trauma and loss

Trauma and loss can have a profound effect on your self-esteem. Trauma can transform even the most vibrant, out-going person into a shell of her former self. Many people are hesitant to label their experiences as traumatic because it’s not as bad as other people’s experiences. Each of us experiences trauma differently – and if it felt traumatic to you then you shouldn’t diminish that feeling.

If you’ve been through trauma, you might experience symptoms and signs like:

  • Being easily startled
  • Worrying about losing someone you love
  • Finding it difficult to trust others
  • Experiencing depression or anxiety
  • Developing nightmares or insomnia
  • Feeling unsafe even when you’re in familiar places
  • Struggling with visibility in your business

These symptoms can affect your self-esteem, causing you to view yourself as “weak”, “scared”, or “powerless”. But you don’t have to suffer…there are ways to recover from your trauma that can help you strengthen your self-esteem.


Find Compassionate Witnesses

A compassionate witness is someone who can sit with you through the difficulty of trauma and listen to your emotions. This might be a professional like a licensed counselor, therapist or coach. But it could also be a good friend who’s familiar with trauma or a loving partner who’s willing to wade into your deep emotions.

The important thing when looking for someone to walk with you is to choose a person that you feel comfortable with. If you don’t feel safe, you’ll have trouble opening up and talking about what you went through.

Focus on What You Did Right

Many trauma and loss survivors become fixated on what they should have done. For example, a woman who became paralyzed in a car accident may believe that she should have left earlier in the day or chosen a different route. But this approach keeps you rooted in the trauma, forcing you to relive it.

Instead, look at what you did right—you survived. Maybe that doesn’t feel like a huge victory today. Instead, it feels like a cosmic mistake. That’s guilt talking and it’s perfectly normal to experience this emotion after any type of loss. But just because that’s how you feel doesn’t mean it’s true. You’re still here and you did the best you could in the middle of a horrible situation.

When you say that you did the best you could, allow yourself to feel those words for a moment and notice if your body is resisting.

Forgive Yourself

Blaming yourself is an understandable reaction after trauma. For example, if you were assaulted while you were jogging one evening, you may blame yourself for being out alone or not having a way to defend yourself.

But that’s the thing about trauma—there’s no way to predict it. No one plans to be assaulted, have their home burn to the ground, or live through a natural disaster. These are terrible circumstances that can happen to anyone…regardless of what they do or don’t do.

Of course, it’s important to understand that forgiving yourself is seldom a one-time act. As you work through and process your trauma, you’ll most likely need to free yourself from blame again and again.

Find Healthy Outlets

Few things are harder (or more brave!) than coming to terms with trauma and loss. But it’s also exhausting and overwhelming work. You don’t need to do it alone.  It’s important that you have healthy outlets to express your feelings.

Often, art is a wonderful way to process your journey. You could try: drawing, painting, embroidery, journaling, pottery, writing fiction, calligraphy, knitting, cross-stitch, crocheting, sculpting, or rubber stamping.  Yoga is also a powerful way to move energy through your body.  

Rebuilding your self-esteem after trauma and loss is difficult. You’ll take one step forward and feel like you took three steps backwards the next day. This is normal and part of your progress. Don’t give up on your journey to recovery. You’re still worth fighting for!


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