Trauma is a person’s emotional response to a distressing experience. Few people can go through life without encountering some kind of trauma. Unlike ordinary hardships, traumatic events tend to be sudden and unpredictable, involve a serious threat to life—like bodily injury or death—and feel beyond a person’s control. Most important, events are traumatic to the degree that they undermine a person’s sense of safety in the world and create a sense that catastrophe could strike at any time. Parental loss in childhood, auto accidents, physical violence, sexual assault, military combat experiences, the unexpected loss of a loved one are commonly traumatic events. (Psychology Today)
Below are a selection of books for ALL AGES that are designed to help the reader identify, process, and overcome trauma in their own lives.
Choosing Hope: Moving Forward From Life’s Darkest Hours (2015), by Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis. Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis is the first-grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School who saved her entire class of fifteen six- and-seven-year-olds from the tragic events that took place on December 14, 2012, by piling them into a single-occupancy bathroom within her classroom, mere feet from the brutal and indiscriminate massacre taking place outside the door. Since then, despite the unimaginably painful experiences she endured, she has chosen to share her experience with others, in the hope that they, too, can find light in dark moments.
Choosing Hope is a lot of things. A written witness to a tragedy that will never be forgotten. A gripping firsthand testament to the power of good over the power of destruction. An inspirational memoir by a brave young woman whose story is one of courage, heroism, faith, and resilience. And a celebration of all the people who make the choice to pass along their hope and positivity to young ones—parents, mentors, and especially teachers. There is no moving on, but there is always moving forward. And how we move forward is a choice.
Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal (2015), by Donna Jackson Nakazawa. Your biography becomes your biology. The emotional trauma we suffer as children not only shapes our emotional lives as adults, but it also affects our physical health, longevity, and overall well-being. Scientists now know on a bio-chemical level exactly how parents’ chronic fights, divorce, death in the family, being bullied or hazed, and growing up with a hypercritical, alcoholic, or mentally ill parent can leave permanent, physical “fingerprints” on our brains.
When children encounter sudden or chronic adversity, stress hormones cause powerful changes in the body, altering the body’s chemistry. The developing immune system and brain react to this chemical barrage by permanently resetting children’s stress response to “high,” which in turn can have a devastating impact on their mental and physical health as they grow up.
Donna Jackson Nakazawa shares stories from people who have recognized and overcome their adverse experiences, shows why some children are more immune to stress than others, and explains why women are at particular risk. “Groundbreaking” (Tara Brach, PhD, author of Radical Acceptance) in its research, inspiring in its clarity, Childhood Disrupted explains how you can reset your biology—and help your loved ones find ways to heal.
The Courage to Rise: Using Movement, Mindfulness, and Healing Foods to Triumph Over Trauma (2018), by Liz Arch. Whether or not we’re consciously aware of it, no one is spared from trauma. From catastrophic events to everyday experiences of traumatic stress, acclaimed yoga teacher Liz Arch is willing to bet that trauma has touched you or someone you love and may be affecting your physical, emotional, and mental health in surprising and devastating ways, causing symptoms such as anxiety, panic, depression, mood swings, fatigue, chronic pain, and digestive issues.
Following her own traumatic experience with domestic violence and an ensuing struggle with anxiety and panic attacks, Liz found her own path to holistic healing and became an advocate for those who have suffered from trauma. In The Courage to Rise, Liz shows how trauma changes your brain and inhabits your body, creating a vicious cycle of physical and psychological distress. She offers an integrated approach to take control of your own healing and reclaim your wholeness through movement, mindfulness, and nutrition.
The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity (2018), by Nadine Burke Harris. Dr. Nadine Burke Harris was already known as a crusading physician delivering targeted care to vulnerable children. But it was Diego—a boy who had stopped growing after a sexual assault—who galvanized her journey to uncover the connections between toxic stress and lifelong illnesses.
The stunning news of Burke Harris’s research is just how deeply our bodies can be imprinted by ACEs—adverse childhood experiences like abuse, neglect, parental addiction, mental illness, and divorce. Childhood adversity changes our biological systems, and lasts a lifetime. For anyone who has faced a difficult childhood, or who cares about the millions of children who do, the fascinating scientific insight and innovative, acclaimed health interventions in The Deepest Well represent vitally important hope for preventing lifelong illness for those we love and for generations to come?.
