How to reconnect with life following emotional pain or trauma

When you are stuck in the midst of a whirlpool of unimaginable emotional pain, and the memory of suffering swirls around your head, playing the movie in front of your inner eye over and over, and the excruciating sounds of suffering echo in your ears, and all of the cells of your body are filled with your emotional pain, there appears to be nothing beyond this agonising inner pain. Emotional healing, even just feeling ‘normal’, seems out of reach. So how then do you reconnect with life, and re-build a joyful life?

I truly believe that the very first step to reconnecting with life is the desire within to do so. Something in you has to really want that for yourself. It has to be genuine. You cannot kid yourself; you cannot pretend that you want it when really you don’t. No-one can do this for you other than yourself. There is no way around this step. It has to be authentic. No-one else can truly provide you emotional support that might bring about a lasting change for you until you have made that decision for yourself.

You do not, however, have to know at that point in time HOW on earth you are going to be able to do that. The how will come; it will follow your inner decision to reach for reconnection, for a life of thriving. The pathway or pathways that will help you to make that reconnection happen for yourself will show up.

When I made my decision to choose happiness for my children and myself I was firmly caught up in despair. This was four months into Mark’s journey of his illness and trauma; at this stage he already had multiple brain surgeries, and, being unable to move, more and more things started to go wrong with his body. The outlook, according to doctors, “was bleak”. I did not know if he would live or die, there were no clear answers and the not-knowing was extremely agonising. And if he lived, would he need full care for the rest of his life? I had no answers, only despair and exhaustion. But in the middle of all this something inside me compelled me to make my decision to choose something beyond the suffering and pain, to choose happiness. I did not want my children’s happiness put on hold indefinitely, paused until one day their beloved dad might come home.

I know deep in my heart that it was this decision that I made, sitting on my couch at home in a rare moment of solitude, that made my recovery and renewal possible in the long term. And importantly, it made it possible for our children to recover from their trauma. It did not take my pain away, but it added in something else. It opened the door to tiny snippets of joy, such as when I was hugging my children, a moment, even a nanosecond, of something else.

I have therefore placed making the decision to choose a happy life for yourself, to choose emotional healing, as my first signpost. It is an inner process. And I hope that by sharing my story of recovery from trauma that I might inspire you to make that decision for yourself to dare to say yes to you.


In a previous post I shared the story of Nick Vujicic, who was born without arms or legs. He knows despair first-hand. How did he get out of his whirlpool of despair and suffering? It seems that Nick turned his inner world around and connected for the first time in his life with the possibility that he could be happy and could contribute something to the world when his mother showed him a newspaper article on a disabled man. For the first time Nick realised that his uniqueness had a positive side to it: having no arms or legs placed him in a position where he moved people, where he speaks directly to people’s hearts. This means that Nick can have an instant heart connection with others, bypassing the formal logical brain based connection that usually is the first type of connection we have with a stranger. He is able to open people’s hearts, and that is a huge gift to give to others.

Obviously recognising and then connecting with this shift in perception of himself would have been an ongoing process for Nick that took place over a long period of time.

But there are some tangible events in Nick’s life that are proof of his incredible inner strength and optimism, evidence of his shift in perception: earlier this year, in February 2012, Nick got married to his beautiful wife Kanae. This video clip is a true testament to their incredible love story.

Nick Vujicic: emotinal healing and wellbeing despite extreme adversity



And now Kanae and Nick are expecting their first baby! Nick could not have possibly imagined as he was growing up that he would ever become a father himself. Even in recent years, as Nick’s wish to become a father has been growing, he could not have imagined the path his life would take in meeting and getting married to Kanae and then falling pregnant early on in their marriage.


What is the uniqueness about you that is borne out of your personal adversity and pain? Who are you today as a result of all of your life experience, especially the challenges and painful experiences that ripped your heart open?


Katrin Den Elzen

Recovery, Renewal & Reflection                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Making sense of change




How do you go about Emotional Healing?


Let’s say you have recognised that emotional healing is crucial to your wellbeing and a contented, peaceful life. But now you are faced with the million dollar question: how do you actually go about emotional healing.

The main reason why I want to share my personal story of the traumatic illness of my late husband and my own recovery from that loss and trauma is this: I would like to plant the seed in you that emotional healing is possible. I am not saying it’s easy or smooth or fast. But it is my hope that you might open the door to possibilities.

