Undergoing a traumatic experience can be extremely distressing and often threatening. It can result in the individual feeling fearful, even when relatively safe; constantly be on the edge; feel numb and detached; and disrupt his/her ability to come to terms with the event. Though most people recover from the trauma, it can resurface in the form of flashbacks. While the importance of professional help to overcome trauma cannot be disregarded, support from family and friends can mean a lot while helping someone cope with it.
When dealing with trauma survivors, it is important to realize that similar sensations, as those felt at the time of trauma, may trigger a memory of the traumatic event, even though a substantial amount of time has passed since the event. Such triggers can plunge one right back into the past and traumatize the sufferer all over again. Some of the triggers that can lead to a recall include watching programs or reading stories pertaining to the trauma, discussing the traumatic event with loved ones again and again, and/or experiencing a similarly disturbing event in the present.
Human beings are social animals and they not only take pride but also refuge, in the relationships that they form, whether it be with their spouses, parents, siblings or friends. When faced with such recalls, a traumatized person generally turns towards such relationships for support and comfort. While it can be difficult to know how to help a friend overcome these triggers and resume his/her normal daily routine, one can adopt the following pointers to help someone in need:
Power of reassurance: First and foremost, it is important to understand that triggers are real. While it may seem impractical to another, a trigger may set off a recall, which makes the memory of the event seem real for the sufferer. However, having a friend by one’s side can reassure a person and make them secure. It can reassure them that everything is all right and that no one will hurt them. It can help one deal with the triggers. In addition to reassuring someone undergoing a traumatic recall, one also needs to help the sufferer gain perspective and not blame themselves for either the recall or the actual traumatic event.
Listening and not judging: While talking can be therapeutic for many, active listening can also be really helpful for trauma survivors. In addition to listening carefully, one should be careful not to pass any quick judgments. As trauma survivors often tend to be harsh on themselves and judge themselves, holding oneself responsible. Therefore, passing careless judgment often adds to their worries, and may delay recovery.
Reaching out: On suspecting that a friend or a loved one is undergoing a recall of the traumatic event, it is important to reach out to the sufferer and let him/her know that one is there. Asking about the victim’s feelings, emotional and physical state, talking in a soft voice, and keeping them company helps them feel secure.
Providing practical support: Though returning to one’s routine may be difficult and take time, offering practical support to a friend or a loved one in need can fasten the process. Some of the practical support offered can include encouraging the person to undertake self-care, emotionally and physically; acknowledging their achievements; limiting their exposure to media coverage pertaining to the event; and helping them find the time and space to deal with the event.
Being patient: One needs space and time to deal with a traumatic recall. As a friend, one can help the sufferer understand the importance of indulging in creative hobbies and making time for relaxation. One can also help friends find that time by doing their weekly shopping or taking care of their children. In addition to doing practical things to help someone, one can also show his/her support by spending time with the sufferer and keeping them company.
Based on faith, trust and companionship, a friendship can go a long way in helping a person overcome trauma. In order to cherish and honor this beautiful bond, the U.S. Congress, in 1935, dedicated the first Sunday of August to friends and friendship. An annual event, the National Friendship Day, has been adopted by various nations across the world, since then.
Recalling past trauma can be difficult and overwhelming for those affected. At times, trauma survivors may not be willing to either seek help or share their stories. Although support offered by family and friends can be beneficial, sometimes it may be necessary to seek professional advice.
A leading behavioral healthcare provider, Sovereign Health provides specialized care to trauma and abuse survivors. As women are more prone to trauma and experience it differently than men, Sovereign Health’s Chandler, Arizona, facility specializes in providing individualized behavioral health treatment in a private and safe environment.
A women only trauma treatment facility, Sovereign Health of Arizona uses Rebuilding Our Acceptance & Resilience (ROAR), an evidence-based therapy model, to offer treatment programs for mental health disorders, drug and alcohol addiction, and co-occurring conditions. For more information on our women’s trauma recovery program or to locate our state-of-the-art treatment centers near you, call our 24/7 helpline number. You can even chat online with one of our representatives for further assistance.