Everyday Trauma : Remapping the Brain’s Response to Stress, Anxiety, and Painful Memories for a Better Life (2021), by Tracey Shors. A neuroscientist explores how trauma impacts the brain, especially for women-and how we can learn to heal ourselves. Everyone experiences trauma. Whether a specific harrowing event or a series of stressful moments that culminate over time, trauma can echo and etch itself into our brain as we remember it again and again throughout our lives. By understanding how our brain responds to trauma and practicing proven techniques that can train our brains and help us let go of our tragic memories – whatever they may be – we are better equipped to leave our traumatic pasts behind and live in a brighter present.
The Five Gifts: Discovering Hope, Healing and Strength When Disaster Strikes (2018), by Laurie Nadel. Written with first-hand wisdom and compassion, Dr. Laurie Nadel integrates what she has learned from over two decades of working with people living with the aftermath of trauma. As a former journalist turned therapist specializing in acute stress, she shares true stories from forgotten heroes who survived such major news events as: September 11th, 2001, the tsunami in Bali, the Rwandan genocide, a political assassination, and random shootings. Dr. Nadel’s own life was impacted by the World Trade Center attacks of September 11 and she lost everything she owned during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Although you can never be fully prepared for a disaster, this book provides practical tips and tools to help you build the emotional stamina and clarity needed to cope with acute stress responses and emotional aftershocks. If you’re open to receiving the Five Gifts of Humility, Patience, Empathy, Forgiveness, and Growth, Dr. Laurie Nadel will lead you safely through the minefields of trauma to a place of peace, hope, and strength.
The Gift: 12 Lessons to Save Your Life (2020), by Edith Eva Eger. World renowned psychologist and internationally bestselling author, Edith Eger’s, powerful New York Times bestselling book The Choice told the story of her survival in the concentration camps, her escape, healing, and journey to freedom. Readers around the world wrote to tell her how The Choice moved them and inspired them to confront their own past and try to heal their pain. They asked her to write another, more prescriptive book. Eger’s second book, The Gift, expands on her message of healing and provides a hands-on guide that gently encourages readers to change the thoughts and behaviors that may be keeping them imprisoned in the past.
Eger explains that the worst prison she experienced is not the prison that Nazis put her in but the one she created for herself: the prison within her own mind. She describes the most pervasive imprisoning beliefs she has known—including fear, grief, anger, secrets, stress, guilt, shame, and avoidance—and the tools she has discovered to deal with these universal challenges. These lessons are offered through riveting and inspiring stories from her life and the lives of her patients.
As readers seek to find joy and some peace in these challenging times, Eger’s wisdom and heartfelt advice is as timely, and timeless, as ever and certain to resonate with Eger’s devoted readers and those who have not yet found her transformational wisdom.
Filled with empathy, insight, and humor, The Gift captures the vulnerability and common challenges we all face and provides encouragement and advice for breaking out of our personal prisons to find healing and greater joy in life.
The Parents’ Guide to Psychological First Aid: Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Predictable Life Crises (2011), by Gerald P. Koocher and Annette M. La Greca.
Does your young daughter talk endlessly about invisible friends, dragons in the basement, and monsters in the closet? Is your teenager about to start high school or being victimized by bullies? Is your son mortally afraid of certain insects or of injections at the doctor’s office?
Compiled by two seasoned clinical psychologists, The Parents’ Guide to Psychological First Aid brings together articles by recognized experts who provide you with the information you need to help your child navigate the many trying problems that typically afflict young people. Written in an engaging style, this book offers sage advice on a raft of everyday problems that have psychological solutions. The contributors cover such topics as body image and physical appearance; cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol; overeating and obesity; dental visits; the birth of a sibling and sibling rivalries; temper tantrums; fostering self-esteem; shyness and social anxiety; and much more. Each expert article provides an overview of the issues, offers reassurance for minor problems and strategies for crisis management, and discusses the red flags that indicate that professional help is needed. In addition, the book is organized into various categories to make it easier to find information. For instance, the “Family Issues” section includes articles on Blended Families, Divorce, and Traveling; the “Adolescent Issues” section covers such topics as Dating and Driving; and the “Social/Peer Issues” section explores such subjects as “Sportsmanship,” “Homesickness,” and “Making Friends.”