Today as I write this article I can say that I am happier within myself than I have ever been. This inner connectedness and fulfilment does not erase my pain of loss. But the pain of loss no longer erases my happiness. The two co-exist.

I feel so strongly about sharing my story of loss, recovery and emotional healing that I am writing a memoir about it. I believe that emotional wellbeing is possible, even after experiencing trauma. It is important to be aware though that emotional healing and wellbeing is not something that happens by accident. It is an art. Even the most talented artists don’t become masters without practice. Emotional wellbeing needs to be nurtured. It needs to be given attention and input.

There are steps that you can take to consciously bring contentment, fulfilment and joy as a state of being into your life. It’s a gradual process. Immediate change bit by bit. Also, remember, you don’t have to do it on your own. Emotional support is available. This may be through friends or a professional who is trained in being able to offer guidance, care and resources. When seeking emotional support from people that are close to you, be aware that your friends and family are emotionally connected to you. If they care about you deeply, your distress may cause them distress. Also, they bring their own set of beliefs and points of view to the situation you wish to resolve, and this may present a roadblock to your own recovery. This is not necessarily the case; it very much depends on the situation and the person. Friends can be an enormous support. You just need to be aware that they are not neutral towards the situation.

I had incredible emotional support from one girlfriend in particular. Whilst my husband was in hospital, almost every day, certainly every week dramatic and often traumatic incidences happened. Because he was locked in his body, unable to move  at all, so much started to go wrong with his body. His muscles began to contract wildly causing enormous pain. I was a layperson, without any medical knowledge. I would be given snippets of information from a registrar, then other information from a specialist and yet different info from a nurse. The most disheartening thing was the negativity from many doctors with which I was confronted, causing additional and unnecessary heartache.

Here is one of many incidences. My husband had a tracheostomy[i] as he could not breathe on his own. One day I was told that he could have the tube removed. This, I was informed, involved the physiotherapist slowly weaning him off the tracheostomy tube. The process was started. One morning, the registrar made a point to see me in order to tell me that he thought the removal of the tracheostomy tube was not going well and that I should know that “your husband may never have it removed”. This was extremely distressing as my husband’s transfer from the hospital to the rehabilitation clinic was conditional upon the removal of the tube. Otherwise – where would he go?? The thought of my husband living in an aged care facility at age 42 was too much to bear. No other facility offers rehabilitation such as highly specialised physiotherapy – and with it hope for any future quality of life. I was shattered and devastated by this news that he may never have it removed. Shortly after receiving this news, the physiotherapist informed me that the weaning process was going well. (Weaning refers to the process of learning to breathe without the tube). The tube was removed.

During these distressing times which occurred regularly and frequently over the nearly eight months that my husband was locked into his body I needed someone to talk to about my despair and shattered hope. I had never experienced despair in my life before. My girlfriend was always there to listen with incredible empathy. Not that many people have the gift to offer such a level of empathy. I was fortunate to have such a good friend who showed up for me in such a caring and supportive way.

I would like to share the tools how I personally recovered and healed from my trauma. There are tangible things you can do to address your emotional wounding. Here are 7 signposts to guide your way towards emotional healing and wellbeing.

1. Decide To Be Happy
    You must decide that you really want happiness in your life.

    No-one else can make that decision for you

2. Gratitude
    Appreciate whatever is wonderful in your life, however small, every day.

3. Releasing Resistance
    This is the path to inner freedom. It takes courage & willingness to let go.

4. Accept Where You Are Right Now
    Accept all of your emotions, desires & mistakes– they require no justification.

5. Embrace Your Emotions
    Your emotions are your GPS system into your heart and subconscious

6. Have An Optimistic Attitude Towards Your Life
     An optimistic attitude means that you expect good things to happen to you

7. Forgive Others Who Have Wronged You

     Holding onto blame and anger is detrimental to your wellbeing.

     Feel the hurt or rage when it occurs appropriately to an experience – and then let it go.


Every journey starts with its first step. It is much easier to walk a clearly sign-posted path than to stumble aimlessly through the bush. Your emotional healing will not happen overnight but gradually. Please bear in mind that each step that you take does make a difference. Also, remember to seek emotional support. We are social beings interconnected in a tight web with others. Emotional support will ease your process of recovery.

I will be addressing each of these points separately over the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

[i] “A tracheostomy (TRA-ke-OS-to-me) is a surgically made hole that goes through the front of your neck and into your trachea (TRA-ke-ah), or windpipe. The hole is made to help you breathe.”