Healing from Complex Trauma: 6 Top Tips to Help You Overcome Guilt and Shame

Profile of a sad man complaining sitting on a bench - shame and guilt - complex trauma

Are you struggling with the guilt and shame associated with trauma?

Do you want to find healing and closure, but you don’t know how?

The following tips can help you with overcoming the guilt and shame of trauma.

Tip #1: Acknowledge your feelings

The first thing you can do to heal from guilt and shame is to acknowledge your feelings.

When it comes to difficult emotions such as these, it can be tempting to avoid them altogether. Yet, that avoidance keeps you stuck in the moment of the trauma. The feelings of guilt and shame keep lingering in the background, no matter what you do to avoid them.

Even if you try drinking or using drugs to drown them out, they will still be there. So, instead of running away from those feelings, acknowledge them.

Tip #2: Take responsibility for your life

Living through a trauma—whether it was a singular event or something that happened over a prolonged period—is very disempowering. You feel like you have no control over what is happening, and at the time, maybe you didn’t. But the feeling of powerlessness and lack of control can persist long after the trauma itself has passed.

Often, guilt and shame manifest themselves because you felt powerless to do anything at the time. And that thought keeps you locked in a mindset that continues long after the trauma ended. That’s why it is essential that you to learn to take your life back, even if it is in small steps at first.

Tip #3: Find closure

Closure can be a therapeutically beneficial way of resolving guilt and shame from trauma. One example is by having a “letting go” ceremony. The ceremony is your way of honouring what happened and to “let go” of the guilt and shame.

For example, let’s say you were in a car accident and your passenger died. You feel shame and guilt over what happened. You can hold a ceremony where you:

  • Acknowledged what happened
  • Voice your feelings of loss
  • Celebrate that person’s life

Such a dignified ceremony is a powerful experience that can help you find the closure you need.

Tip #4: Be creative

Art therapy is an accepted method of coping with many emotions, including guilt and shame. Sometimes, what you express through art is more powerful than that which you could ever express in words.

You can use:

  • Painting
  • Sculpting
  • Drawing
  • Photography
  • Expressive arts, such as dance

Also, don’t hold back with your art: share it with others, especially those who are most likely to understand and connect with what you are expressing. It will help you show your feelings and might benefit the other person too.

Tip #5: Try new activities

Guilt and shame can be motivators to try out new behaviours. For instance:

  • Volunteering with a local charity
  • Mentoring youth
  • Being an aide in an elderly care facility
  • Building trails or other conservation projects

Activities like these can be a brilliant way to dedicate your actions to someone you lost, possibly giving a meaningless loss new significance.

However, although guilt and shame may help get things started, they are not suitable to promote long-term behaviours. To move on with your life, you need to process your emotions and resolve those feelings fully. Otherwise, you will lose motivation for keeping up that new behaviour and slip back into old patterns.

Tip #6: Find acceptance

After a trauma, there is a “new normal.” Being able to accept that new routine will help with relieving guilt and shame.

If you’re unable to adapt and adjust to how things are now, you’ll keep trying to reach back to a time before the trauma. And trying to force things back to how they were won’t make things better: you will always be brought back to harsh the reality of the here-and-now.

Taking the next step

It is also beneficial to get professional help from a counsellor who has trained to work with psychological trauma. Working together you can learn to resolve your feelings of guilt and shame, so they are no longer such a burden in your life.

Yes, it is possible to get there, but it will take a lot of work. Yet, in the end, you will be able to find closure and overcome your feelings of shame and guilt.

If you feel you would like to talk with someone about what happened to you and the feelings that you’re experiencing, reach out today. You can call us on 0151 329 3637 or email enquiries@counselling-matters.org.uk. Alternatively, you could complete our online referral form, and we will contact you. Whatever way you get in touch, do it today. It might make a world of difference to the rest of your life.


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