Trauma and Special Needs?

In the late fall of 2012, instead of driving to Michigan for Christmas with my wife’s family, I found myself in a small plane landing at a refugee camp on the border of Sudan and South Sudan.  Instead of subdivisions and snow, I was landing in a country of extremes… 

Thousands of people were fleeing to this camp as their own government was bombing their homes and soldiers were killing their families.  It was a place where it was uncommon to see a grandmother or grandfather because the youth were sent in their stead so there would be hope for future generations.

It was my privilege to come alongside a group of refugees, help them begin processing their trauma and to train them on how to come alongside others.  As tanks were attacking 8 kilometers from us, we listened to their stories of survival and death.  At first, the individuals were seemingly devoid of emotions.  Not only were there no smiles, there was no grief or tears.  Remembering the different concepts we taught was difficult and some of them struggled with just staying awake.  Most of the participants believed they had been cursed by God.

And you know what?  As the father of a son with special needs, I felt like I could relate.  I could relate to just being in survival mode.  I could relate to the numbness, to questioning God and his promises.

As time progressed, the refugees were able to share their stories with each other.  They were able to grieve.  They shared their pain through art, drama and song.  They were able to gain hope through God’s word and begin the process of healing despite a life of uncertainty. 

Does any of this resonate with you?  When you brush into people and they ask how you are, do you struggle with knowing what to say?  Are you struggling with unexplained mood swings, constant exhaustion? Maybe you too are wondering if God’s promises are true?  You are not alone.

Healing will take time.  It may take years or for some even decades.  It will go in phases.  At times, you will feel on top of the world and others, you will be in survival mode.  I encourage you to find that person to talk to whether they are a friend, a counselor or a group who gets it. Find someone who you can be real with and share your struggles with even if it seems like you are struggling with the same things day after day.  I would invite you to look to God and his word.  If his promises seem hard to swallow right now, start by holding on to one simple but profound life-changing truth…He loves you.