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The trauma narrative draws out resilience

Forgiveness on the path to healing

By: Kristian Partington

Person writing in JournalThere are a number of ways kidsLINK helps a young person begin the process of healing from the traumatic experiences that can all too often lead them into a dangerous future.

The path to healing, however, is entirely dependent upon the person.

For some, the act of defining a trauma narrative and acknowledging the adverse experiences that plague them can be an effective way to build upon the inner resilience of the human spirit and move toward new beginnings.

This can be done in a few different ways – for older children and youth it usually takes a written form where they share word by word their traumatic experiences as they remember it or perceive it. It can then be written down by the client or the therapist.

For younger children the trauma narrative might be played out in a sand tray, in a doll house or with puppets, etc. since younger children might have difficulties articulating in words their traumatic experiences.

It’s not for everyone, kidsLINK child and family therapist Gabriela Elias cautions, but in some cases a level of maturity shines through in these wounded young souls, allowing them to find forgiveness through the act of creating their trauma narrative.

Gabriela shares the story of a young woman she recently worked with who, by the time she came to kidsLINK just shy of her 18th birthday, had already endured abuse of all kinds, fallen into a dangerous cycle of drug use and violence, and had been on her own for three years.

There were few, if any, supports for this young woman, who can’t be named for reasons of confidentiality, but Gabriela saw in her a spark of tenacious will to move beyond the dark periods of her life.

“I saw a lot of resilience in her in terms of being able to recover from the drug addiction and understand that it’s because of the past trauma that she resorted to drug abuse,” Gabriela recalls.

The young woman had been abandoned by her mother and physically, emotionally and verbally abused by her stepfather in childhood, yet by the time she’d completed the program she’d found some semblance of peace and moved into her future with forgiveness in her heart.

“It was amazing to me, when she said she was able to forgive her stepfather and actually saw something positive in him,” Gabriela says.

“For me, this is the ultimate kind of stage for a client recovering from trauma, that they are able to put the anger behind them because they realize it’s hurting them; being able to forgive, not for the person who abused them but for themselves in order to heal.”

This strength of character and inner resilience was in this young woman all the while, Gabriela says, and the trauma narrative process was a means of drawing it out into the open. The path forward is filled with opportunities that may be easier to grasp for this young woman because the healing process has begun in earnest.

“Working with a young person who shows so much strength and resiliency despite her horrific traumatic events in her early life and being a witness in her healing process is probably one of the most rewarding experiences for me and exactly why I chose this profession,” Gabriela says.

If you have questions, comments or a story to share, please contact 800-294-0051, ext. 24, or e-mail kristian(at)