Knowing how to support someone you love and care for after they have had a traumatic or terrifying experience can be challenging.
Although it’s normal to want to help someone you care about feel better, it’s crucial to accept the painful reality of what happened. Nothing you say or do in the moment can take away their suffering. However, with enough processing, grieving, and healing over time things can get better. Show compassion, sit with them in their pain without giving unsolicited advice. Your loving presence can comfort them in ways words never could.
Asking a family member or friend who has gone through a traumatic event in what specific ways you can support them. There are countless ways to give support. Here are a few ideas.
- Spend time with your loved ones experiencing trauma. Let them know you are there for them and sit with them as they grieve.
- Refuse the urge to give unsolicited advice.
- Don’t take any negative responses to the trauma personally. Their mood can be inconsistent and even aggressive at times. A helpful way to be supportive in these moments is through empathy and trying to understand how stressful such a traumatic experience must be for them.
- Offer assistance in practical ways that are useful to them such as household tasks, helping with any children such as supervision or school pick-ups/drop-offs and providing meals.
- Don’t be afraid to prioritize self-care, such as reminding them to drink water, eat or shower. In the same breath, it’s just as important to assist them in avoiding self-destruction, such as engaging in excessive substance use or abuse.
- One way to provide support is by giving your loved one(s) some space to be alone. This can be challenging but helpful depending on what they need.
How to Talk about Trauma
- Allow your loved one to talk about what happened, even if they become upset. Focus on listening and validating them. Refuse the urge to jump in and give your opinion.
- Refuse the urge to pressure them to open up and talk about it. Reassure them that you are there to listen whenever they are ready to open up.
- If they are not willing to open up to you then ask if there is someone else they may like to talk to. Refuse the urge to take this personally. Remember, you are there to help so try to keep giving them what they need the goal.
- If time sensitive decisions must be made following a traumatic event, offer help to your loved one. If they accept your help; do your best to guide them to make decisions that reflect their best interest. And make those decisions in a way you feel they would if they were in a different mental state.
Things to Keep in Mind
- It is highly valuable to do your own research on trauma, distress, and depression. It Is important to understand not only what to expect from your loved one during this time, but also to understand what they may be expecting from you.
- Allow them to talk when they are ready without added pressure or judgment. Make sure to empathize and allow them to see your tears, your anger in ways that let them know you care and are in this with them. Do not allow yourself to get to the point where they feel the need to care for you. If this happens then it would be good for you to seek help so you can process how the trauma is impacting you.
- You know your person. Don’t be afraid to offer them support in ways that you know how; in ways that you think they need it. You can do all this remaining respectful to their stated desires and their healing process.
If you have found this to be helpful and would like more help, then there is hope. New Vision Counseling and Consulting is here to help you. We are a team of highly trained therapists who care and will meet you where you are and help you heal and move forward. We start by making your therapy sessions safe and non-judgmental. We walk with you and give you the encouragement and resources to heal and start living again. The natural next step is to reach out by calling (405) 921-7776. We look forward to hearing from you and hope to meet you soon.