Today Michelle Hieb walks us through how to handle life when trauma strikes using the power of prayer, the gift of therapy, and counting on your community.
When Trauma Strikes
by Michelle Hieb
Trauma, it doesn’t just happen on the battlefield.
Is it even possible to avoid being traumatized by the traumatic experiences of life?
When Trauma Struck Me
On Father’s Day 2021, my husband was hospitalized with a Covid19 infection at our duty station in Missouri.
An ER visit led to a six-month hospitalization which included:
-a transfer to an ICU
-a phone call for the family to come and say goodbye
-stabilization and transfer to a higher level ICU and ECMO two hours away
-another transfer to Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas
-a move to a Long Term Acute Care Hospital and back to Brooke Army Medical Center.
I left Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, to be with my husband at the ECMO hospital and didn’t return for nearly six months. I flew with him on a C130 transport surrounded by a multi-branch team of medical and flight personnel, all with the mission of saving my husband’s life. For nearly five months, I lived in Fisher House. Finally, I was joined by my daughter, who was able to switch her college classes to online. Our 19 and 17-year-old sons remained in Missouri, holding down the homefront, and our oldest son returned to college.
As a Religious Affairs Specialist (the enlisted side of the Army Chaplain Corps) and active in our chapel community throughout our 20 years of service, our family was privileged to receive training on various mental and spiritual health topics. My degree in Psychology also gave me some background in mental health. Because of this, we had some tools in our toolbox to manage the everyday stress of life, but this was uncharted territory.
When Trauma Strikes: The Power of Prayer
Prayer and writing out my thoughts and feelings are two healthy things that have always helped me cope. From the beginning, I asked others to pray for us, first just our local community and a few close friends. o ask for prayer, I had to acknowledge that I couldn’t handle this alone.
As things progressed, I went online, asking everyone we knew and everyone they knew to pray. Instead of journaling only for myself, I wrote daily posts online updating about our prayer requests and processing the emotions I was experiencing. My daughter and I would take time each evening to converse and process the day’s experiences, giving each other space to laugh and cry. We each had people we could call as well. We promised each other that as soon as we were out of the hospital, we would go to therapy.
When Trauma Strikes: The Gift of Therapy
Honestly, it wasn’t until November of 2021, when I told a new acquaintance what we’d been dealing with the prior months, that I genuinely acknowledged to myself the severity of what we were going through.
I was so busy surviving I’d given little thought to the fact we all had!
When my husband was finally released from the hospital one week before Christmas, our entire family PCSed to Texas.
- I called Army One Source and found a therapist I could meet with virtually.
- My youngest son chose to meet with our Social Worker assigned by the Soldier Recovery Unit.
- My daughter met with a counselor through her university.
- Together my husband and I met with the base Family Life Chaplain.
Through this, we could unpack the prior months’ events and learn to recognize signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression that we thought were just “parts of life.” For me, this meant an inability to sit down and enjoy a show, read a book, or craft, activities I once enjoyed. Instead, my mind was continually filled with to-do lists, problem-solving, and caring for my now-disabled husband. I’d always thought these endless thoughts were part of being a woman, not a sign of anxiety!
My therapist helped me explore new tools to reduce anxious thoughts, set boundaries and release tasks to other family members. I also learned no to be ashamed of my tears. I’ve always been a crier. I cry when I’m happy, sad, or angry. Because tears can make others uncomfortable, I learned to either hold mine in or hide. Now, for the most part, I will let them flow.
When Trauma Strikes: Community Counts
One hard thing for me was to receive physical help for our community:
- house chores
- cash to cover new expenses
It was hard to receive what I would happily give others. Receiving gifts, including prayers, taught me to look constantly for how God was answering our requests and to thank him for every good thing (even if it’s something small like my favorite snack being stocked in the vending machine) before I told him my frustrations, fears, and hurts.
The more I look for him working, the more I see it.
The more I see it, the more hope I have.
The more hope, the more faith that God will keep his promises.
The Bible tells us we will have hard times; we will suffer. The Bible also tells us God will never leave nor forsake us. He is present with us in every circumstance, especially in the storms of life, which sometimes seem to conceal his presence.
Trauma will happen, but with God’s help, we can face it and heal.
Lord, thank you for the gift of your presence. Help my sisters to receive your help and healing for the Hard things in their life. Lord, help them to face their trauma so that it won’t become traumatizing and instead become a testimony of your goodness and faithfulness. Amen
Notes and Resources
- Click here to see our Month of the Military Child Resource.
- Click here to see our Women’s History Month Resource List.
- Click here to see our Heart Healthy Relationship Resource List.
- Click here to see our Women’s Empowerment Resource List.
- Check out this post if you want a reminder of what our Faith Full Friday series is all about.