People we know who have been traumatized need to be loved. There are simple ways to love someone during seasons of trauma, when they need our support more than ever.
If you are looking to support someone who is going through a season of trauma, you can try these suggestions. Also, don’t hesitate to reach out for help from a qualified Christian counselor.
What seasons of trauma may look like.
Here are examples of situations in which trauma occurs, but you may not know what to do.
When you find out someone close to you was sexually assaulted, you may not know what to say. Do you keep your distance? Do you acknowledge what they endured? Do you offer a hug or a sense of protection? Does showing up make him or her more uncomfortable or comfortable?
When you find out your friend’s husband is dying of cancer, you may feel dumbfounded about what you can possibly offer. Do you ask if she is okay, or is that a traumatic question to ask while she is watching the love of her life slowly fade away?
When a close friend of yours is in such a financial hole that he had to declare bankruptcy, you may not know what to say or do. Do you send a gift card? Do you start a fundraiser to help him get back on his feet?
When a family member was in a horrible car accident and traumatized by what she saw and experienced, you may stumble over your words, unsure if anything you have to say would make her feel better. Do you send a card or balloons? Do you ask questions or simply listen? How do you know what to say that does not incur additional trauma?
You may feel unsure of how to help your close friend who has been dealing with infertility for years and was finally pregnant but experienced a stillbirth. Do you acknowledge their baby and send a memorial gift? Do you try to avoid talking about her baby?
When you aren’t sure what to do or say, you can meet with a Christian counselor for an objective perspective on the situation. A counselor who is trauma informed can help you navigate relationships where you want to be supportive and not make things any worse than they already are.
The facts on trauma.
Isaiah 43:2, NIV says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” This is a good reminder for trauma victims.
Trauma can be caused by ongoing events, one-time experiences, and often overlooked factors, like a sudden loss or seeing gang violence from a block away.
Some common sources of trauma can include natural disaster, illness, grief or loss, acts of violence, childhood neglect and/or abuse, and car accidents.
Trauma symptoms can look different for every person and experience. Two people can experience the same traumatic event and take on completely different symptoms while trying to process what they endured. Some can take on more physical symptoms while others can take on more emotional or psychological symptoms.
Some physical symptoms include:
- Aches and pains.
- Being easily startled.
- Racing heartbeat.
- Muscle tension.
Some emotional/psychological symptoms include:
- Difficulty concentrating/accomplishing basic tasks.
- Anger/difficulty regulating moods.
It is important to be aware of these symptoms while being an active part of supporting them and being present during the process.
Simple ways to love someone during a traumatic season.
If you want to help someone through his or her trauma journey, here are a few things to implement and remember:
- It is crucial that outsiders not place a timeline on someone else’s grief. Statements such as, “You should be over this by now” or “You need to move on” can be more debilitating to someone experiencing a traumatic reaction to something he or she has seen or experienced. It is important that you encourage him or her to process the experience, not try to shove it in a box and bury it away. While it is unfortunate, this trauma is now part of who he or she is, but it does not have to continue to drive his or her future.
- Ask before you drop by. For someone who has experienced loss or violence, or is processing a difficult situation, surprises can be difficult for them to manage. If you would like to take a meal or drop off flowers, check in before you drop by. Trauma victims can be easily startled, so it is always better to make your presence known beforehand. Make sure it is a good time to drop something by.
- Acknowledge his or her loss. Say things like, “I am so sorry for what happened to you.” For someone experiencing loss, it is most likely overtaking his or her thoughts, so trying to ignore it and stay off topic will not help the grieving process. Acknowledge and validate his or her feelings and offer support.
- Do not focus on trying to get details about his or her trauma. If he or she wants to share them, he or she will. When talking to a victim of a traumatic situation, it is important to remember to make it about him or her. It is not the time to ask for all the specifics, try to gossip, or to make it about something that happened to you in the past. Ask him or her if he or she needs anything and how he or she is really doing. Sometimes he or she just needs company.
- Do not take for granted the power of your presence. When it comes to trauma, people often refrain from talking to those going through it, because they feel it takes some magical or profound words to acknowledge their situation and ailing heart. The reality is, trauma victims often just want to feel seen and validated. They want to feel heard. They just want to process what happened to them in a safe and loving environment.
- Address their physical needs first. Take him or her a warm meal. Give him or her a sense of security in your presence. Continue to show up for him or her in the weeks and months to come. When someone endures a trauma, the first few weeks are difficult. The reality is trauma effects can last much longer and people often forget those experiencing a traumatic situation after a few weeks. Continue to be present in his or her life and regularly check-in on him or her.
- When you say you will pray for him or her, remember to pray. “I will pray for you,” is a powerful promise, but is often used as a quick response to people who are experiencing something difficult. Prayer is a powerful tool that God has so graciously given us. It is important to pray for the trauma victim. Set reminders on your phone. Lift him or her up by name. Ask if there is anything specific for which you can pray.
- Ask questions of specificity when it comes to helping other people. Most people throw out, “Let us know if we can do anything.” This can sometimes feel like an automated response to someone enduring something difficult. Show your trauma victim he or she is not a burden by asking specific questions:
“What can I do around the house to lighten the load?”
“How can I help lift the weight of your to-do list?”
“Can I drop off a meal tonight?”
“Can I run errands for you or help with the kids?”
“Would you like to come over for a movie and dessert?”
- Be aware of his or her symptoms and encourage him or her to seek professional help. If you or your loved one have endured something traumatic and are experiencing outbursts of anger, hopelessness, lack of focus, disrupted sleep or eating pattern changes, these are signs that additional support is needed.
If you have dealt with a traumatic situation and are struggling, you do not have to endure this hardship alone. It is okay if you feel like crying one day and have lots of energy the next. We want to help you process your grief and continue to walk toward hope and healing.
If you know someone who is experiencing trauma, the most important thing you can do is be present in their life. If you are unsure of what to say or what to do when someone is experiencing trauma, just open your heart and love him or her. Ask the Holy Spirit to be your guide and let Him take over.
Psalm 34:18 ESV says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” If you need help overcoming trauma, or if you need to know how to love someone during seasons of trauma, don’t hesitate to reach out for help from a Christian counselor. A counselor can give you a wider perspective on the situation and practical tips on healing.
“Road in the Mirror”, Courtesy of Kristaps Ungurs, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Forest”, Courtesy of Mat Napo, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Starry Night”, Courtesy of Mat Napo, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Standing in the Sun”, Courtesy of Eberhard Grossgasteiger, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE
The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this article are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please contact one of our counselors for further information.