Most of us deal with severe post trauma stress at some time in our lives be it as a child, adolescent, or adult. These are times when we are afraid we or a loved one will be severely injured or will die. The stress may have come from a man-made disaster such as war (soldiers and spouses) and victims such as those in 9/11, sexual and physical abuse, or a shooting, an accident, or more and more, from a natural disaster such as a flood, hurricane, or earthquake.

But how many of us have known how to deal with these situations in a healthy way?

Here is weekly tip number one:

#1) If you have someone in your life you trust who will just listen to your story and your feelings and empathize with you without blaming and giving advice, talk to him or her. Unload, so you don’t keep all that stress in your mind and body. It is so much easier when you have a witness to your life.

But many people have no one like that in their life and they hold in all their emotions and tell no one about what happened. I had many clients, both children and adults who felt they could trust no one to really be there for them and to keep things confidential.

Do you know what several of them felt helped them most during that time? An animal. One of my clients attributed a squirrel to saving her life from suicide during the time she was twelve year old being sexually abused. Each day after school she would sit in the back yard and pretend to do her homework while she talked to a little gray squirrel in the tree. He would come back daily to the same spot to be with her. She could tell him anything she needed to and knew it would remain confidential. Another client talked to her cat that would sit on her lap and lick away her tears. Another young man who had been attacked on the University campus had a German Shepherd that went everywhere with him. Another child who had lost her parents in an accident had her bunny. And a veteran I worked with had a stallion he loved more than anyone and that loved him unconditionally in return. Another veteran had a little Yorkshire terrior that sat in the truck with him for hours listening to him while he delivered furniture. They were best buddies.

At present there are special programs that supply trained dogs as a companion and helper for emotionally and physically traumatized returning veterans. But you don’t need a trained dog.  There are many strays or family animals that will serve just as well.

Many animals have this intuitive sense of knowing when you are hurting and they are there for you, asking for nothing in return except food and love. No need to explain your feelings or what you are talking about. My dog is wonderful. When he sees that I am worried or crying he comes over and sits next to me with those doleful eyes and a question mark on his face. He lies next to me and licks me. I talk to him and he rests his head on my legs. That is true empathy. The real conversation is in the energy exchanged, not the words.

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