An encyclopedic reference for parents concerned with maintaining the mental health of their children, this indispensable volume will help you help your child to deal effectively with stress and pressure, to cope with everyday challenges, and to rebound from disappointments, mistakes, trauma, and adversity.
Survivor Cafe: The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory (2017), by Elizabeth Rosner. As firsthand survivors of many of the twentieth century’s most monumental events―the Holocaust, Hiroshima, the Killing Fields―begin to pass away, Survivor Café addresses urgent questions: How do we carry those stories forward? How do we collectively ensure that the horrors of the past are not forgotten?
Elizabeth Rosner organizes her book around three trips with her father to Buchenwald concentration camp―in 1983, in 1995, and in 2015―each journey an experience in which personal history confronts both commemoration and memorialization. She explores the echoes of similar legacies among descendants of African American slaves, descendants of Cambodian survivors of the Killing Fields, descendants of survivors of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the effects of 9/11 on the general population. Examining current brain research, Rosner depicts the efforts to understand the intergenerational inheritance of trauma, as well as the intricacies of remembrance in the aftermath of atrocity. Survivor Café becomes a lens for numerous constructs of memory―from museums and commemorative sites to national reconciliation projects to small-group cross-cultural encounters.
Survivor Café offers a clear-eyed sense of the enormity of our twenty-first-century human inheritance―not only among direct descendants of the Holocaust but also in the shape of our collective responsibility to learn from tragedy, and to keep the ever-changing conversations alive between the past and the present.
The Transformation: Discovering Wholeness and Healing After Trauma (2019), by James S. Gordon. In his role as the founder and executive director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine (CMBM), Dr. Gordon has created and implemented what may well be the world’s largest and most effective program for healing population-wide psychological trauma. He and 130 international faculty have brought this program to populations as diverse as refugees from wars in the Balkans, the Middle East, and Africa; firefighters and U.S. military personnel and their families; student/parent/teacher school shooting survivors; and Native American children – as well as stressed out professionals, stay-at-home mothers, inner-city children, and people struggling with mental and physical disorders and end of life challenges.
Dr. Gordon’s work is grounded in scientific evidence and timeless wisdom. Through his decades of first-hand experience, he understands that trauma will come to all of us sooner or later. That each of us has the capacity to understand and heal ourselves. And that the heartbreaking devastation that trauma causes can also open our hearts and minds to deeper understanding, enhanced meaning and purpose, and greater love.
Trauma and the 12 Steps: An Inclusive Guide to Enhancing Recovery (2020), by Jamie Marich. 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) have helped countless people on the path to recovery. But many still feel that 12-step programs aren’t for them: that the spiritual emphasis is too narrow, the modality too old-school, the setting too triggering, or the space too exclusive. Some struggle with an addict label that can eclipse the histories, traumas, and experiences that feed into addiction, or dismisses the effects of adverse experiences like trauma in the first place. Advances in addiction medicine, trauma, neuropsychiatry, social theory, and overall strides in inclusivity need to be integrated into modern-day 12-step programs to reflect the latest research and what it means to live with an addiction today.
Dr. Jamie Marich, an addiction and trauma clinician in recovery herself, builds necessary bridges between the 12-step’s core foundations and up-to-date developments in trauma-informed care. Foregrounding the intersections of addiction, trauma, identity, and systems of oppression, Marich’s approach treats the whole person–not just the addiction–to foster healing, transformation, and growth.
Upside: The New Science of Post-Traumatic Growth (2015), by Jim Rendon. Most survivors of trauma—whether they live through life-threatening illnesses or accidents, horror on the battlefield, or the loss of a loved one—can suffer for months, even years. But recently, psychologists have discovered that PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is only a piece of the whole experience. With the right circumstances and proper support, many trauma survivors also benefit after a terrible experience. They emerge stronger, more focused, and with a new perspective on their future.
In the tradition of Po Bronson and Paul Tough, journalist Jim Rendon delivers a deeply reported and unique look at the life-changing implications of post-traumatic growth. The pain and anguish caused by traumatic events can become a force for dramatic life change. It can move people to find deeper meaning in their lives and drive them to help others. But how can terrible experiences lead to remarkable, positive breakthroughs?
