If some of these memories are just starting to surface, chances are she’s also experiencing some of the old terror, sleeplessness, helpless fury and dissociated isolation from those days as well. The timing is probably right for her to start to acknowledge and integrate these horrific events – that’s probably why they’re popping into her awareness now – her unconscious has decided that on some level, she’s ready to deal with them - but it won’t exactly be a day at the beach for her to do so. Emotionally, this is going to create enormous discomfort and require a great deal from her.
The basic self-regulation exercises on the Panic Attack or Stress Hardiness CD would be helpful to her, along with Peter Levine’s Healing Trauma sensitive and well-designed exercises; and, when she’s ready and feels strong enough, my Healing Trauma imagery could be a big help.
And of course, that terrific standby, The Courage to Heal, by Laura Davis and Ellen Bass is the perfect workbook vehicle for her, especially if she isn’t ready for a therapist. As luck would have it, there’s a special 20th anniversary edition, updated and augmented, that’s just coming out about now.
If and when she does decide she’s interested in talking to a therapist, it’s essential that she find somebody who is experienced and skilled in treating posttraumatic stress. Just any therapist – even a good one – won’t do, if they don’t have this specialized knowledge, because treating PTS isn’t like anything else. Talking and thinking aren’t going to be enough – she needs right brain-based exercises, like imagery, meditation, body work, and more. (I spell all this out in my book, Invisible Heroes).
Online support groups could be great here, because she can sit in on discussions; get lots of de-isolating emotional support from others who know exactly what she’s talking about; learn a great deal from others who’ve found some pretty creative solutions and coping mechanisms; and retrieve a lot of her self-esteem, without having to participate directly or reveal anything she doesn’t want to. Survivors of Incest Anonymous is one such resource and a place to start looking.
If the perpetrator was your son, then this complicates your relationship and can’t be easy for you either. You may want to seek some family counseling with someone with experience in these issues, to make it easier for both of you.