We’re a few days out of the tragedy that occurred at UVA. Today on Active & Connected Families, we’re going to talk about how community trauma can trigger trauma from the past, whether this trauma is related to gun violence or something seemingly unrelated. I’m joined by Sarah Lewis who, as always, anchors me while she explains why old traumas can be triggered, the signs and symptoms of trauma and what you can do about it.

“You don’t have to be at the scene of the incident to be traumatized”
– Sarah Lewis

Retriggering old traumas

The closer we identify with the people who experience a community trauma, the more likely we are to retrigger our own past traumas. Our feelings get dysregulated and we emotionally and/or physically respond to these stressors. This can look like feeling more anxious, tired, irritable, or experiencing stomach or headaches.

When we think about retriggering old traumas, we can compare it with physical injuries. The part of our body that has been injured before will get injured more easily afterward. The same applies to traumas.

What can we do about it?

We first want to remind you that it’s absolutely okay to feel sad and scared. Being upset is a healthy response. But it’s also okay to feel joy during these times.

When start feeling upset, stop, take a breather, and be compassionate and kind towards yourself. We tend to want to figure out why we feel this way or where it comes from, but the truth is, it doesn’t matter.

Next, try to find comfort in some way. It helps to find an anchor in a specific person or activity. This can look like

  • Reaching out to a therapist. Even if it’s just for one session;
  • Meditating;
  • Reaching out to a friend. Preferably one outside of the community;
  • Finding a way to take action around the trauma;
  • Anything else that works for you in high-stressed situations.

In this episode on the impact of community trauma, we cover:

  • How does community trauma trigger our own old traumas and what does that look like? 
  • What happens to our bodies when big T or little T trauma is triggered by community trauma?
  • What can be helpful when old trauma is triggered?
  • And so much more!

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More about Active & Connected Family Therapy

Active & Connected Family Therapy is a mental health practice serving individuals, families, and our community. A&C is designed to help people at all stages and from all walks of life by offering therapists and physicians with diverse backgrounds and specialties via face-to-face, walk-and-talk, and telemedicine appointments. Throughout, we are committed to developing strengths-based, authentic, and long-lasting relationships with you and your children. We hope to provide you with the support and insight you need to help your family navigate life’s hard times and joys.

Are you or your child struggling with mental health? We have a team of psychologists and psychiatrists who can help you out. You can learn more about our practice or contact us here.

More about Sarah Lewis, MSW, LCSW

Within her own practice, The Lewis Practice, Sarah works with Children, Adolescents, Families, Elite Athletes (competing on travel teams, high school, college, and gearing up or in the college recruiting pipeline), as well as people in the lgbtq community. She takes a balanced approach combining support, warmth, empathy, and humor (when appropriate).

She earned her MSW in Clinical Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University and has a BA in Psychology from Randolph Macon Woman’s College where she was a two-sport athlete in basketball and tennis. As an undergraduate, she spent a year abroad and played international basketball. She has worked in a variety of settings including schools, crisis services, as well as inpatient and outpatient mental health. During her more than 25 years in private practice, she has also taught at James Madison University and served as an expert witness for the state and federal court system.

You can learn more about Sarah here.

Resources and links mentioned in this episode

Disclaimer: Please remember we are real live therapists, however this is a podcast and is not considered a therapy session. Not only because there is no co-pay but also because we can’t speak to your individual experiences. We are here to help you keep raising healthy kids. And remember, if you are an imperfect parent, we are right there with you. If you or someone you love is in immediate danger, please call your local crisis hotline or go to your nearest emergency room.