when it’s time to move on. They are not in your shoes.

 

And will you even know it when you’ve "moved on?" When you’re “over it”? When your life is “back to normal”? It can be frustrating to experience moments or even days of triumph, to catch yourself feeling normal--only to be followed by a day stuck in your bed of depression. In her memoir Bipolar Faith, Monica Coleman describes the journey of healing after a sexual assault as a series of moments of good feelings or normalcy. At first those good moments are few and far between. Slowly they happen more often; eventually they come close enough that you can string them together, remembering the last and expecting the next.

 

Grieving and healing from trauma is not a linear process. It comes in waves that hit when you least expect it. It involves cycling back around to the same place–often places you thought you had left behind. It involves sitting with whatever emotions you have, listening to your body, mind, and spirit. It includes reflecting, learning, processing and evolving. These all take time.

Move on in whatever ways you are ready, whenever you are ready. Take the good moments, the good days, as they come. Remind yourself that another one will come along eventually.

 

Elearnor Haley, WhatsYourGrief.com: The Myth of the Grief Timeline