How To Start Healing From Trauma – Part 1

Healing is possible. This 3-part series focuses on how. In Part 1, we learn about healing our thoughts.

Whenever I share my story, I’m inevitably asked the same million-dollar question: How did I do it? How did I heal from the devastating loss of my son? While my answer isn’t simple, it is clear.
Your path to healing is as unique as the painful experiences that brought you here in the first place. It will require dedication and exploration to find your own way through it.
It won’t always be easy. It may take time. Most importantly, you must understand that healing is a choice – and you will have to choose it over and over again. No one else can choose it for you. And it doesn’t happen on anyone else’s timeline but your own. If you are ready to choose healing, however, I’m here to help.
I’ve spent my life searching for the tools, mindsets, modalities and therapies that can help you along the way. All you have to do is figure out which ones work for you.To help you get started, I created this 3-part series that dives into the how of a healing journey.
I suggest starting here, by healing your thoughts, emotions, and actions. These seemingly simple steps set the foundation for your journey ahead, and in my experience, they can make a meaningful impact – if you choose to practice them.

Understanding the Healing Process

If you’ve been ready to heal the pain of your past – but you’ve been stuck on the how – it’s best to start at the root of the problem: thoughts. You see, transforming your healing journey from an idea into an action begins with the quality of your thinking. Why?
Our thoughts influence our feelings, which influence our actions, and eventually become our behaviors. Over time, these behaviors start to shape the course of our lives and our way of being in the world. Sometimes, we can even get stuck in this emotional state for so long that it starts to feel like an identity, like a story with the ending already written.
But your pain doesn’t have to become your identity. Your story can be rewritten. That’s where the how of healing begins. After all, if a single negative thought can turn into a life-altering narrative, then imagine what the power of a positive thought can do, if you choose to believe it.

How To Begin To Heal: Tools That Empower Your Thoughts, Emotions & Actions

Thoughts In my experience, the healing process begins by paying attention to the quality of your thoughts, and then learning to choose the ones that serve you from the ones you need to let go.
Once you’ve decided that a particular thought is no longer serving you, the final step is to intervene each time it comes up, and replace it with one that empowers you instead.
I understand how incredibly difficult this can be. After I lost my son in an accidental drowning, there were some really difficult mental images I had to overcome. For example, I had to walk away from the morgue with the thought of my beautiful, perfect little boy lying on that cold table.
At first, I was afraid that would be the only thing I could think about whenever I thought of Drew.
But I don’t think of him that way today. In fact, I haven’t thought of that image in years. Today I spend my time thinking about his life, his impact, and everything he’s inspired me to create.
Learning to choose my thoughts wasn’t a process that happened overnight. It took an intentional choice to think differently – and a whole lot of practice.
To help you learn how to choose the quality of your thoughts too, here are a few tools that helped me.

Thought Bell

Right after I lost my son, one of the most pervasive thoughts I battled with on a daily basis was: It’s my fault; I’m a terrible mother. In order to choose a different thought, I had to first identify the truth. I was not a deadbeat mom. I didn’t intend to hurt my son.
In fact, I was doing everything I could to take care of my two young boys while my husband was away. I didn’t have any help or support, and I was exhausted. I had a human moment, and I accidentally fell asleep. That was the truth. I wasn’t directly responsible for his death, and it wasn’t my fault – because I never would have chosen this.
In time, I realized I needed to let that thought go if I wanted any chance at healing or happiness in my future. So, each time that thought came up, I would ring a bell – I would cause a physical distraction – to shift my focus and stop the negative thought spiral. It was a tangible, everyday reminder that I wanted to take control of the narrative that ran on an endless loop in my mind and choose to finally put an end to it. While it may have felt silly at first, it was what I needed to do to shake myself out of that negative headspace and ground myself in reality again.


While stopping a negative thought in its tracks is the first step, the next step is to replace it with a better one. Every time I needed to ring that bell, I would then repeat this affirmation: I never intended any harm to come to my son, I am a loving mother. It became my mantra whenever I was tempted to go down that negative rabbit hole.
I would focus on it for as long as I needed to until my thoughts started to shift, until I started to feel lighter. If I was really stuck in a funk, I would start to get specific.
I’d ask myself: What did I do today that showed my love for my children? I was creating evidence to support my positive affirmation, so I could see that it really was the truth.
Once that practice started to come easier, I built on it with expanded affirmations: I’m a loving, capable mother worthy of sharing beautiful experiences with her children; I release any sense of guilt and shame, and I align with the truth that I am a good mother.
Over time, the punishing thoughts that had become the default narrative in my mind began to lose power. I realized I could shift things – I could pick which line of thinking I wanted to go down.
There was this beautiful moment of choice I never knew existed, and that made all the difference.

15 Minutes of Dreaming

I could have stopped there, interrupting negative thoughts and replacing them with empowering ones, but once I started to get the hang of this, I realized where it could take me. I started to imagine what my life could look like if I was able to find peace and happiness again. At first, it was hard. I had to give myself the permission to want to be ok again.

I had to choose to put the grief aside long enough to imagine what it might feel like to heal. So I started with just 15 minutes a day. I would set a timer, and until it went off, I chose not to think about or dwell on the pain, shame, blame, and self-hate. I would set those things aside, knowing I could pick them up again if I wanted to when my 15 minutes were up.

Eventually, during those 15 minutes, I began to dream of what it would look and feel like to live a life I only imagined was possible for me. I would ask myself: If I could create my ideal future, not forgetting this experience but not being hindered by it either, what would I be doing, and how would I feel? It was within those 15 minutes that I started to dream of a greater purpose. In my future vision, I could carry Drew’s story forward by educating kids and parents on water safety. By sharing his story, I could make an impact in others’ lives and maybe even prevent this from happening to another child.

The idea of that possible future was enough to clear my thoughts, lighten my heart, and give me the will to take the next step toward healing. Over time, I began extending my time from 15 minutes to 30 minutes to an hour, until one day, I didn’t have to set the timer anymore. My thoughts were changing, and that’s when I realized my emotional state was starting to change, too.