A traumaversary is the anniversary of a trauma in your life. For me this particular traumaversary is the eighth anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. I also have tramuaversaries at the times of my parents’ deaths.
I wasn’t too surprised to see that, after I thought of it for this post, the word “traumaversary” is out there on the internet. After all, it makes a lot of sense.
A diagnosis like cancer, one that severely impacts your life, is a trauma. The death of someone you love is a trauma.
But there are many traumas.
You might have traumaversaries connected with other traumatic life events like divorce (yours or your parents’ or grandparents’) or a break up or a surgery or a job loss or a move or a bankruptcy or when you were abused emotionally, physically, or sexually or when someone important to you went to jail or when your life was in danger.
Even if we’re not consciously aware of a traumaversary, our subconscious minds and our bodies are. We carry more muscular tension. We might not sleep well. We might be very irritable or angry. We might be depressed and stay in bed all day. We might want to do and do and do and do and wear ourselves out.
The trauma memory can manifest in many ways.
If you received a cancer diagnosis the day after Labor Day (as I did), Labor Day Weekend can be rough.
If your divorce was final on the 2nd of July, some years you may not enjoy celebrating our nation’s birthday on the 4th of July.
If you were sexually abused by a relative you only saw on holidays, then holidays probably aren’t the fun times for you as they are for others.
Even if we aren’t conscious of these traumaversaries, they have an impact on us. Because—on some level—we remember the pain and connect it with that time of year.
I start feeling the anniversary effects of my breast cancer diagnosis in August. Some years it begins in early August. This year it began in mid-August. It seems connected with the slant of afternoon light as the season is changing.
I realized a couple of weeks ago that I was imagining nearly every one of my physical pains as a life-ending one. Or at least a big-impact one. I was Googling every symptom, worrying about what it meant. I was feeling particularly anxious.
Now that doesn’t mean I don’t have a new health problem. But I’m aware that near a traumaversary, I’m more on edge and likely to blow things out of proportion. More inclined to worry about everything.
And after my double knee replacement on September 14th two years ago, I have a smaller traumaversary in September, too, since that surgery changed my life with challenges (and persisting physical pain).
A traumaversay can have an impact in myriad ways, depending on your personality. So you need to pay attention to see how it manifests for you. For me it’s usually a health concern (probably because these particular traumas were health-related).
You can be sure that the impact will manifest in a way that makes deep sense for you—even if it would make no sense for someone else.
So how do I choose to honor my traumaversary this year?
This time I’m honoring it my usual ways of journaling and yoga.
But this time I’m also honoring it by not pushing—not trying to make myself feel it. Also by not running away and doing to distract myself.
I’m honoring it by trying to be more present, by leaving openings to feel what I need to feel.
By not filling up my time with doing.
By leaving openings to feel the fear and the sadness and the uncertainty that a cancer diagnosis brought to me.
By leaving openings so I can feel the losses that cancer treatment imposed.
And also by giving myself a break, not beating myself up over whatever it is I think I need.
By allowing myself uncertainty.
Because sometimes I don’t know what I need.
And that’s okay.
Each traumaversary is different. Each traumaversary is its own.
I can’t predict what I will experience each year. Because each year is different.
So I try to be present with whatever comes up. And to remember that lots of what comes up is connected with this traumaversary.
And I try to remember that it comes up for my healing.
To allow me to heal the wound that is connected with this trauma.
Little by little, year by year.
Though I don’t know if we’re ever completely healed from traumas, I do believe we can make progress.
We learn and grow as we honor our most difficult times.
And we learn and grow as we realize that surviving trauma can contribute to making a resilient, compassionate, more wise person.
One who is wise enough to honor her traumas.