Beyond the Dark Night: Theological and Spiritual Resources for Trauma Recovery

Team Members/Contributors

Gillian Ahlgren Xavier University Contact Me

About this sabbatical grant for researchers

Although we may be keenly aware of the prevalence of trauma in our society today, we are likely to relegate the treatment of trauma to a specialized pool of psychologists, social workers or other clinicians. We may not have truly considered the “crisis of meaning” trauma survivors face as they struggle to recover their agency and reintegrate themselves into the human community. As Judith Herman’s classic work, Trauma and Recovery, elucidates: "Traumatic events call into question basic human relationships. They breach the attachments of family, friendship, love, and community. They shatter the construction of the self that is formed and sustained in relation to others. They undermine the belief systems that give meaning to human experience. They violate the victim’s faith in a natural or divine order and cast the survivor into a state of existential crisis." Given the depth and complexity of human need on the other side of traumatic experience, it is clear that a theologically-informed and pastorally sensitive approach to trauma recovery must be developed. How can we address the process of holistic reintegration of the psyche and human spirit once it has been “shattered”? How can we consider new possibilities for human and spiritual development when they have been repeatedly disrupted by violence and malice? Are there ways in which communities of care can restore hope and faith in the possibility of a love that gives life? What would such restoration look like for returning veterans, survivors of human trafficking, domestic violence, rape and other deeply traumatizing situations in American society? “Beyond the Dark Night” engages an interdisciplinary, intertextual conversation intended to empower trauma survivors and those who care for them with life-giving resources from the Christian tradition.