We use the word “survivor” to embody having been able to live through some horrific circumstance: survived the holocaust, survived the Oklahoma City bombing, survived abuse of any kind, survived the floods in the South. The trauma that results in being a survivor is potentially long-lasting and changes the “survivor” forever.
There is no known template for how a survivor moves back into the world they knew before the traumatic personal devastation occurred. What we do know is that there is a loss of sense of self. The survivor cries out, either internally or externally, to retrieve that which is known and to replace the foreign territory with some calming, known remedy. Instinctually, we want a quick fix. We want to feel better and knock out the pain of the memories. The coping methods vary from survivor to survivor, with some reaching out to friends and family, others escaping through drugs and/or alcohol, some by becoming more private or introverted.
Yet, what happens if the survivor is a child, and does not have any skilled coping mechanisms? How do they grow up as a survivor? How have they remained hidden, and in that hiding, framed the very person they embody? How does it affect their ability to trust, their understanding of intimacy, and their ability to fully develop into a person who feels whole?
Their survivorship frames who they become, and affects whether they are able to have healthy relationships, be successful in a job, feel self-confidence, and just be comfortable in their own skin. We have many children who are survivors in our culture. They are now coming of age in a time where there is instability and fear. The culture mirrors what they feel. What they feel is real. It is important to help the survivors learn to change their perspectives, reorganizing the internal strategies of hiding and allowing them to be our teachers. They need a role that enables them to take that which hurt them and turn it into a model for survival. Their lives create the template of how they got in touch with their Lion of Courage.
We have all been children, and we have all survived. Perhaps it is time that we emerged into adulthood as being curious about the other and being teachers to all. Learning from others gives us a sense of knowing that we do not need to have all the answers. This gives birth to the template for healing and survivorship.