• Jennifer Birch

The Best Books on Overcoming Trauma

War is such an immense disruption to life that it's hard to leave the battlefield completely. An article published by the University of Cambridge covers how disorientation from war over a sustained period of time can make it difficult for an individual to develop a sense of normalcy back at home. Often, the gravity of one’s trauma can be challenging to quantify, and with how unique these experiences are, it might be difficult to find empathy. When dealing with trauma, reading books or listening to audiobooks can be a meditative experience. Books validate traumatic experiences and their aftermath and illustrate realities about the difficulties of overcoming them. When it’s difficult to see nothing but the dark, books illuminate the brighter encounters that we have with people and experiences in our journey to recovery. If you're on the journey to overcoming your trauma, here are some books you can read.

Writing Into the Wound: Understanding Trauma, Truth, and Language

‘Writing Into the Wound’ is an essay recounting not only the author’s traumatic experiences, but how writing and speaking up about it has brought renewed pain. In framing her grief against broader realities like the pandemic, climate change, inequality, and political turmoil, Roxane Gay talks about how the present can aggravate traumatic memories. But she illustrates how empowering it can be to break your silence because only by reopening the wound and “cleaning it out, one word at a time” can you finally heal from it.

Forgiving What You Can't Forget: Discover How to Move On, Make Peace with Painful Memories, and Create a Life That’s Beautiful Again

To forget it is to dismiss your pain, and to remember it is to relive it again and again. But Lysa TerKeurst’s book is exactly about what its title suggests: 'Forgiving What You Can’t Forget'. In this book, TerKeurst recounts how quickly an encounter can turn your life around, and how much it can simultaneously clear and muddle your perspective. Using biblical texts, she guides the reader through emancipation—not completely extricating oneself from the truth of the past, but learning how to grow with it.

The Beauty of a Darker Soul: Overcoming Trauma Through the Power of Human Connection

In ‘The Beauty of a Darker Soul’, Joshua Mantz shares a unique experience that very few have had: dying and being brought back to life. But while strength, perseverance, and faith are essential to the healing process, the wonder of this book is sharing the vital role of others in the healing process. Joshua Mantz has said that “[a] big part of healing comes down to hope and what we do to deliver hope to each other.” In this way, he refocuses healing as a meaning-making journey involving the positive things that life has to offer.

Haunted by Combat: Understanding PTSD in War Veterans Including Women, Reservists, and Those Coming Back from Iraq

‘Haunted by Combat’ depicts the realities of PTSD, of having to cope with pain from memories shaped by death and violence. In it, Paulson and Krippner use first-hand accounts from participants in different wars across history to interrogate the nature of PTSD—its causes, its effects, and how to heal from it. In doing so, they provide empathy and resonance to those who need it, while highlighting the unique challenge of each experience.

Overcoming your trauma may mean having to relive experiences that you’d rather forget. Our article on the Heroic Hearts Project can help you re-centre yourself in the present by practising mindfulness if it becomes overwhelming. But when you need quiet companionship that can provide you with the empathy and understanding that you need, these books on overcoming trauma can help you.