When someone you care about has experienced emotional trauma, your support is critical for helping them to process their experience and deal with their emotions healthily. While you may not think there is much you can do to help your loved one, you would be a mistake. There are many ways you can support someone is dealing with emotional trauma.
Support Their Practical Needs
When someone experiences a traumatic event, it is vital that they can find some control and predictability in their life. Returning to a routine, one that helps them cope with their “new normal” is crucial, and you can help provide that. For example, you can give them the space and time they need to effectively work through their emotions by helping to watch their children, making sure they have groceries, or doing chores around their house.
You can also provide gentle but consistent encouragement to them to ensure they are taking care of themselves, eating well, getting enough sleep, and making time for their emotional needs. You can spend time with them and provide some enjoyable distraction or light-hearted amusement from time to time.
Support Their Emotional Needs
Everyone processes trauma differently, and your loved one may want to talk about their experiences, or they may not. What is important is that you provide support in whatever way they need and that you do not force them to confront these feelings before they have decided they are ready.
If they decide they are ready to talk about their feelings, be sure you have the time and distraction-free environment to listen well. Reassure them that what they are feeling is perfectly normal and to be expected. If they become too upset to talk, make a plan to try again in the future. Be prepared to accept their intense emotions and realize that it is not your role to make these feelings disappear.
As time passes, be sure to acknowledge their accomplishments in their process, as this can help them see the positive achievements in their life. Listening to their experiences and thoughts can be difficult, and you may worry you will not know what to say or do, but just remember to be empathetic, to avoid minimizing their experience, and to ask questions that help them process their feelings.
When your friend is not ready to talk, you can still support their emotional needs just by being there. By providing the practical help we mentioned above and just showing up regularly, you are letting them know that you are there for them, whenever they are ready.
Support Them in Getting Help
Sometimes, dealing with trauma is too intense for people to handle on their own. If you notice that your loved one is really struggling, if they are isolating themselves, or if their emotions are causing them to make unhealthy or harmful choices in their life, you may suggest that they seek professional help for dealing with their emotional trauma.
Offer to help them make an appointment or find a provider. Let them know that seeking help is an excellent strategy for coping with trauma and encourage them to get help as long as you are concerned for their well-being.
It is hard to watch someone you love in distress. And if you have never experienced trauma in your life, you may not fully grasp the scope of emotions that can accompany traumatic events. But even if you struggle to know what to do, know that being there for your friend and showing your love and support is just what they need in their time of struggle.