Upside seeks to answer just that by taking a penetrating look at this burgeoning new field of study. Comprised of interviews with leading researchers and dozens of inspiring stories, Rendon paints a vivid and comprehensive portrait of this groundbreaking field and offers a roadmap for anyone trying to understand how personal tragedy can lead to a more hopeful and positive future.
What Doesn’t Kill Us Makes Us: Who We Become After Tragedy and Trauma (2022), by Mike Mariani.
When his own life was transformed by the onset of a chronic illness, Mariani turned inward, changing his bustling, exuberant lifestyle into something more contemplative and deliberate. In this ambitious work of narrative reporting, he uses his own experience, as well as lessons from psychology, literature, mythology, and religion, to tell the stories of people living what he describes as “afterlives.” His subjects’ harrowing episodes range from a paralyzing car crash to a personality-altering traumatic brain injury to an accidental homicide that resulted in a sentence of life imprisonment. Their “afterlives,” Mariani argues, have compelled them to supercharge their identities, narrowing and deepening their focus to find a sense of meaning—whether through academia or religion or ministering to others—in lives sundered by tragedy. Only then can these people truly reinvent themselves, testifying to their own unseen multitudes and the valiant mutability of the human spirit.
Delving into lives we rarely see in such meticulous detail—lives filled with struggle, loss, perseverance, transformation, and triumph—Mariani leads us into some of the darkest corners of human existence, only to reveal our endless capacity for kindling new light.
What Happened To You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing (2021), by Bruce Duncan Perry. Have you ever wondered “Why did I do that?” or “Why can’t I just control my behavior?” Others may judge our reactions and think, “What’s wrong with that person?” When questioning our emotions, it’s easy to place the blame on ourselves; holding ourselves and those around us to an impossible standard. It’s time we started asking a different question.
Through deeply personal conversations, Oprah Winfrey and renowned brain and trauma expert Dr. Bruce Perry offer a groundbreaking and profound shift from asking “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”
Here, Winfrey shares stories from her own past, understanding through experience the vulnerability that comes from facing trauma and adversity at a young age. In conversation throughout the book, she and Dr. Perry focus on understanding people, behavior, and ourselves. It’s a subtle but profound shift in our approach to trauma, and it’s one that allows us to understand our pasts in order to clear a path to our future―opening the door to resilience and healing in a proven, powerful way.
This book is going to change the way you see your life. #1 New York Times Bestseller.
Where There’s Hope: Healing, Moving Forward, and Never Giving Up (2018), by Elizabeth Smart. Over and over, Elizabeth is asked the same question: How do you find the hope to go on? In this book, Elizabeth returns to the horrific experiences she endured, and the hard-won lessons she learned, to provide answers. She also calls upon others who have dealt with adversity―victims of violence, disease, war, and loss―to explore the pathways toward hope. Through conversations with such well-known voices as Anne Romney, Diane von Furstenburg, and Mandy Patinkin to spiritual leaders Archbishop John C. Wester and Elder Richard Hinckley to her own parents, Elizabeth uncovers an even greater sense of solace and understanding. Where There’s Hope is the result of Elizabeth’s mission: It is both an up-close-and-personal glimpse into her healing process and a heartfelt how-to guide for readers to make peace with the past and embrace the future.
Young Adult Nonfiction
Are you kind to everyone but yourself? This book will help you find the strength and courage to move beyond self-criticism and just be you.
Do you ever feel like you’re just not good enough? Do you often compare yourself to friends, classmates, or even celebrities and models? As a teen facing intense physical, mental, and social changes, it’s easy to get caught up in self-judgment and criticism. The problem is, over time, these negative thoughts can build up, cloud your world, and lead to stress, anxiety, and even depression. So, how can you start being nicer to yourself?
Written by psychologist Karen Bluth and based on practices adapted from Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer’s Mindful Self-Compassion program, this book offers fun, everyday exercises grounded in mindfulness and self-compassion to help you overcome crippling self-criticism and respond to feelings of self-doubt with greater kindness and self-care. You’ll find real tools to help you work through difficult thoughts and feelings, navigate life’s emotional ups and downs, and be as accepting of yourself as you are of others.
