Trauma Anniversaries: How Should We Handle Them?

Image for post
Image for post

There are many upcoming trauma anniversaries (if that is the right word to use). Holidays can be anniversaries; so can school shootings and marathon bombings. There are “COVID” anniversaries on the horizon, with the first case being reported (depending on sources) in Nov/Dec. 2019. That is NOW.

I think we need to reflect on all “negative” anniversaries that are in the offing and plan ahead for how to address them. It is not wise to let them creep up on us and then realize, “Oops, we need to do something as a means of commemoration.”

There are approaches and solutions to be sure but we have not focused on them. Let me be clear and blunt: Hiding anniversaries dates away or pretending they will disappear is a fiction with consequences.

First, we need to see the anniversaries as trauma retriggering events for many people. Second, we have to recognize the accompanying symptoms. Third, we need to reflect on how best to commemorate what occurred. When did it occur? Are the parties present in the same locale now? Have people died or left or graduated or moved? How was the event handled initially? If poorly handled or well handled initially, that can affect subsequent memorials. Fourth, do we do something private or public or both? That is just the start of the questions we need to ask.

In short, we need to think about trauma anniversaries in ways the produce the best possible outcomes.

In my recent book, Trauma Doesn’t Stop at the School Door, there is a whole subchapter on trauma anniversaries, at least an effort to recognize that we oft-times ignore them.

Image for post
Image for post

Of equal relevance and for those struggling to read right now in the midst of chaos, I am teaching a workshop at Rutgers Graduate School of Social Work on Trauma Anniversaries. It is Dec. 9th from 9 — noon (via Zoom). Registration is easy (you don’t have to be a social workers); the cost is fair. And the strategies proffered will be helpful to teachers, administrators, workplaces, non-profits, psychologists and yes, of course, social workers. Yes, there is a case study that allows one to apply learning.

Here is the registration link:

I have said recently that we need to exhibit self-care in troubling times. Well, taking a course and learning is a form of self-care. So, here’s a Thanksgiving thought: join me on Dec. 9th from 9 — noon and let’s get some tools into everyone’s hands so that trauma anniversaries can be handled with care and wisdom and forethought.

Til then, be safe, stay well and take care.

Written by

Author, Educator & Commentator; Former President, Southern Vermont College; Former Senior Policy Advisor, US Dept. of Education; Former Law Professor

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store