4 Ways to Help Loved Ones Deal with Traumatic Life Events

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Most often, a person who encounters continuing difficulties after a traumatic event either seems to shut down the world around them or become too distant. For some people, it generally happens because they don’t want to think back about the trauma or want to shut off those painful memories. Others may feel numb, depressed, or deprived of the energy to function normally.

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Nonetheless, watching your loved one cope with the repercussions of a traumatic experience can be highly shattering. 

You may find yourself extremely worried about their well-being, feel helpless, and unsure how to support them in this journey. But that doesn’t imply leaving the person struggling with the trauma alone. Every survivor responds to the situation differently; however, interpersonal support is an integral element of the recovery.

While you can’t reverse the pain, your emotional support can help the loved one acclimatize to everyday life. Trauma isn’t just the incident that happened but also the response to the event. Triggers may include a sexual harassment case spread all over social media, the anniversary of the event, or witnessing the person who resembles the attacker.

Exactly how your loved one wants your support during this journey is contingent upon your relationship. Nonetheless, these tips are a great place to begin:

Be available

Trauma survivors feel incredibly secure with human contact. If you aren’t available for them, they might adopt other destructive habits. People who’ve experienced a disaster, war, child abuse, or other traumatic events often stoop to drug abuse to contend with sleep deprivation, anxiety, and terror.

The drug addiction may initially seem to assuage stress. Still, it can perpetuate a cycle of attitudes that can make it harder to recover from trauma over the long haul. 

To save your loved ones from this vicious cycle, refer to the treatment guide to learn about the addiction effects and treatment options. That way, you can encourage the person to seek professional treatment and help them heal.

Listen actively

You may feel the instinctive urge to burst the silence when you want to help your loved one deal with the aftermath of trauma. And this behavior usually springs up by wanting to fix the circumstances. 

However, it’s relevant to note that it isn’t in your capacity to fix your loved ones’ traumatic experiences. All you need is to be there and let them iron out their feelings. Don’t pressurize them into talking; instead, wait when they are ready to speak about their feelings.

Listening is a core piece of social support. Practice active listening and ask open-ended questions to picture their feelings accurately. Active listening is more about staying focused and less about being responsive.

Also, even if you had experienced similar trauma in the past, resist the temptation to say you understand how they feel and never compare your feelings. Instead, listen intently, acknowledge their distress, and validate their emotions.

Help them establish a routine

Being considerate and supportive with your loved one can extend past active listening. Try to help the person re-develop their routine. That’s because it can help instill a sense of predictability, specifically if the traumatic events have been erratic.

It might be a tall order to establish a routine for people who have been victims of natural disasters and left abandoned. However, little gestures can still go a long way. For instance, trying to have meals and sleeping at the usual time can prove beneficial.

Also, provide trauma survivors the space and encourage them not to bottle up their emotions. Try to engage the trauma survivor in physical activities such as walking. It not only helps to alleviate stress and reduce tension in muscles. It also allows the person to get hold of their emotions.

Likewise, pitch in daily household chores such as cleaning and grocery shopping. If the affected individual is a bookworm, assist them in uncovering their love for reading. And laughter is a fantastic antidote; figure out ways to make the person laugh or even smile.

Help them limit media exposure

Suppose your loved one has had a traumatic public experience, for instance, a mass shooting or terrorist attack. In that case, the initial deluge of media coverage may get them back to square one in the recovery journey.

While it’s vital to use media and other sources to stay updated on the information, it’s better to limit – not entirely avoid the news coverage for trauma survivors. That’s because excessive exposure to news may cause trauma to resurface again.

If you think your loved one has difficulty dealing with news coverage, offer them help with media exposure. For example, you can change their news alert settings and mute specific keywords or hashtags on Twitter and other social networking websites.

Final Words

Going through the aftermath of a traumatic event is undeniably stressful and challenging for everyone involved. It includes both – the ones directly affected by the trauma and those who’re in the position of providing love and support to the people experiencing mental anguish and sorrow.

Nevertheless, it’s crucial to let the traumatized person take the lead and decide what actions to take. Try to avoid telling them how to feel about the situation. Instead, render support and help them explore the next steps. Try to gauge whether the affected family member or friend needs professional help. Determine whether their emotional well-being interferes with normal functioning and if they find it hard to re-establish their lives.

However, never insist or coerce the traumatized individual to do something they don’t want to do. Sometimes, we only need to be there – not do anything in particular, and make the person feel supported, valued, and loved.

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