“I’m very thankful that I receive that much money,” she said, “but I also wouldn’t wish that on anybody.”
As a specialist in financial therapy who is based near Atlanta, Kiné Corder encourages clients to deal with the trauma separately. “You know it’s still there when every time the money comes, it breaks your heart a little,” she said. Consulting a professional can help, she added, but it is also important to rewrite your story about what the money means.
“If you just tell yourself, ‘This payment is a reminder of what happened to me,’ then that’s the meaning that’s attached to that payment,” she said. “If you can attach a different meaning to the payment — ‘Every time I receive a payment, I heal a little bit more and a little bit more’ — if you could say that, then that would shift your brain from thinking, ‘I’m so hurt. This terrible thing happened to me,’ to ‘I’m healing.’”
If the money is a result of someone’s death, Ms. Corder suggested using it the way that person would have wanted. Or, if it’s from a traumatic episode, the money might be best used for an experience that brings feelings of joy or power. You might also decide that you’ll give part of it away to help other victims.
“Shift that thinking to, ‘What have I gained now that this chapter of my life is closed?’” Ms. Corder said. “And really close that chapter. I know it sounds like you can’t close the chapter because the money is coming in, but the money is coming in because the chapter is closed.”
Once that stage ends, a new one can begin.
Such was the case after a truck going 65 miles per hour hit Elisa Hays, then the owner of a touring entertainment company, as she ran to safety from an accident on a two-lane highway in Oklahoma in 2014. The force threw her body 90 feet, where it was impaled on the center median’s cable barrier. More than two years later, after being treated for traumatic brain injury and kidney failure, having 20 surgeries, selling her business and enduring insurance fights on multiple fronts, she pursued litigation and received a large sum in damages.
“I was just so grateful to be done with what had been an agonizing emotional process,” said Ms. Hays, who is now a leadership speaker. “I just felt relieved for it to be over. And then it got weird. Trauma produces so many crazy emotions, from a grief response of losing the person that I was, losing my hopes and dreams and assumptions about my future, to a kind of euphoria that I’m alive and I’m going to celebrate by buying new cars. ‘I’m not dead; let’s go on vacation!’”