Learning to believe in yourself means being aware of the self-critical voice inside you, and then discovering how to not take it so seriously. With this book, you’ll learn how self-compassion can actually be a much greater motivator for reaching your goals than self-criticism. In fact, being kind to yourself when you’re struggling can actually reduce stress and make you more resilient!
So, stop beating yourself up, and start reading this book. You have an important friend to make—you!
Branches of Hope: the 9/11 Survivor Tree (2021), by Ann Magee and Nicole Wong. Remember and honor the events of 9/11 and celebrate how hope appears in the midst of hardship. The Survivor Tree found at Ground Zero was rescued, rehabilitated, and then replanted at the 9/11 Memorial site in 2011. This is its story.
In this moving tribute to a city and its people, a wordless story of a young child accompanies the tree’s history. As the tree heals, the girl grows into an adult, and by the 20th anniversary of 9/11, she has become a firefighter like her first-responder uncle. A life-affirming introduction to how 9/11 affected the United States and how we recovered together.
Reading age: 4-7.
Braver Than I Thought: Real People. Real Courage. Real Hope. (2022), by Luke Reynolds. Meet people who have had a profound impact on our world while bearing the physical and emotional scars born out of struggles and suffering, transforming their stories from pain to power in this inspirational middle grade nonfiction book about overcoming challenges.
In Braver Than I Thought, kids discover the true stories of remarkable people whose scars have been a part of their journey, who have helped them become the world-shakers and game-changers that they are! The engaging and high-interest stories include Black Panther’s Chadwick Boseman, war veteran and now-senator Tammy Duckworth, and beyond-belief rock climber extraordinaire Aron Ralston, who all endured intense trauma that led to pronounced scars, but also helped them forge purposeful identities as they came to peace with their bodies.
Readers will find that whatever the physical, mental, or emotional challenges that we face, it is not the end of a story, but rather the beginning of a new one.
Reading age: 8-12.
The Invisible String (2018), by Patrice Karst and Joanne Lew-Vriethoff. Parents, educators, therapists, and social workers alike have declared The Invisible String the perfect tool for coping with all kinds of separation anxiety, loss, and grief. In this relatable and reassuring contemporary classic, a mother tells her two children that they’re all connected by an invisible string. “That’s impossible!” the children insist, but still they want to know more: “What kind of string?” The answer is the simple truth that binds us all: An Invisible String made of love. Even though you can’t see it with your eyes, you can feel it deep in your heart, and know that you are always connected to the ones you love. Does everybody have an Invisible String? How far does it reach? Does it ever go away? This heartwarming picture book for all ages explores questions about the intangible yet unbreakable connections between us, and opens up deeper conversations about love.
Recommended and adopted by parenting blogs, bereavement support groups, hospice centers, foster care and social service agencies, military library services, church groups, and educators, The Invisible String offers a very simple approach to overcoming loneliness, separation, or loss with an imaginative twist that children easily understand and embrace, and delivers a particularly compelling message in today’s uncertain times. This special paperback edition includes vibrant new illustrations and an introduction from the author.
Reading age: 3-7.
Out of the Fires: A Journal of Resilience and Recovery After Disaster (2023), by Carrie Lara. After a fire destroys his home and neighborhood, a young boy must learn what it means to be resilient and to recover.
This inspiring journal will help victims of a natural disaster as they follow a boy who is healing after a devastating fire in his neighborhood. A journal filled with drawings, news clippings, and coping strategies, this book is chock full of information on cultivating resilience after a natural disaster. Things may never be “normal” again, but he discovers that he is resilient and strong—even when hard things happen. Includes end matter on the topic of building resilience.
Reading age: 8-12.
Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice (2018), by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, Ann Hazzard, and Jennifer Zivoin.
Something Happened in Our Town follows two families — one White, one Black — as they discuss a police shooting of a Black man in their community. The story aims to answer children’s questions about such traumatic events, and to help children identify and counter racial injustice in their own lives.
Includes an extensive Note to Parents and Caregivers with guidelines for discussing race and racism with children, child-friendly definitions, and sample dialogues. Free, downloadable educator materials (including discussion questions) are available at www.apa.org.
A New York Times #1 Best Seller, and a National Parenting Product Award Winner.
Reading age: 4-8.