How to Approach Your Loved One After Trauma
Every day seems to bring news of trauma. The headlines are full of reports of mass shootings, murders, assaults, hate crimes, and suicide. According to the National Center for PTSD, approximately 60% of men and 50% of women experience trauma at least once in their lifetime. With so many people experiencing a major trauma at some point in their lives, it is important to know how to respond to a loved one who is living in the aftermath of a tragic event.
Recognizing the Signs of Trauma
Most trauma victims show similar symptoms. Recognizing these symptoms can help you understand the emotional and physical state of your loved one, which will help you respond more effectively.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, common side effects of trauma include:
- Flashbacks of the trauma
- Reliving the physical symptoms of a trauma, such as sweating and elevated heart rate
- Frightening thoughts
- Difficulty remembering the trauma
- Being easily startled
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Strong feelings of guilt, depression, and anxiety
- Losing interest in enjoyable activities
- Feeling tense or “on edge”
- Difficulty sleeping
- Angry outbursts
Your loved one may not even be aware that he is exhibiting these side effects. Be patient as he begins to deal with the physical and emotional ramifications of the trauma.
Supporting a Loved One Through a Trauma
While you cannot fix your loved one’s situation or snap your figures and make everything better in an instant, there are some things you can do to support a loved one as he goes through the recovery process.
To help a loved one after a trauma, consider the following:
- Ask your loved one how you can help – Everyone processes trauma differently, so everyone’s needs are different. Don’t assume that you know what the survivor needs.
- Give your loved one the opportunity to talk – Don’t avoid talking about the event. However, if he doesn’t want to, don’t force it. Sometimes trauma survivors need to be alone with their thoughts. Other times, they will want to normalize their situation by talking about simple things like sports or current events.
- Don’t try to make the feelings go away – Your loved one is likely to think you are uncomfortable with his feelings and will respond by concealing them.
- Avoid trite generalizations – Phrases like, “look on the bright side” or “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” feel empty and unhelpful, and the person is likely to conclude that you really don’t understand what they are going through.
Finally, help your loved one find other resources to help the healing process. These might include a therapist, a support group, or other professionals in the area. If you know someone with a similar experience, you might arrange a conversation over coffee.
Getting Help For Your Loved One
If a loved on has suffered a trauma and needs help, we are here to assist you. You can call our toll-free number any time, 24 hours a day. We can talk with you about the situation and suggest services and resources that would benefit both you and your loved one. Trauma doesn’t have to control your loved one’s life. Call us today and get the help you need.