Helping Someone After a Trauma
It can be difficult to know how to help a loved one who’s suffered a traumatic or distressing experience, but your support can be a crucial factor in their recovery.
- Be patient and understanding. Healing from emotional or psychological trauma takes time. Be patient with the pace of recovery and remember that everyone’s response to trauma is different. Don’t judge your loved one’s reaction against your own response or anyone else.
- Offer practical support to help your loved one get back into a normal routine. That may mean help with collecting groceries or housework, for example, or simply being available to talk or listen.
- Avoid pressuring your loved one to talk and be available when they want to talk. Some trauma survivors find it difficult to talk about what happened and some fear talking about it could harm their relationships. Don’t force your loved one to open up but let them know you are there to listen whenever they feel ready.
- When the person opens up, listen without distraction or judgement. When he/she begins talking about the event, turn of the cell phones, TV, radio, etc. and listen without judgement. Think how would you or most people would have reacted in the same situation.
- Help your loved one to socialize and relax. Encourage them to participate in physical exercise, seek out friends, and pursue hobbies and other activities that bring them pleasure. Offer to take a fitness class together or set a regular lunch date with trusted friends.
- Avoid taking the trauma symptoms personally. Your loved one may become angry, irritable, withdrawn, or emotionally distant. Remember that this is a result of the trauma and may not have anything to do with you or your relationship.
- Objectively and calmly describe hurtful behavior directed at you. When your loved one, co-worker, friend, etc. says or does something personally hurtful, identify the specific behavior and how it left you feeling. Ask him/her to use a different way to address his/her pain or frustration, rather than direct it at you or others.