Healing work in the aftermath of community trauma

Families, like 6-year-old Malia’s, witnessed firsthand community violence, shootings and burning of neighborhood businesses following George Floyd’s murder.

Living just a few houses away from where George Floyd died, the family describes the time as “chaos, especially at night.” When the community around them turns unstable and scary, children often turn to harsh words, big actions and extreme bids for attention that can be confusing and unsafe. That’s how Malia communicated her fear and trauma — with aggression, rigid thinking, yelling and throwing objects. She was so scared that she had difficulty sleeping.

When she couldn’t express her feelings with words, she would kick.

It was exhausting for her and for her parents. Malia and her family were paired with a Washburn Center therapist who works with an evidence-based model of therapy that is designed to treat complex trauma in family-focused way.

Her therapist continues to work with the family, their attachment and relationships directly with the family in their home, a safe and familiar space for Malia. While trauma responses and pain are unique to each person, the family has worked hard with their therapist to create their own healing environment. They proactively talk often about race and have become even more sensitive and open to the experiences of Black and Non-Black People of Color.

Malia and her family have grown together this year – building a new foundation of skills as the community around them unites to dismantle racism.