Reflections on Easter: Trauma and Resurrection
I grew up with a very strong belief in the Easter story, in Jesus’ murder, death, and resurrection and all that that meant for hope for my life. Growing up I clung desperately to hope for my life… because there were a lot of experiences that felt like life and death for me, and I needed to choose life. But the truth is I LIVED in terror and pain. And Easter was just a fantasy story of hope, that had no bearing on what I was living.
Regardless of whether you believe in the literal story of Easter, I’m struck this morning by the necessity the Easter story is for our world. Particularly the conclusion of the Easter story; the part of the resurrection, of new life, the rising of Christus Victor or Christ as Victor over death, the part where life, love and hope win. The part where Jesus was victimized, abused, humiliated again and again, and eventually murdered, and life won.
This morning as I reflect on this I can feel in my body how time and time again the energy of life and love has won in my life. I reflect on this energy of the resurrection in the organic, earthy, messy, trauma of life. You see in my counselling practice I am what I would call a trauma enthusiast. I know, strange term for something so very damaging. But I am this for two reasons; one it is the owning of our story, (conscious or unconscious) that serves in healing us. Two, trauma is a real part of almost every persons life in some capacity and I am completely fascinated and in awe of our human innate desire ability to heal. This is not to, in any way, say that innate equals easy, but innate does equal possible, and possible equals hope. And this hope lies in the same energy of new life, and of the resurrection in the Easter story.
Let me digress for a moment and focus on the term ‘new life’. The most tangible way to encounter this term is through the very earthy gritty experience of child birth. I have 4 children, 3 of whom are with me and all of which have very different birth stories. These stories involve feelings of being violated, oppressed, traumatized, empowered, and redemption. But for the sake of this conversation I am going to share a small part of the last child’s (Asher) labour and birth, as it has become a gift of the most practical outworking of healing and redemption, from trauma and abuse.
The hours which I worked with Asher to bring him earth side, were filled with fear, terror, strength and determination. I remember I had been working with him for about 3-4 hours in the hospital, I was sitting on the ball with my head on the bed as my husband tried to feed me a popsicle to help me regain strength. I started to feel an intense contraction arise through burning in my thighs, and I was so aware of the power within me and all around me moving this baby down, I was terrified; Life and Death terrified. Throughout my process of pregnancy, labour and birth I had vowed to myself that I would move into the pain not away, that I would feel the full vibrational energy of life trying to make its way forward and do what I needed to bend deep down into the force, the pain, and allow whatever the outcome may be. So this was the moment, this was the moment where I had a choice to surrender, in my raw, exposed primal state and I knew my baby wanted to come, but I was terrified. I don’t think I will ever forget that moment, I think it transformed me, when in the midst of my terror, I said to myself, “Danielle you have to let him come, you have to choose life”, and I surrendered to a greater power that was working in me, that was beyond reason or control, and in that choice I was transformed and redeemed forever.
Now without this becoming about birth and birth outcomes, and all the controversy we could enter there, I tell you that story to give you my real time example of choosing life, of choosing, though not truly knowing it, the power of the resurrection, of life and love winning in that moment. Of experiencing my innate ability to heal, transform and be redeemed in my body, heart, mind and soul.
My body woke up that day. Much like the story of Jesus after his surrender. And it has never gone to sleep again, in fact, it continues to wake up again and again. The waking I’m referring to here has to do with broad research on trauma that points to the ‘playing dead’ syndrome in order to stay safe. The impact of trauma being the loss of connection to self, particularly disconnection and dissociation from body and emotions to keep one safe, which continues on long after the imminent threat is gone. (The details of this are for another post, in the mean time you can check out Bessel Vanderkolk’s work if you are interested).
However, the pain from my life story is not gone, it is deep, but I face it awake with eyes wide open, I face it from the place of love and life winning as my body still aches. You see life and love winning does not negate the true real pain that is felt. The difference is I have both, and in the end life and love always win.
This is why I am a trauma enthusiast, because when we own it, when we move in, healing and transformation want to win. My eyes brim with tears as I think of how many times this has now happened in my own life. When a memory arises and sensations of terror abound I move in, and my body, just like in birth does what it needs to do to regain strength, hope and life. I am so very priviledged to witness this in my work over and over again, similar to a doula holding space for what the body was made to do, I believe LIFE will win.
So again, whether or not you believe in the literal account of the Easter story, I see it quite the same way as what I have experienced in this world. The fact that Jesus rose to bring us new life does not negate his pain, or the awful abuse he endured. He had both pain and life. Abuse and Hope. We have both too, the tension and ease exist at the same time inside of us, and in acknowledging and experiencing both transformation takes place. So this Easter weekend, or first days of spring and new life, I hope you can join with me in feeling the power that exists in you and around you, to have eyes to see that though terror and pain are present in our world and our hearts, life and love always win.