If you have experienced trauma, a bad breakup or abuse of any kind you can empathise with how difficult the journey through the experience can be, but also how difficult the healing process is in order to come out the other side of it. Being close to someone that has or is going through what I will call ‘something terrible’ can be particularly difficult. You literally want to fix things for them or to take the pain away but unfortunately neither of those options are possible. With the right support and people around you can make this journey just that little bit easier.
So here are a few things to keep note of when someone close to you needs you and the challenges you might face when you want to be there for them.
1. Validate their feelings and trauma.
It takes a lot of courage and bravery to tell someone close to you what you have experienced or endured. It is important to remember that although being told that someone close to you has experienced trauma can often be shocking they need to be the priority. You can’t make it about you or your feelings but focus on the person that needs you most. Show them that you acknowledge their pain and that can clearly state that what happened to them is terrible and not ok. Saying something as simple as “I can see that you are really hurting and in pain. I am sorry that you have gone through something so horrible”.
2. Listen without judgement.
Truly listen giving the person your full attention. Be present and really take in what they are saying without interruptions or your opinions. They are already upset and trying to deal with their own emotions and the after effects of what they have been through. Try to keep your feelings or opinions about the person who has caused them pain to yourself. Often this can push the person away and may make them feel as if they can’t talk to you even if they really need you. If they need to cry let them cry, if they need to pour out their anger and frustrations allow them the safe space to do that. They need a non- judgemental patient listener. Avoid cliches or pep talks as this can come across as dismissive. Try to remain neutral and concentrate on them so they can find their own way through this with your love and support. Remember you can’t fix them or speed up their healing!
3. If you don’t understand: voice it, If they don’t want to talk: accept it.
It is OK if you don’t understand what they are going through or have been through. Sometimes it can really help to voice that with honesty and can avoid the awkwardness of trying to make it better (when it can often make things worse). But remind them that even though you don’t understand their experience and trauma you are there for them whenever they need you. Sometimes talking can be exhausting and survivors of trauma might not want to talk about their experiences. Give them space but ask if they want to talk accepting both yes/no answers. Let them know that if they need some space they can just let you know.
4. Check in and support them.
Over time, after the initial opening up about their experience, survivors can start to feel alone as they start to loose the support and attention they received at the beginning. Remember to check in on them regularly, and let them lead the level of support they require. They might need a girls night in or a boys night out (and vice versa!), they might want to talk or need help with their day to day tasks, grocery shopping etc just remember to check in, drop by, or call them so they know you are there for them when they need you.
5. Identify triggers, be patient, turn to external mental health support (with encouragement).
After effects of traumatic experience can be emotional, confusing and all over the place so it is important that you are aware of this and patient through this time. Often certain places, people or media coverage of certain events can be triggers and can often cause a mental repeat of things that have happened to victims. It is important to try and identify them as best you can and make them aware of them. If it helps encourage them to avoid these triggers until they are better equipped to deal with them. Other times triggers can be part of the healing process allowing the victims to navigate through their emotions and address what they have been through.
If your loved one is really struggling to function offer external help and support through therapists and support groups. They are better equipped to deal with guiding victims and helping them understand what they have been through and that it is not their fault. They will also work on building confidence and helping victims with their self esteem etc. Remember as much as you want to be there for others you need to take of yourself too. You can experience secondary trauma if you’ve reached an emotional limit and you can let your loved one know with compassion. this will be the time to turn to professional help. You can support them through this time by offering moral support or even a drive to their therapy sessions.
It is always difficult seeing others in pain and hopefully with the above tips you can approach their pain with more sensitivity. Remember during this time to take of yourself too because you can’t take care of others on empty. I wish everyone that has been hurt, heartbroken, survived trauma, abuse or even a traumatic illness health, love and healing. xxx
Disclaimer: I am not a proffessional or a therapist and these opinions are my own drawn from my own experiences.
I would love to know your thoughts and tips you can add to the above!
respect. love . heal always xxx
Brown Girl N.