Individual Trauma, Collective Recovery: Re-cultivating Community for Effective Healing

Written by by Samantha Turley,
ERYT 200 BSY Denver Teacher
Follow @samanthamoves

We have endured, haven’t we? This past year has presented the world with an array of issues that many of us never thought we would have to face. We were put in our place by something much greater than us, something harder to swallow every day as the events continued to unfold.

We were relentlessly thrown into the gauntlet, essentially without warning, and have had to figure it out as we go. We were so comfortable before though, weren’t we? With our, what we thought were, secure jobs; our extracurricular activities and full social calendars; our go-getter, hustler mentalities and individual agendas for success.

“2020 will be my year!” You might have said this; I know I did.

Paired with the trauma of a jarring and unprecedented global pandemic, we found ourselves in the middle of some of the most intense and crucial social justice movements of our lifetime, from Black Lives Matter to gun reform due to the increase in mass shootings. Again, we have endured, haven’t we? 

With loss follows grieving, trauma, and then healing. As we continue to address the loss and trauma that 2020 has brought on (along with our already existing personal and collective unresolved issues) we have to think of ways to heal. Entering into Mental Health Awareness Month, let us acknowledge and be mindful of many things. For starters, not everyone’s level of loss and trauma will be the same and we must be cognizant of this. Your experience and reaction to what we have and are enduring will not necessarily be reflective of the person next to you in line at the grocery store. Though we have individual experiences with this loss and trauma, I believe we will find the most effective healing through collectivity. This time is an opportunity to cultivate true community – unity being the operative suffix – real sangha.

As I step back to evaluate where I am, where we are, I’ve noticed: we’ve only survived this moment in history, and many others, because of our ability to work together. We have had to rely on one another for answers, direction, advice and guidance even though this is something none of us has ever had to deal with before, or we’ve relied on each other to do the right thing, unlearn and relearn and push for social justice and accountability in our communities. We’ve gathered in groups and protests to have our voices heard, collectively, because we know at our core we cannot do these things alone. Living in this individualistic society has gotten us this far, but it is as a collective where I believe we can find healing, security and real, tangible change. 

So, as much as we have relied on each other to navigate these bizarre and sometimes horrific moments over the past year (and beyond), I believe we will have to rely on each other for healing as well. So I ask: Are you checking in on your friends and family that aren’t near you? Are you asking people, with genuinity, how they’re doing, how their heart is? Are you asking for help if and when you need it? Or offering help if you’re able to? Are you open to growth, change and the real work that it takes to heal? These steps start at an individual level and then spiral out, ripple out to every single person you interact with. If you can take a moment to fill your cup and have somewhere to give from, you are working wonders in your personal life and in your communal network.

I’ve personally had to step back (not like I had a choice, but I’m glad it happened) and evaluate my mental state. I realized that I was, and still am at times, angry, confused, frustrated, exhausted and hurt by what I’ve seen, felt, experienced and continue to endure. This goes from my personal life to the global stage, where so much negativity and hate brew. What I’ve found as the best cure has been two oppositional things: a combination of quiet self-reflection and interactions with my community. 

During these times, I encourage you to take your time. Take your time understanding your emotions as they arise and know that they are valid and true. Once you’ve taken that moment, assess intuitively what could help you navigate these feelings. Doing nothing, rest? Physical movement of any sort – dance, yoga, hike, bike, run; what’s your thing? Giving back to your community? Hanging out with your like-minded and understanding friends? Drop out of your swirling head thoughts; take a deep, full breath and let your consciousness sink into your heart. Listen. You are a force alone, but not alone in these feelings or times. Acknowledge your trauma, take the steps you need to fill your cup – this is not selfish, this is necessary. And with love and determination in your heart, come forward into your community and let’s reunite to find healing and progress together.