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How We Survived Trauma – You Can Too

Written by: Vance Twins, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Surviving a 100-foot fall. In 1984, Dad began hang gliding lessons, and life seemed good. However, as they say, good things are destined to end at one time or another. On October 20th, Dad’s hang glider collapsed in midair during his seventh high-altitude flight off Dog Mountain, causing him to plunge more than 100 feet into a ridge of the evergreen mountainside in Washington state. As a result, he sustained a severe traumatic brain injury, thus becoming permanently disabled. My twin and I were 12 at the time. Before the fall, he worked as an aerospace engineer for Boeing and was involved in many extra curriculum activities, such as volunteering for Boy Scouts and youth groups. As one might imagine, to see your dad no longer able to talk, walk, groom, or feed himself like he used to—and to lose his career jarred the family.

Man hang gliding with blue sky at the background.

How do we get hit by trauma and still be happy?

In the good old days of the late 1970s, my dad owned a total of 14 cars, which ranged from Jaguars to Cadillac limousines to Mustangs and Trans Ams. He also owned a motorhome, which housed our family of six during summer vacations. He parked all these vehicles under spruce and evergreen trees along his one-acre lot.

On the other hand, my mother was an undiagnosed hoarder. The hallways throughout the 4000-square-foot home were filled with a stockpile of name-brand shoes, brand-new handbags, purses, and dresses with tags still hanging, boxed-up jewelry, and flamboyant hats. So, you could say we were "rich," or our parents gave such an impression. But their biggest fear would be to lose such a fortune. And they did. (My memoir Twins Found in a Box: Adapting to Adoption is inspired by my dad, who lost everything but gained back something unexpectedly valuable.)

How do we go from riches to rags?

After our father's hang gliding accident, which left him disabled, divorced, and "penniless," my twin and I also faced this quandary as his supporters and caregivers. The pressing question had been, how do we go from riches–to-rags? Whereas most books on the market teach methods to go from rags-to-riches, I wondered, how do we lose and still be happy?

From tragedy to triumph:

Upon entering junior high school, my twin and I immediately accepted the role of dad's primary caregivers, and since that time, we learned to enjoy exploring various ways to recover from the losses life sometimes hits us with. After graduating from high school, it took several years for me to write a book based on our experiences. After four long years of trial and error and probably making every mistake "in the book" when it comes to writing, I finally finished the manuscript. Initially, I intended to share Dad's tragedy and triumphs, but somehow (as it had been looked at and influenced by others), I inadvertently divulged my own coming-of-age and identity process—a story I had no idea could matter at all. His injury became the catalyst for my self-discovery and a deeper dive into how philosophy can help you find unconventional answers, especially needed in a conventional world.

You will find your life's purpose through the most difficult challenges.

Sometimes when we are forced to see from the ground up (or the back alley), we are led to a healthier, more purposeful, and, therefore, more fulfilling life. Life's most difficult challenges become the seeds that guide us to our life purpose. Through the process of navigation and being given the opportunity to claim our authentic power, we become the person we were born to be. For myself, this evolution has led me to research and write numerous books. It led my sister to a career that uplifts and assists people from all over the world. For you, certain losses may lead you to the discovery of a new path or a different method that will bring you abundance from a new source. Regardless of what profession you choose, which could be based on a traumatic experience, how we live day-by-day can dramatically impact our emotional state.

Stress occurs when you're not following your calling.

If you feel stuck, take time to write down your frustrations. What is your biggest frustration, speed bump, or wall? Then ask yourself, how have you reacted? Have you been stuck, frozen in freeze mode, unable to move and improve? Or have you ignored your frustrations and run away from facing them? Maybe you tend to argue against the reality of the situation. We all have our coping mechanisms. Once you are aware of your particular habitual coping mechanism, you can recognize when you're reacting instead of responding, and it's easier to change your method.

Walk in awareness.

One way to move past and recover from trauma is to keep life as simple as possible: Reduce life to one moment at a time and hold each moment sacred. One way you can't go wrong is to choose care, concern, commitment, connection, and compassion; the rewards will come. How we respond to life's surprises can have a profound impact.

  1. Decide to take care of yourself. Be your own 1 caregiver.

  2. Make a conscious decision to give yourself concern. Remember, you are a vital part of humanity!

  3. Connect with others when you're able. (That'll help their well-being.)

  4. Be committed to merely doing the best you can. That's all we can do. If you're not perfect, so be it. No one is. Don’t ever criticize yourself.

  5. Don't be too hard on yourself. Don't judge yourself or others too harshly. Everyone is trying the best they can. Give compassion, and the rewards will come through reciprocity.

From my dad's 100-foot hang-gliding fall, I've learned that responding with care, concern, commitment, connection, and compassion are worthy reactions. But sometimes it takes conscious effort and practice, so don’t be hard on yourself. As habits, these traits can help us accept and adapt to life's drama and its trauma (along the way) during some of the longest and darkest hours, eventually transforming into a worthy life practice and a life filled with purpose and pleasure.

Inspired by the life of Allen L. Vance (November 13, 1930 - June 25, 2021)

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Vance Twins, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Rev. Dr. Janine, Philosophy, is a book doctor, feature-length screenwriter, and international award-winning author of many books, including Twins Found in a Box, The Search for Mother Missing, and Rise from the Dread. She also consults entrepreneurs on story development and guides clients through the process of publishing their books worldwide.

Jenette, a Certified and Licensed Occupational Therapy Assistant and Life Coach, was trained in Integrated Psychology and Applied Neuroscience. Jenette became a Reiki Master under the direct lineage of Master Mikao Usui, the founder of Reiki. She enjoys helping people learn about Reiki and develop personalized meditations catered to their needs.

The Vance twins have each worked in their field of expertise for more than twenty-five years. They recently joined forces to provide personalized guided meditations and host write-for-your-life retreats for busy people.



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