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  • Writer's pictureRev. Kati Collins

Prayer in response to secondary trauma

Over the last several years, I’ve been assimilating a prayer guide for when tragedy happens far away from me or to someone else and it makes an impact on me. We all have strategies for coping with trauma, but the last few years have tested my abilities to separate what was in my realm of influence and how to identify what I cannot change or even what I have no business trying to change. When I have these questions, the trauma is usually secondary, meaning I am experiencing anxiety, pain and grief which has directly happened to someone else and only indirectly effecting me. Discerning what is and is not my business/responsibility—that is a different prayer guide, but this guide stems from a responsibility and innate desire to do something for those in need. Not all of us have extra cash to send at the drop of a hat, but then there is not always a place to send money or a need for money…so what do you do?

Sometimes our emotional response is connected with needs in our own community or even our own home. For instance, the tragic shooting in Highland Park added another weight of grief to our family. I trust that the injured are being cared for, and I’m grieving for the families of those who were killed. I do not have the intellectual solution to prevent these kind of events, and this is not a post about guns. When Robbie and I worked through the prompts of the prayer guide below, we identified a more immediate need for us to develop a family plan, if or when we become the witnesses to a tragic event. We now have a plan for if we were at a parade, if an event happened at their school and a few scenarios of what we would do as individuals and a family at church.

Something important we can do as community members is to develop our own plans in one hand and share kindness with our neighbors in the other. These are the things immediately available for us to do and care for our families. The other part of this is spiritual. Robbie and I shared these concerns with each other and we prayed for fathers and mothers of small children like us, wanting to make our community a safe place.

I shared this guide with my congregation on Sunday and today felt called to post this here for anyone who may find it helpful.

Daily Examen for Agency

(Modeled after Augustine of Hippo’s Daily Examen)

When tragedy strikes outside of your sphere of influence, use this prayer guide to listen for the Holy Spirit’s opportunities in your midst.

  1. Breathe and rest in the stillness.

  2. Become aware of God’s presence.

  3. Observe your emotions and write them down. What events have contributed to these emotions? What pains you most about this situation?

  4. Who is at risk outside of your sphere of influence? Who is at risk inside your sphere of influence?

  5. Lift up these individuals to God in prayer.

  6. Brainstorm ideas to reach out and let these individuals know that you care and value them. Make a plan to do one thing and schedule it. Pray that the Holy Spirit will open a pathway for you to listen to the stories of those effected and offer your resources to contribute to healing and renewal.

  7. Ask God to guide you through the day with hope.

Pictured: my prayerful response with Sammi to the secondary trauma of my sister’s dog dying suddenly. Amazingly, I think Sammi’s painting looks a lot like Rumble.

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