When choosing a therapist, it is important to consider their Areas of Practice. specializes in:

When choosing a therapist, it is important to consider their Areas of Practice. specializes in:

When choosing a therapist, it is important to consider their Areas of Practice. specializes in:

7 Ways You Can Help a Person With Trauma

Many adults experience trauma at some point in their lives, whether it is the sudden death of a parent, a natural disaster, an act of war or other violence, or an abusive relationship. If you know someone who has experienced trauma, you may be wondering what to do to help your loved one, family member, or friend. Here are some ways you can help care for the well-being of a person who has experienced trauma.

What Is Trauma? How Does It Affect People?

You can define trauma as the long-lasting emotional response people suffer when they live through an anguishing event. After a trauma occurs, people lose a sense of their safety. They may not be able to distinguish their sense of self. They might have difficulty figuring out relationships, daily life, and their emotions after the trauma.

When people are suffering through a traumatic experience, the aftereffects can be long-lasting. As many as 10% of people who have had a traumatic event suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. PTSD sufferers can experience nightmares, memory flashbacks, anxiety or depression, and a body and mind that are always on alert.

How Can I Help Someone Through a Traumatic Experience?

Listen

One of the best ways you can help someone with trauma is to listen to them. It is really important to let them talk without interruption or questions. Sometimes, just knowing that someone is there who is listening without judgment makes a friend or family member feel loved and accepted no matter what they have been through. Be prepared for anger, tears, or detachment as their story emerges, especially if they have been holding in their trauma for a considerable period of time.

Offer your help

Second, offer help and support. When someone is dealing with trauma, it is physically and emotionally exhausting. Your friend or family member may need help with everyday tasks, such as cooking, cleaning the house, or doing yard work. You could offer to pick up groceries for them or have some delivered to their home. Also, this may be a good time to make a suggestion that therapy might be helpful for healing from trauma and recovering from traumatic experiences.

Patience is vital

Additionally, pack your patience. Unlike other illnesses or issues, trauma recovery is not a continuous, steady recovery. Instead, trauma recovery may look more like two steps forward and three steps back. Keep in mind that for your friend or family member, trauma recovery is stressful, exhausting, and at times overwhelming. This is a great time to reassure your loved one that they have your support through their journey.

Avoid triggers

Along with reassuring your friend, partner, or family member that you love and accept them no matter what, you should understand what behaviors might trigger their trauma response. When someone undergoes a trauma, their body has a visceral reaction, which means their adrenal glands secrete hormones that increase their breathing and heart rate–the fight or flight response. Even after the trauma is over, humans can still experience the same feelings when something triggers the response.

For example, if you have a partner who did tours of duty in a war zone while they were in the military, they may react poorly to loud noises, such as fireworks or engine backfires. One way to help them would be to encourage them to wear noise-canceling headphones during the Fourth of July.

If you are supporting someone who is having nightmares and flashbacks, there are some things you can do. First, don’t panic because panic only makes their stress and fear worse. Instead, focus on speaking to them in a low, calm voice. Tell your partner or family member you understand that they are having a flashback or a nightmare. Ask them to describe what they saw to you. Finally, encourage them to breathe slowly and deeply to relax.

Time to get informed

One of the best ways you can help your family member or friend is to educate yourself about trauma. The more information you know about what causes trauma response and how to assist your loved one on their journey, the better and more supportive you can be. If you are unsure about where to start reading, you can always ask for help and support from national aid organizations, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, The Rape Abuse and Incest National Network, or the Federal Emergency Management Administration. There are also a lot of community or local organizations that can point you toward resources to help.

Leave Judgement about Trauma at Home

Leave your judgment at home

It can be really difficult not to judge when your friend reacts poorly to a stressful situation. However, keep in mind that loving someone through trauma means that you don’t judge them when their emotions, actions, or behavior don’t meet your expectations. Instead, offer them your full support and love.

Supporting does not mean overdoing or overtaking

Most importantly, you need to understand that while your friend or family member needs your support, they don’t need you to tell them what to do or how to do it. Instead, you’ll want to let them tell you what they want or when they need help. When you love someone who is trying to recover from a traumatic experience, your first instinct will be to try and help them recover as quickly as possible. You may want to jump right in and take over.

Keep in mind that many survivors of trauma had their power and decision-making taken from them. Often, they feel powerless. Just because you can jump in to help doesn’t mean you should. Instead, pause. Breathe. Ask them how you can help them begin to heal, and listen for their responses. That is a great way to show your loved one you are there to support them while they heal.

Final Thoughts

Loving someone who is healing from trauma is a difficult experience. If you are having a difficult time coping with the trauma recovery of someone else, it may be important for you to talk to someone as well, such as a counselor or therapist.  What a great way to show someone you love that you can take care of your mental health while supporting them in their recovery.

Loving someone who is healing from trauma is a difficult experience. If you are having a difficult time coping with the trauma recovery of someone else, it may be important for you to talk to someone as well, such as a counselor or therapist.

Stenzel Clinical Services

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