June 23, 2021

Trauma is not Just what Happened to You—it’s also what Didn’t.

“Trauma is not just what happened to you. It’s also what didn’t happen and should have.”

My therapist always seems to leave me with something to think about after our sessions.

This particular comment has been on my mind all day.

I’ve always had a hard time explaining my childhood in therapy.

Some things are too odd to put words to.

Others are too painful to mouth.

There is also the pain of having no story.

It’s this pain that seems to hurt the most.

You see, just like many of you, I have wanted one of those loving parents who is attuned to me and encouraging.

I have wanted this more than anything.

As a young child, I would dream that my first-grade teacher, who looked like Miss Honey from Matilda, would take me home and keep me forever.

I dreamed about reading books with her, making chocolate chip cookies, and reading her the stories I would write down in my little journal (Even back then, I loved to write).

I am not sure why, but this desire is still quite strong in me today.

It’s true that bad things happened to many of us in childhood.

It’s also true that a lot of things didn’t happen. 

You see, trauma is not just what happened. It’s also what didn’t happen and should have.

Some of us didn’t have present parents.

Some of us were not adored or encouraged to flourish.

Some of us were not held and soothed.

According to Gabor Maté, an infant will actually die if not picked up.

While the things that happened to us hurt, the things that never happened have likely hurt just as much or more.

I’m 29 years old, and I still want a Miss Honey to sign my adoption papers.

I want to feel loved by parents.

I want more than anything to call somewhere “home.”

While I can wish all I want for Miss Honey to come and I can get help from others in therapy and writing in various communities, I cannot take away what happened to me.

I can attempt to give my younger selves what I didn’t receive.

I can give them love and attunement.

Trauma is not just what happened to you. It’s also what didn’t.

Yes, we can get stronger, but these parts of us will always be tender.

I’m a doctoral student now in developmental psychology, and I think daily about human development and the systems that one is shaped by.

Positive parental relationships are important for the healthy development of an individual, but unfortunately, this is not the story for some.

While there is a lot that didn’t happen in my childhood, I’m finally getting these experiences as an adult working with a wonderful trauma-informed therapist.

She smiles at me.

She plays with my younger selves.

She models for me what children need—safety, attunement, and unconditional love, and in doing so, my tears are beginning to dry and my heart is for once beating with so much love for my life.

I hope all of you adults who have hurt children inside find a Miss Honey for a therapist like I have.

It’s truly made all the difference.

Keep looking if you haven’t found them.


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