Today is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. There’s a lot of talk today about how those who were liberated had suffered in that camp and many others. However, there’s surprisingly little about how that suffering is still continuing for many. Some survivors of the Holocaust suffer flashbacks and nightmares to this day. Time doesn’t always heal all.
You might wonder why the mind holds on to such pain and keeps tormenting us with old hurts. Surely it would be better if we could forget the pain and move on?
Some times we do, some times we partially do (lingers in the mind and can be brought up when reminded of the pain), and sometimes it stays with us far too much. Shouldn’t our minds keep the good times with us more than the bad?
However, your mind’s intention is good. It’s trying to store information that might help save your life. When it comes to survival we need to remember the danger of violence more than we need to remember the night we spent laughing with family.
If you know someone who has changed after a trauma, be patient with them. They might be angry, short tempered, distant from friends and family, always tired, just not the fun person they used to be. There are many ways your life can be changed by trauma. Usually we don’t know why it’s happening to us, or even recognize what’s going on in a friend or loved one when it happens.
Time will heal many traumas, but some get locked in. When that happens the suffering can continue as your mind tells you to feel bad at every reminder, trying to keep you alert and looking out for the same danger again. I’ve seen people who have kept pain alive for over eighty years before they were able to resolve it. Patience is important, don’t expect quick resolutions.
Be compassionate with those who seem locked in pain, who seem to linger in distress.Support them in efforts to find the right help for them. Don’t let their bad feeling push you away. Isolation often happens and makes things worse.
As well as remembering those who suffered so much 70 years ago, let’s also honour their strength and endurance by doing our best to support those in our midst who suffer because our minds lock in pain.
What can you do?
I think one of the greatest opportunities is that you don’t have to have the answer, but could you help the person in distress look for the answer they need?
Be there, listen, don’t push, don’t advise, but offer to help however you can. Don’t let people’s suffering push you away, don’t let it isolate them.
Would that be a small useful step? I think so, and I hope you agree.
“I remember Auschwitz every waking moment of my life’ – Ceija Stojka, Roma Survivor of Nazi Persecution.