In our services this morning gave a reminder about the Living Hope Groups. These are for anyone and everyone going through trauma, and we have specifically offered it to those They kickoff a week from today, and I’d still love to see people attend. You can sign up here.
If you think I’m on a Living Hope Groups tear, I am—only because I see week after week tired people who are at 100% of their capacity with little time to rest. These people are trying to hold the pieces together on work, family, flooding, and life—and, while they do it, there isn’t much margin. These groups are a way of me asking people to make margin.
However, me wanting people to do something isn’t always enough (gasp!). Thus, I sent a list of questions to Michele Louviere, the Director of Counseling at the Celebration Hope Center near New Orleans Louisiana, about both the value of these groups and why even a skeptic should sign up to at least see what they have to offer. Michele has exposure to this material and also does training for it. Michele was kind enough to answer my questions Friday afternoon and I share them with you now . . .
What is your personal experience with Living Hope Groups?
I actually first heard about Living Hope Groups at a counseling conference. As a trauma specialist, I go into places where natural and man-made disasters happen. For some time, I have been looking for material for a trauma group that can be used post-disaster. Living Hope Groups are used around the world, and they have been researched to prove their effectiveness. I really wanted material that would bring together solid biblical teaching with healthy coping materials. When storms happen, we need Jesus to calm the storm and to heal our minds, bodies and spirits. Living Hope Groups will greatly help the healing process.
What kind of fruit have you seen these groups bear in the lives of those who have experienced trauma?
Living Hope Groups bring people together who need community. We actually heal in relationships- relationship with Christ and others. So often, trauma isolates us from the ones that we love. By having a safe place to heal, attendees can actually heal from their trauma and even experience post-traumatic growth. Trauma is overwhelming and destructive, but God loves to redeem our pain and use that pain for His good. As believers, we live in a world today that is increasingly painful. None of us like to hurt, and we are uncomfortable sitting with other’s pain. Attending this group will not only help someone to heal and learn healthy coping strategies, but also will provide wonderful training to be able to better sit with others’ pain, ultimately, bringing Jesus to our broken world.
What would you like families affected by the flooding in Baton Rouge to know about how they will naturally respond to this type of trauma?
Going through a traumatic event makes everyone feel a little crazy. It is normal to experience various physical, spiritual, behavioral, emotional and spiritual changes. People can struggle with lots of issues, such as sleeplessness, eating more or less, nightmares, irritability, startle reflex, intrusive thoughts, anger or distance from people and God. For most people, experiencing a traumatic event is a little like the flu. It takes our bodies a week to two weeks to calm down and return to normal; however, sometimes, we do not calm down because we don’t return to normal. It is very important to know how to take care of ourselves so that we do not develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. If you or your children do not return to a normal state, then please talk with a pastor or Christian counselor.
If the trauma is left unchecked, what might happen down the road for flood-affected families?
It is normal for post-disaster communities to have many issues in the months following a disaster. Because we do not know how to handle suffering, we try to avoid our pain in often destructive ways. Some people may overeat. Others may relapse or start to use alcohol or drugs to numb the pain. Other families will experience domestic violence and sexual abuse. God never created our bodies to have on-going stress. Eventually, that stress can create all kinds of issues, including health issues. Stress lowers immune systems, so people are more likely to become ill following a disaster. Children may have their own special challenges, including struggling to concentrate and learn. Sometimes, adults are so busy that they do not pay attention to their children. The divorce rates go up following disasters, so families are at risk.
How will these groups help prevent that the consequences of PTS and PTSD?
What we know from research is that we need safe places to heal. Living Hope Groups provide people a safe place to share and to learn how to handle the distress. We can heal from trauma. Our brains can actually heal! Being in these groups allows members to invite Christ into these broken places and to learn ways to encourage the healing of the symptoms that make up PTS/ PTSD.
What would you tell to the person who has experience trauma but thinks, “These groups aren’t for me?”
It is 100% normal to minimize our pain. Many of us believe that we can handle trauma on our own and would rather do anything than go to a group and talk about trauma. According to the Bible and to current research, it is very difficult to heal alone. In fact, the more isolated we are, the more likely we are to develop PTSD and the less likely we are to heal from our PTSD. It takes great courage to push through our natural desire to minimize or avoid and walk into a group with others who have suffered. Those who do are very grateful, because it is pretty wonderful to find out that you are normal and have great value to Jesus and to others. The quickest way to heal from trauma is to go through it not to wander away or around. I would simply challenge this person to try a couple of groups and see if the group has value for him or her. If a person says no to the group, then I would simply say, “I understand. It is very difficult to talk or think about our pain. If you change your mind, you can come to this group any week even if you didn’t go the first week. We are here ready to walk with you towards healing if you want to.”
Sign up for Living Hope Groups (starting October 30th) here.