When someone you love has experienced trauma, you can feel helpless, not knowing how to be supportive. It can feel like your world has turned upside down and you just want things to go back to normal. Trauma can be anything from the death of a loved one, serious accident or illness, bullying, or physical or sexual abuse. You don’t need to have experienced trauma to be a support and help. You can start coping trauma by doing the following:
- Give them the opportunity to talk about their feelings
- Find healthy recreational outlets
- Don’t ask why; ask what you can do now
- Seek out your own help and support
Most people with trauma need to know that whatever they are feeling is okay and normal. People who have experienced trauma will go through a wide range of feelings and emotions throughout the healing process. Sometimes, they won’t always want to talk about it. Give them time to share their experiences. Talking about the feeling they experienced without having to talk about details of trauma can also be helpful. When fear is held inside it can grow and become much bigger than it really is. Voicing their concerns and fears can help acknowledge the feelings and put it into perspective. Sometimes they just need to be near people and feel normal.
Recreation is another healthy outlet. Going for walks, playing games, rocking or swinging can all be comforting activities to do with someone else. Self-expression is also an important part of healing. Some people need to journal, while others need to create something like painting, drawing, collaging, or working with clay. This allows the feelings and experiences to come out without having to put words to them. Trauma is stored in the brain as feelings, emotions, picture, smells, sights, touch and taste. It isn’t usually stored in words. Creating something is a helpful way to get grounded and return to the present while addressing past traumas.
Attaching words to trauma is a difficult task. Often people try to understand the “why” of what happened to them. This is not always a helpful question to ask because there is usually no clear answer. Looking for the “what do I do now” is far more helpful. Be patient and supportive, and allow time to grieve.
It is also common for loved ones to suffer watching a child, parent or friend go through a traumatic experience. It’s important that you also receive support for the loss you feel on behalf of your loved ones. You also need time to grieve and feel. When trauma happens, dreams and hope for the future often dissolve. Families fear that things will never be the same. Acceptance and finding a new path for life is important. Trauma can be healed for many people. Just as the body can heal from a broken arm, the mind can heal from traumatic experiences. A new path isn’t bad it’s just different. This difference allows for new experiences and hopes.
Call New Haven at 888.317.3958 for more information about healing from trauma.
By: Danna Olinick, CMHC and Assistant Clinical Director at New Haven Residential Treatment Center for Teenage Girls