This analogy will help parents and caregivers understand the importance of discussing specific events surrounding traumatic situations or losses. They should remember the importance of talking about things a little bit at a time.
It is very hard to talk about painful things, and often children and parents try to avoid doing this. In fact, they say things like, “let sleeping dogs lie,” and wonder if it is a good thing to bring back memories of sad things. We tell kids and parents that if they had been able to put those memories behind them, children would not be having any problems. It’s like when you fall off a bicycle and skin your knee on the sidewalk, and all the dirt and germs get into the wound. You have two choices about what to do with that wound. You can leave it alone, not wash it off or put any medicine on it, and hope it gets better all by itself. Sometimes that works fine. But other times, if you do that it will get infected. Infections don’t usually get better by leaving them alone; they get worse and worse. Your other choice is to wash the wound out real carefully, getting all the dirt and germs out of there. That stings, it hurts at first, but then the pain goes away, and it doesn’t get infected, and can heal quickly. In the end, once an infection starts, it hurts a lot less than it would to let it get worse and worse. Talking about the traumatic situation or loss is like cleaning out a wound. It might be a little painful at first, but it hurts less and less as you go on, and then the wound can heal. Just like when you clean out a wound, if you rub too hard or too fast, it will hurt a lot more than if you go more carefully. It should never hurt more than just a little bit.
”Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Traumatic Bereavement in Children Treatment Manual"
From the Center for Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents, Department of Psychiatry Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh, PA