By Violetta Reum
Sometimes we need distance in order to heal.
I believe that for us to move on from trauma, mistreatment or a toxic situation, we need to create some distance between us and the things or people who trigger us.
This distance is needed to make space and give us a much needed change of perspective.
Sometimes the thing that triggers us the most is a location or building.
The sounds, the smells, the sights trigger an old memory and throw us back into unhealthy nostalgia. Or the memories associated with a place are simply too painful and maybe even still, too vivid, to move on from.
I felt this way about the place where I grew up. I lived there for 8 years (11 to 19 years old) and entirely too many things happened on that small island. Everywhere I went, I was triggered by different memories.
But they were not just memories; so much emotion was attached.
I would find myself randomly filled with anger when passing by a certain place or I would feel overwhelming shame when seeing a building that reminded me of mistakes from my past. I purposefully did not make contact with my old friends because I didn’t want to be reminded of everything I regret from my past.
Despite my efforts to sever ties to my past, the location itself held a power that I didn’t foresee.
It is absolutely appropriate and healthy for you to admit when a place triggers you. Allow yourself time away from this place if possible.
It makes total sense for you to give yourself the distance needed in order to begin healing and resting from the place you experienced trauma.
Sometimes we need distance from people, as to not be triggered constantly.
I have seen this so much in my relationships. Especially when living in community, it is extremely difficult to find physical space, as well as emotional, since everyone is living in very close quarters.
I saw living in the same house with people as the ultimate, ideal opportunity to build deep and meaningful relationships. But sometimes people are just not meant to live together and constantly triggering each other is not healthy.
In these instances, distance is appropriate. Healthier relationships can be established when you take time and space away from each other.
Distance can really make the heart grow fonder.
Sometimes we need distance from physical objects.
Everyone has a box of memorabilia.
Sometimes it is incredibly special and brings joy; and sometimes it can allow us to continue living in the past. Sometimes even keeping these things is a form of self-sabotage as these items are used to bring up past pain and suffering.
We keep these things to remind ourselves to be careful, to not trust people or maybe even as self-punishments.
But we do not have to sabotage our own joy.
We can allow ourselves to move on; we deserve that.
For me, pictures are these items. I hate getting rid of pictures as they are a beautiful look into my past.
But looking at the pictures, especially of people who have hurt me, can stir up some very difficult and painful emotions.
I could throw away the pictures or burn them or cut the faces out (as my grandmother used to do). As cathartic as that might feel, it’s not something I want to do. I want to get to a place in my healing where I can look at the pictures and recall that person or that time in my life without spiraling out of control.
So I have found a place to keep these kinds of photos. They are kept in a box, not easily accessible, where I know where they are, but I do not see them often.
Once or twice a year I look at those pictures again, as a measure for how much I have grown and healed. Sometimes I notice how much easier it is to take them out, sometimes I am prompted in a new way which gives me an opportunity to process and experience deeper healing.
But I do not use these pictures to sabotage or punish myself. I don’t take them out when I am feeling especially raw or vulnerable.
Make sure that you are kind to yourself.
I want to take the time and space right here to give you permission to put some distance between yourself and the things that remind you of your abuse or trauma.
It is okay to move out of the house where vivid memories of trauma continue to haunt you.
It is okay to put some boundaries on relationships that are manipulative or toxic (you can always reconnect later, when you are in a less vulnerable state).
It is okay to take down pictures of family members that you are triggered by as you pass them daily.
It is okay. Because as you give yourself the space to heal, you are taking back control over your life, your triggers and your emotions.
And for that period of time, it is okay and appropriate for you to allow the distance to be your tool for healing.
Boundaries between you and the things that unrelentingly provoke you can allow for a moment of peace to be introspective and to allow God to pour a healing balm over your broken heart.
After, when your self-esteem and self-confidence have been restored, it is appropriate to evaluate these boundaries.
Until then, you have my permission to be kind to yourself.
Author: Violetta Reum
Violetta has always had a passion and calling to see people pursue God with their entire lives, find their calling and identity in Jesus, and seek deep healing from past trauma and abuse. She enjoys spending time with her husband and son and discovering all of the coffee shops and hole-in-the-wall restaurants.