It can be difficult to know how best to support a loved one who has gone through a distressing event or trauma. Not knowing what to say or how to comfort them may feel like you are in unchartered territory. It is important to remember that although you want to you, cannot take away another’s pain. They will process the pain and heal from it with rest, time and appropriate mental health support if needed.
All you can do is to be there for them and offer them a safe compassionate space.
Here are our suggestions at Quest Psychology Services on how to support your loved ones who have gone through something traumatic.
Make time to be with your loved ones. Make yourself available to be with them in whatever way they need to feel supported. It may be nice for them to just have you in their presence or you can help them maintain a healthy routine and activities.
It is important to not try to push them to heal before they are ready, often the trauma itself can make us feel uncomfortable and thus we have a hard time being in it with another person when they are in pain. Be aware of this want to push them to “get over it” and instead allow yourself to feel a little uncomfortable and trust they are going through their own process.
Sometimes the best thing you can do for a loved one that is struggling is just listen to them. You don’t have to worry about trying to say the right thing or fix anything but just listen. To validate what they are feeling and sitting with them in your pain.
Having someone just listen to you can be very supportive and healing. You do not have to avoid talking about the event but resist giving too much advice. Resist telling them how they should feel, think or behave. Everyone is different. Don’t try to silver line things or use phrases that start with “at least” or ” look on the bright side”.
Offer Practical Support
You can offer practical support such as doing housework, cooking, or grocery shopping for them. You can help them get involved in activities that may help them this could be any physical activity such as going for a walk. Exercise helps to reduce anxiety and depression and can help with sleep.
It is important to allow them to have a balance of alone time and time socialising to help reduce stress. Laughter is also a very healing antidote to stress. Try to find ways that will make them smile and laugh.
Don’t Take Things Personally
It is good to know that they may be experiencing depression, irritability, or anger and to not take it personally. They may be experiencing intense emotions and outbursts are common. They have been through something very stressful and their reactions are normal and will reduce with time.
Connect Them to Resources
Not everyone wants to see a professional but if they are open to talking to a psychologist you can help them find someone they would like to work with. Trauma can be overwhelming and there are effective treatments out there that can help. It can be especially important to reach out for support if they are continuing to suffer emotionally from the trauma.