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“Trauma creates change you don’t choose. Healing is about creating change you do choose.” – Michele Rosenthal

  • A vehicle collision that leads to paralysis
  • A fall from a ladder that leaves you with a noticeable limp
  • A sports injury that ends your hopes of becoming a pro ball player

These are just a few of the life-altering traumas we see at WakeMed.

Mary Hamlin, LCSW, LMSW, is a social worker and case manager for WakeMed Patient Case Management and runs WakeMed’s Trauma Survivors’ Support Group for patients and caregivers. With extensive background in grief and bereavement and more than 20 years in hospice care, she has the expertise to support patients as they explore their trauma in a safe and supportive environment. Through her work, she has helped patients and their families navigate life-changing circumstances, so they can move forward in their new reality.

Hamlin says, “This group provides peer support to help survivors navigate very difficult and unique experiences with others who truly get it and genuinely care.”

At WakeMed, we understand the many physical and emotional difficulties patients and families face after a sudden, serious injury.

Trauma happens across the spectrum of life. While we acknowledge that there are different types of trauma — from childhood trauma to psychological trauma — the group is focused on those who have experienced a physical trauma that now encompasses the psychological and vicarious trauma of those around them. The group seeks to provide support to former trauma patients and their families to share their stories, foster connection and offer support and resources for seeing life in a new way after a traumatic injury.

Individuals who were treated in WakeMed Trauma Centers or any other hospital are invited and encouraged to join. Those who suffered a physical injury years ago that is still impacting their lives are also welcome to explore if the group is a fit for their needs. Evaluations and suggested referrals are available for those with long-range, complex situations.

Hamlin explains, “The patient and family/friends need support. Medical providers utilize people, like me, who have the time and skills to address psychological issues that come with trauma.”

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may benefit from the support offered through the Trauma Survivors’ Network:

  • Having a hard time concentrating
  • Becoming easily frustrated
  • Feeling overwhelming guilt or self-doubt
  • Feeling depressed, sad or hopeless
  • Experiencing mood swings and crying easily
  • Performing poorly at work
  • Feeling reluctant to leave home
  • Feeling afraid of crowds, strangers or being alone
  • Using more drugs and/or alcohol
  • Experiencing loss of appetite
  • Noticing tense muscles

At times, psychological trauma following a physical injury or illness can manifest as illness. In addition to seeing medical care, you may also benefit from joining the Trauma Survivors’ Network if you are experiencing any of the following:

  • Feeling disoriented, confused or having a hard time communicating with others
  • Having a hard time keeping your balance
  • Having headaches/stomach problems
  • Having tunnel vision/muffled hearing
  • Having a hard time sleeping

Caregivers are also welcome.

Many times, caregivers are not taken into account when they are not the ones who experienced the physical trauma. In a medical setting, usually the care is focused on the physical needs of the patient. Yet, it is important for patients and caregivers to know that needs beyond the scope of physical healing are not to be ignored.

For this reason, caregivers are also at the heart of our concern, and our support group provides an opportunity to open up and have some meaningful dialogue to improve the communication between caregivers and patients, so the caregiver can process the changes and the demands of caring for someone with significant injuries.

Fear can result in unhealthy communication patterns between a trauma survivor and a caregiver. Hamlin offers this example:

“A reminder pops up on the patient’s phone of a doctor’s appointment. This triggers fear as his mind races through possible test results, conversations with the doctor and potentially new medications. Shortly thereafter, his mom calls to check on arrangements for this appointment. These questions heighten his stress, and he responds harshly. His mom feels his anger and becomes upset. His fear has pushed her away.”

Our commitment at WakeMed is to treating the whole person.

WakeMed acknowledges that a patient is a whole person: physical, psycho-social and metaphysical (spiritual). Our multidisciplinary health care teams support physical healing. Our Spiritual Care team supports spiritual healing. The Trauma Survivors’ support group aims to provide tools to help people work through the psycho-social component in order to accept what has happened, how life has changed and how to thrive going forward.

Hamlin says, “Feelings are not right or wrong. They just are. Until people can accept the good, the bad and the ugly, it is difficult to move through them.”

So then, the primary goal of the group is acceptance without judgment to eliminate false expectations about the behaviors of others or the behaviors of yourself. People heal at different rates and process trauma in their own way as they traverse through the pain to recovery and hope.

This is a research-based educational experience intended to help people navigate life after trauma.

Hamlin says, “The main resources I have used are Taking Stock, which has provided the outline of topics to be covered, and Beyond My Battle in addition to others I have incorporated. Research-based information from different programs builds the loose outline for the day.”

Some people may be hesitant to join a support group since they want to forget about the trauma, but the opportunity to work through emotions in a safe way can help long-term. Plus, meeting with others who may have experienced those same emotions can be helpful.

Part of a traumatic experience is dealing with losses. Framing the experiences will give you permission to grieve. Only then can you acknowledge the pain and move forward.

“The tenement,” shares Hamlin, “is to normalize the feelings that come out of the traumatic experience. Some weeks are educationally focused with experiential opportunities to help work through the pain. Recognition of what is going on that is bigger than the moment will help normalize experiences. Grieving the loss is critical. Acknowledging raw emotions in this highly interactive setting where scenarios are presented from the viewpoint of the caregiver and survivor, provide a safe space to get well.”

Five foundational components provide the building blocks for the group.

  • Grieve the loss.
  • Acknowledge what happened.
  • Allow yourself to feel what has transpired.
  • Accept your feelings as valid.
  • Move forward with new understanding and encouragement.

“There is a therapeutic opportunity for all who attend. Helping people move from one set point to another is different for every person, but I have the experience to help facilitate that transition.”

Trauma Survivors’ Network Support Group is both in-person and virtual.

We understand that participants need flexibility as to how they will attend, and we are happy to accommodate. The group is in-person with virtual options for those who’d like it. Meetings are at Raleigh Campus in a conference room between Patient Units 6A and 6B. The entrance is in a sitting area and is accessible to the trauma floor.

Attend In Person or Join Virtually!

Offered the Fourth Friday of Every Month

1 to 2 pm

WakeMed Raleigh Campus, 6B

3000 New Bern Avenue, Raleigh

Parking is in the P1 visitor deck. View the map now or ask for one at the front desk when you enter the hospital.

Interested patients and families may join the group at any time and attend as needed.

  • To join from a mobile device, dial 415-655-0001, access code 23004456605.
  • For questions or more information, email Mary Hamlin, LCSW, at MHAMLIN@wakemed.org.
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WakeMed Health & Hospitals