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Celebrating Survival, Healing And Resilience




Healing is not just about recovering what has been lost or repairing what has been broken. It is about embracing our life force to create a new and vibrant fabric that keeps us grounded and connected … keeps us strong and gentle … gives us balance and harmony, a place of triumph and sanctuary for evermore’. (Milroy, 2013)

The human ability to survive and adapt is amazing. People who have experienced trauma, especially interpersonal trauma (between people) have had things happen to them that should not happen to anyone.

Each person who has experienced trauma has coped in the best way they can. However ongoing and repeated trauma, especially experienced as a child or young person, can overwhelm a person’s capacity to cope. Such trauma forces a person to adapt to be able to survive and these adaptations are known as coping strategies. People adopt coping strategies to help them manage the strong feelings and changes in arousal which trauma causes. A person’s coping strategies become familiar and in fact often become that person’s default or automatic responses during more stress and trauma. These coping strategies enable a person to survive their trauma and can be seen as strengths that have protected the person as much as possible.

However, some coping strategies do not stay helpful long-term. While the strategies may have been protective before, they often become risks or have negative health impacts. For example, some people cope by using alcohol or drugs, by engaging in self-harm or have suicidal thoughts. Some struggle with rage and aggression. Other people might withdraw and avoid a range of activities and social events. Others shut down and dissociate. All of these coping strategies make sense when people have had experiences of trauma. It is important to understand coping strategies and their role, including in communicating the person’s needs.

When coping strategies that are no longer protective are identified, it is important to have the right support to find other ways to cope. It is critical to not remove coping strategies until you have strengthened your other resources. Your coping strategies helped you to stay safe in a dangerous world. You used them for a reason. But there are other ways that you can use to manage your pain and distress. But it can take time, patience and good support. It is critical to not be too hard on yourself because we can all go back to old patterns under stress or trauma.

Many survivors have been harmed in relationships and this can make it hard to trust people and to reach out and find help. This can leave you feeling isolated and alone, and as if you have only a few people they can trust, if any, to talk to or ask for help. It can be hard to feel and be safe but feeling safe is important wherever you are. Because complex trauma happened within relationships, healing also happens within relationships.

Learning to trust others, to feel safe and to turn to them for support is a crucial step in recovery. Doing so challenges the belief survivors often adopt that people are dangerous.

Trust your feelings. Choose people who are available for you, connected to you and who can engage you and your experience. This can include a counsellor or therapist who is experienced in working with adult survivors.

It can be helpful to keep a list of your support people and phone numbers including the Blue Knot Helpline and Redress Support Service number – 1300 657 380 (operates between 9am and 5 pm AEST 7 days/week), Lifeline on 13 11 14 for 24/7 crisis support, friends who understand, or your counsellor, or service. It might also remind you to do some activities that nurture you like remembering to breathe, having a cup of tea, going outside and being in nature, connecting with your pets, having a shower, listening to music, drawing, colouring in. Whatever it is that you find helps you to feel calm, grounded and connected. Keep your list on the fridge, on your phone, or anywhere you can easily find it. To find out more go to:

Many people can and do recover from trauma but recovery is a process which depends on a lot of different factors. A key factor is good support to help you process the trauma of hurt and betrayal to help build healthy relationships over time.

Our brain can develop and change in structure and function because of our experiences. This means that our brains can also help us recover from trauma. We call this neuroplasticity. The brain responds to social experiences and social experiences shape the brain. The good news is that neural growth and change can continue through life as a result of positive experiences. Positive interactions support the person to build healthy connections between the nerves in the brain and to recover. This can foster healthy development, functioning and secure relationships.

Many survivors go on to tell stories of recovery and of resilience beyond survival. Resilience means the capacity to sustain and respond to life stress, setback and difficulty. Many survivors process their trauma and come to terms with it. They ‘work through’ their traumatic experience so that it is no longer overwhelming. In fact, it is possible to grow beyond recovery.

Post traumatic growth is the positive change experienced as a result of a person’s journey through trauma. The capacity to survive and negotiate the challenges of significant adversity can promote inner strength and growth (Wilson, 2006). This process can transform a person’s reactions, world view and response to adversity.

Many people who have experienced trauma can also grow beyond their trauma. The ability to grow through the experience of trauma is sometimes called post-traumatic growth.

Tedeschi and Calhoun (2013) identified five main areas of posttraumatic growth:

  1. Better ability to relate to others;
  2. Seeing new opportunities, priorities or pathways in life;
  3. Developing a greater appreciation for life;
  4. Better understanding of the considerable personal strengths and abilities that enabled survival; and
  5. Creating meaning about the purpose of life and survival (e.g. spiritual or existential meaning).

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Blue Knot Foundation respectfully acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land on which we work and pay respect to the First Nations Peoples and their Elders, past, present and future. We acknowledge their strength and resilience to thrive as Sovereign Owners and are honoured to journey with them on the path to healing and reconciliation. Please be aware that this website may contain the names, images and voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may now be deceased.

Blue Knot Helpline and Redress Support Service1300 657 380
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