Healing from Life’s Trauma and Set-Backs

Weekly Reflection Paper for Pastoral Care and the Shattered Soul class at United Theological Seminary, MN

by David Tillman – March 2014

Judith Herman, in Trauma and Recovery, writes about the three stages of recovery from trauma. She says, “The central task of the first stage is the establishment of safety. The central task of the second stage is remembrance and mourning. The central task of the third stage is reconnection with ordinary life.” [1]

Herman writes about the value of being in small groups to help in the healing process. She says, “When groups develop cohesion and intimacy, a complex mirroring process comes into play. As each participant extends herself to others, she becomes more capable of receiving the gifts that others have to offer. The tolerance, compassion, and love she grants to others begin to rebound upon herself. Through this type of mutually enhancing interaction can take place in any relationship, it occurs most powerfully in the context of a group.” [2]

After my divorce I got involved in the Mankind Project, a men’s group. After attending a powerful and cathartic weekend retreat, six of us men along with two leaders formed a group to integrate our experience. We met weekly for two years. After eight weeks the leaders left the group. During those two years I learned to trust these men with my stories, fears, and joys. Each man told his stories. These were stories of divorce, death of parents, a child in a coma for many years, death of a child, addiction, aging, anger, fear and much more.

I realized that my story and the stories of these men all shared a common human experience that comes from being born into a family, living in relationship with others, and the fear of dying. The love and support of these men grounded me back to my soul and restored my faith in God and others. I experienced the love and support from these men as we all began to recovery from losses and trauma in our lives. They are still dear friends as we continue to walk together on our journeys.      


[1] Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery – The aftermath of violence – from domestic abuse to political terror (New York: Basic Books, 1997), 155.

[2] Ibid., 215-216.

© David Tillman, 2014, rev. August 2020, all rights reserved. www.lifesjourney.us