Supporting Family and Friends Affected by Trauma

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The following are some questions to consider when supporting family and friends affected by trauma:

How Do I Support Someone Who Has Experienced Trauma?

As a support to your loved one you may feel helpless, confused, frustrated and at times overwhelmed about what to do and how to help. It will be important for you to become familiar with the common effects of trauma as well as the recovery process. This will help you to better understand your loved ones struggles and allow you to reassure them that what they are experiencing is normal and common after trauma.

What Can I Do for My Loved One?

  • Become informed about trauma and its effects
  • Validate your loved ones feelings, whatever they may be
  • Practice patience, understanding and compassion – for your loved one and yourself
  • Never place blame on the person who has been traumatized
  • I appropriate, encourage your loved one to connect with a therapist
  • Plan for crisis situations – get help if the person is suicidal
  • Accept that there may be changes in your relationship as they heal
  • Respect the time and space it takes to heal
  • Avoid forcing cheerfulness on them
  • Do not force forgiveness of others on them
  • If your loved one was abused, it is normal for you to feel anger but try not to overwhelm them with it
  • Do not patronize – acknowledge your loved one’s strengths and ability to survive and heal

What Can I Do For Myself?

  • Learn about the effects of abuse and the recovery process
  • Set your own boundaries and limits
  • Find someone to talk to – perhaps consider connecting with a counselor
  • Be aware of your own feelings and needs – these need not be put on hold until your loved one has sufficiently healed
  • Find a balance between spending time together and time apart
  • Prioritize self-care, relaxation and fun
  • Learn to use calm, open and respectful communication skills

"Everyone has a right to have a present and future that are not completely dominated and dictated by the past" - Karen Saakvitne