Trauma. We use the word to describe the effect of an experience that was horrifying, shocking, terrifying. It can range from something an outsider might find insignificant – to something so awful, it’s hard for others to hear.
In the wake of conflict and disaster, often the deepest scars are those we cannot see. As we respond, it’s essential that we address the toll on people’s emotional and mental health.
‘Life was good with my husband,’ says Oluchi*.
Oluchi lives in Nigeria – a country where internal conflict is pushing people deeper into poverty. She is a widow with six children. Two are at university, one is at teacher training college, and the three youngest are still in school. Oluchi cares about education. Before the violence that forced them to leave their home, she was a primary school teacher – before the trauma and sadness of events that shook her world.
Then the conflict came to Oluchi’s village. Armed men attacked and her husband was killed.
In a moment, Oluchi’s life looked different. ‘We were living well and in harmony with [our neighbours] before the violence that displaced us,’ she says. A violence that also changed Oluchi. ‘Life was very challenging,’ she said. ‘I harboured bitterness and anger.’
Weary and heavy laden
For a long time, Oluchi found it difficult to sleep. Hope seemed lost.
‘Thank God that I attended the trauma workshop,’ says Oluchi. She was one of 37 widows who attended. Through the workshop sessions, Tearfund staff took time to talk through these painful experiences and support the women in the aftermath of the violence that had cost them their loved ones.
One of the things discussed was the idea of forgiveness.
Over and over, the Bible calls us to forgive – as we have been forgiven. Not because forgiveness is deserved, or as a costly and self-sacrificing attempt at holiness, but for a deeply significant reason:
Forgiveness heals the forgiver. It brings restoration and peace.
Unforgiveness negatively affects our mental and physical wellbeing. Across whole communities, it can lead to social, spiritual and economic problems.
‘After we went through the session on forgiveness,’ Oluchi says, ‘I have chosen to forgive those who killed my husband.’
‘I can now sleep well,’ says Oluchi. She has her hope back. ‘I believe that my tomorrow and that of my children will be better than today,’ she says. ‘God has been gracious to us (my children and I) through thick and thin. I will serve the Lord as long as I live.’
- Thank God for Oluchi’s peace. Pray that he will continue to bring comfort to her and to others like her who have been through such traumatic experiences.
- Praise God that he does heal – minds, bodies and nations. Lift up those who are facing conflict and fear. Ask God for hope and rescue for them.
- Pray for our partners who are providing support to people in the aftermath of conflict and trauma – that they would have courage, energy and protection as they work.
*Name has been changed to protect identity