Do you know someone who’s been through trauma? Whether hurricanes, sexual assault, violence, or major accidents, it is critical to believe their story, and believe that their suffering is real. Here are some things to say and do that help.
What to say…
“I believe you.”
“What happened to you was not your fault. It should never have happened and you did not deserve that.”
“I’m sorry… [that happened to you / you went through that / those things were done to you].”
“I’m here if you need to talk.”
“What can I do to help?”
“You are not alone, no matter how much it feels that way.”
“You’re a good person. I admire your [strength, courage].”
What to do…
Spend time with them without judging.
Allow them to heal at their own rate. Don’t push them to get better.
Offer support and a listening ear. Avoid giving advice or trying to solve the problems.
Help with practical tasks and do enjoyable things together.
Don’t minimize the trauma or try to talk them out of their reactions.
What not to say…
“It’s not that bad.”
“That’s in the past, it’s best to move on.”
“Don’t be a victim.”
“Why didn’t you tell me this when it happened?”
“Things could be worse.”
Report or not report?
It’s important to speak up about trauma, but that decision is best left for the person who went through it to decide. Part of what makes trauma painful is the lack of control over the events, and healing is regaining a sense of control. People need to be in charge of how they cope with it, including whether they report it or not.
This is a complicated issue, and may be different for children who are going through abuse or sexual assault and cannot reasonably speak up for themselves.
Therapy is the best healer for post-traumatic stress disorder, and there are many options to choose from. Effective therapies include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitization (EMDR), narrative therapy, brain spotting, and somatic experience therapy.
Everyone could benefit from a dose of empathy, particular people who are traumatized. Learn more about how to put it into action in this video.