Diane Langberg, Advice for Pastors on Trauma

From the Caring Well curriculum:

I encourage pastors to read a book or two about abuse so they have some understanding of it, as that will help them care for their own people as well as find them good counselors. I also recommend they meet with or at least speak by phone with a counselor asking them such questions as: How long have you worked with abuse victims? Any idea about how many you have seen? What kind of training have you gotten for working with this population? What experts have influenced your approach to this area? Are you a licensed counselor (a state license usually requires training regarding mandated reporting and ethics)? I have met with many pastors and some have apologized for their inquiries. I tell them a good shepherd will always want to confirm that when they make a recommendation that they have already checked it out. Please know that this work does not go quickly. You cannot damage anyone, and even more so a malleable child, and have that damage erased by a few words. Working with the traumatized is a ministry of restraint, of slowing down and of little by little. It is a small taste of our Almighty God becoming flesh on our behalf. He became like us so that we might become like Him. It is the ministry of small things, of going back for lost things. I have found the work to be what I call a front row seat to redemption—in two people.

– Diane Langberg

Henri Nouwen on Mourning Your Losses

“The question is not whether you have experienced loss, but rather how you live your losses. Are you hiding them? Are you pretending they aren’t real? Are you refusing to share them with your fellow travelers? Are you trying to convince yourself that your losses are little compared with your gains? Are you blaming someone for what you have suffered and lost?

“There is another option—the possibility of mourning. Yes, you can mourn your losses. You cannot talk or act them away, but you can shed tears over them and allow yourself to grieve deeply. You can never get to the joy if you dare not cry, if you do not have the courage to weep, if you don’t take the opportunity to experience the pain. The world says, ‘Just ignore it, be strong, don’t cry, get over it, move on.’ But if you don’t mourn you can become bitter. All your grief can go right into your deepest self and sit there for the rest of your life.

“Better to mourn your losses than to deny them. Dare to feel your losses. Dare to grieve them. Name the pain and say, ‘Yes, I feel real pain, real fear, real loss; and I am going to embrace it. I will take up the cross of my life, and accept it.’ To grieve is to experience the pain of your life and face the dark “abyss where nothing is clear or settled, where everything is shifting and changing. To fully grieve is to allow your losses to tear apart feelings of false security and safety and lead you to the painful truth of your brokenness and dependence upon God alone. Finally, you come to the point where you honestly can say: ‘Yes, yes, yes! This is my life, and I accept it.'”

Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Formation, 42.

Jean Vanier on the Rhythm of life

“While there is a waxing and then a waning in action and efficiency, growth can be continual at the level of the heart, of wisdom and of communion with God and with people. There are some precise stages in the growth of the heart. Tiny children live by love and presence — the time of childhood is a time of trust. Adolescents live by generosity, utopian ideals and hope. Adults become realistic, commit themselves and assume responsibilities; this is the time of fidelity. Finally, old people refind the time of confidence which is also wisdom. They cannot be very active, so they have time to observe, to contemplate and to forgive. They have a whole sense of the meaning of human life, of acceptance and of realism. They know that living has not just to do with action and running; they know that it is also to do with welcome and loving. They have somehow got past the stage of proving themselves through efficiency.”

Jean Vanier, Community and Growth, 104-05.