The Hierarchy of Processing Trauma
Are you freaked out, right now? Scared? Uncomfortable? There are plenty of reasons to be. But in all of our own feelings, we can easily lose sight of who is at the center of the story.
I just saw a post about a group of white women “discussing” the current climate around their Black colleague, and I want to speak to it from a trauma perspective.
In grief teachings, there is a model about the hierarchy of mourning, where the people closest to the deceased are at the center, and then there are concentric rings, with various levels of connection to the deceased—such as friends, co-workers and the greater community.
The idea is that you want to avoid processing your feelings toward the center of the circle. So, rather than leaning into the people who were closer to the deceased than you were, direct your processing outward to someone at the same level of grief or beyond.
In some ways, it seems obvious, but it is very common for someone who barely knew the deceased to process with a friend, family member, or even spouse.
So, while we are technically, logistically speaking, experiencing a “collective trauma,” right now, which includes not only a death, but many deaths, and MUCH more, please remember that we are each in different relationship to this trauma. For some, this trauma is ongoing and generational (more on that in the future).
I have adapted the grief model to trauma in this image below, since that is my area of expertise.
Remember, there are people you know who are likely much closer to the center of this story than you are. That applies to many of us.
For example, even if you live in a targeted area, you may still have white skin, so this experience will be different for you.
I am not here to tell you EXACTLY who is in each ring—who is closest to the center—because it will be relative to you and yours. And I’m also not here to tell you what to feel, how to feel it or how to mourn.
Ok, I guess I kind of am telling you the above.
But know that these teachings are based on compassion and awareness, so I wanted to share them with you.
This is simply an invitation into greater awareness—an invitation to process outward versus inward.