Supporting a Loved One After Trauma

Trauma can shatter a person's world, leaving them struggling to rebuild. When someone you care about has experienced a traumatic event, such as the sudden loss of a loved one, surviving violence or abuse, enduring persistent harassment or bullying, experiencing profound betrayal from someone they trusted, or surviving a severe accident or natural disaster, you might find their behavior and emotions have drastically changed. It's essential to be there for them as they navigate this challenging journey to healing.

Understanding Trauma  

Trauma occurs when an event overwhelms a person's capacity to cope with the psychological, emotional, and physical aspects of the experience. Imagine a once-inflated balloon deflating, symbolizing how their ability to function may decrease from 100% to around 40%.   

Your Vital Role as a Supportive Partner, Friend or Family Member

Your support can be crucial in helping them cope and heal. Here are some keyways to provide effective support:  

Listen Actively: Offer a listening ear without judgment. Let them share their feelings and experiences when they're ready. 

Example: "Whenever you're ready to talk, I'm here to listen without judgment. Your feelings matter."  

Be Patient: Understand that healing from trauma takes time. Be patient and respectful of their pace of recovery. 

Example: "Healing from trauma takes time, and I want you to know that I'm here for you at your own pace. I'll be patient and understanding."  

Respect Boundaries: Recognize their need for space and boundaries. Let them control the pace of their recovery. 

Example: "I understand you need space right now. Just know that I'm here whenever you're ready to reach out."  

Avoid Pushing for Details: Don't pressure them to recount the traumatic event if they're not ready. 

Example: "You don't have to share the details if you're not ready. I respect your choice and am here to support you regardless."  

Offer Practical Help: Ask if you can assist with daily tasks or responsibilities. 

Example: "Is there anything specific I can do to make things easier for you today? I'm here to help with anything you need."  

Encourage Professional Help: Suggest seeking therapy from a trauma specialist if they haven't already. 

Example: "I've heard that speaking with a therapist can be really beneficial in times like this. I'd be happy to help you find one if you're interested."  

Educate Yourself: Learn about the effects of trauma to better understand their experience. 

Example: "I've been trying to learn more about trauma and its effects so I can better understand what you're going through."  

Avoid Trivializing or Minimizing: Refrain from comparing their experience to others or minimizing their feelings. 

Example: "I won't compare your experience to anyone else's or minimize what you're going through. Your feelings are important."  

Provide Stability: Create a sense of routine and predictability in their life if they're open to it. 

Example: "If you'd like, we can create a daily routine to add some stability to your life. What do you think about that?"  

Offer Emotional Support: Reassure them of your support, even when they don't want to talk. 

Example: "Even if you don't want to talk, I want you to know that I'm here for you, offering my support and understanding."  

Your support can be a lifeline for your loved one during this challenging time. Remember, your presence and empathy make a significant difference in their healing journey.

Deborah  Buthmann

Deborah Buthmann

Registered Clinical Counsellor

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