When someone you love endures emotional trauma, it can feel as though you’ve been hurt, too.
The natural tendency is often to offer your loved one what you feel you would need.
Though this approach is heartfelt, it’s not always the best one to embrace. The reality is that dealing with emotional trauma requires finesse. You can’t just force a trauma survivor to talk about it, deal with it, or get over it. Recovery happens in the client’s time and on their terms. And, as their loved one, there are a few positive ways that you can support them and encourage their recovery.
1. Be a Supportive Listening Ear
Enduring emotional trauma often means also enduring haunting and complex emotions. These might weigh very heavily on your loved one.
One thing to remember is that you can’t always bear the weight. And you can’t “fix” them.
What you can do? Show your support by listening to them. Let them share what they feel and avoid trying to make sense of it all. The act of listening offers your loved one some much-needed validation.
2. Help Them Manage Daily Responsibilities
Trauma can turn your loved one’s world on its head.
Because of this, trauma survivors frequently have trouble taking care of their own basic needs. These basic needs include things like nutrition, self-care, and household chores.
You can support your loved one by making sure these needs are addressed. Make sure they eat, the laundry is done, and that everyday chores are taken care of. It might seem simple, but you could really relieve a lot of daily stress.
3. Understand Their Triggers
When a person experiences emotional trauma, they tend to adopt certain stressors that trigger troubling memories or emotions. In helping your loved one, it’s important to learn what negatively sets them off.
Emotional trauma is as unique as the person it impacted. In short, no two people have the exact same triggers. And further still, no two people react the same way to their triggers.
Be observant and learn about how your loved one now perceives their environment.
4. Be the Calm They Need
Trauma survivors typically have an amped up nervous system. Their fight-or-flight response is often on overdrive. An activated nervous system can cause extreme anxiety.
To help them relax and reclaim their calm, be the steady force that helps them feel anchored again. For instance, practice deep breathing techniques with them until their system has calmed down.
This support is very intimate on both your parts. Such a closeness fosters deep healing in a profound way.
5. Offer Validation Through Assurance
Often the journey from trauma to healing brings about uncomfortable thoughts and emotions. It’s important to validate those unique feelings.
As your loved one shares his or her experience, assure them that the feelings are normal and it’s okay to experience them. It’s all part of the healing process.
This encourages recovery and promotes confidence that healing is possible.
6. Encourage Them to Seek Professional Help
Unlike many situations in life, people don’t just “get over” emotional trauma. Its impact can reach far and wide within a person.
Your loved one knows trauma’s reach all too well.
While no one can heal them or “fix” them, a professional therapist specializing in trauma can likely guide them towards recovery better than anyone.
Be the supportive voice that believes in their healing and recovery. Encourage them to seek professional help.
Take the first step…
If you are ready to help a loved one regain control of their life and emotions after enduring a traumatic experience, I would like to help. Please contact me via phone or email so we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Linda K. Laffey, MFT