Many of us have heard the word "trauma," but some of us don't really understand what that means in a technical context. What is traumatic? What happens in a traumatic event? How can we make sure that people who have gone through trauma are able to get through it in a healthy way that allows them to thrive instead of merely trying to survive their daily lives? In today's blog post, I'm going to take a quick look at what trauma is and how you can help someone work through traumatic events in their lives. Let's jump right in and take a look.
What is Considered a Traumatic Event?
The word "trauma" is actually incredibly relative. Many people can think of traumatic events like 9/11 or the horrors of war, but there are some cases where trauma can be less severe and traumatic than those things. For example, a child who has been through the horrors of losing a parent has been through trauma, even if the incident wasn't violent in any way. Trauma can involve seeing something, even if someone wasn't directly involved. It all depends on the emotional response to the incident and how it affected the person in question.
One thing that many people realize, also, is that trauma can be defined by the person and their current emotional state. If someone has a propensity toward mental health issues or they actually have them, something that may not be traumatic for the average person could end up being traumatic for them. For example, someone who has anxiety and depression issues could be traumatized from a breakup, from a job rejection, or by being removed from something that they were originally part of. Even though someone without those issues may not find those things traumatizing, someone who is not at optimum mental health may struggle with those things and those events can end up causing a lot of pain and heartache for the person in question.
Remember, trauma can also include physical symptoms. Those with PTSD (an emotional disorder) can suffer from a number of physical symptoms, from upset stomach, to headaches, to seeing things and hearing things, to a number of other issues that may occur as a result of what is going on in their mind. Anxiety as a result of trauma can have similar effects, or a person may have panic attacks as well, which have physical symptoms and implications that may be related to them. The person may regularly feel as if they are having a heart attack, or that they're going to die. Even just the average amount of stress, without mental health issues, can cause pain such as backaches, headaches, and other issues that make it hard for the person to be able to move forward with their lives in a healthy way because it's just hard for them to even function and move like a normal person would be able to on a regular basis. The physical symptoms may require their own treatment, depending on their severity and what they may need to deal with on a daily basis, but many times, they can be alleviated with therapy and/or medication that is taken for the mental health problem at hand.
So, as we have discussed above, trauma is defined by the person who is going through the event and how that affects them physically, mentally, and emotionally. That means that trauma is different for everyone, and their reactions to the trauma are different as well. Because of that, it's important to understand how you can help them and what you need to do in order to make sure that they get the love and care that they need to get through it.
How Can I Help Someone Through Trauma?
So what can you do in order to help someone dealing with trauma? There are actually a lot of things that you can do in order to help them through it, but a lot of it will depend on your relationship with them and how they react to the help that you are offering. Various techniques will work differently for different people, so you will have to try certain things to see whether or not they actually work. Here are some general tips that you can try out.
Be patient, no matter how difficult things may seem for the time being. Sometimes, working through all of the feelings and pain can be really difficult for the person who was traumatized, but also for those who may be helping them through the traumatic feelings. That being said, don't let them walk all over you either. You want to be sure that there is a balance. Don't be a crutch for them, but be patient and loving and help them to move forward instead of allowing them to wallow in their pity and stay where they are at for an extended period of time. If you get frustrated with them regularly or try to tell them to "snap out of it," you may find that they are less willing to talk to you about what is going on and it may be more difficult for them to get through their day to day tasks and feelings with your help.
Don't make them feel like they have to talk about it; instead, keep the door open for conversation if they want to initiate it. You want to make sure that they feel comfortable talking to you, because talking can be incredibly difficult for people to do, especially after a traumatic event has occurred. At the same time, you don't want to put pressure on them to talk about things if they don't feel ready to or they want to. Just like with every tip that we are going to talk about here, it's about keeping things balanced and making sure that the person who has been through the trauma feels safe and comfortable. Their comfort is first above everything. As we mentioned above, don't let them wallow in the pain and pity for an extended period of time, but allow them to feel as if they can be safe and open with you while they are going through their everyday lives.
Help them learn how to relax and work with them through relaxation techniques that will help them to feel more relaxed if they are feeling afraid or anxious in a certain situation. Relaxation can be hard, but it is really important to make sure that the person gets a sufficient amount of rest. They will be better able to deal with the pain and hurt that may have happened after the trauma, and they may have an easier time talking about their feelings if they are getting a sufficient amount of sleep on a regular basis. You may have to do some things with them in order to help them continue these habits, but if you're willing to walk alongside them and help them learn how to relax more instead of allowing the feelings and fears to overwhelm them in a negative way, it will be much easier for them to continue on with their lives in a safe and healthy way. Relaxation techniques can be taught by the therapist, or there are plenty of resources online that can teach you how to meditate and do other relaxation techniques that will help the person feel as if they have more control over their lives. A simple Google search or a search on YouTube will help you find some of these resources so that you can try them out and see what works best for the situation that you or your loved one are currently in.
Make sure that you are able to help them meet the most basic needs that they need met - take care of them if they feel unable to care for themselves. Some people who have been through trauma may have a hard time taking care of themselves. They may not be able to get groceries, to sleep, to work, or to deal with other things that are going on in their lives. Find them somewhere safe to stay, make sure that they are eating like they should be, and do other things to guarantee that their basic needs are being met on a regular basis. It may be difficult to convince them to do this, but in general, you want to make sure that you do your best to take care of them. It will take some encouragement on your part, and as we mentioned above, it will also take a lot of patience because your loved one may just refuse to do anything that is related to their daily living and self care, but you have to help push them so that they are better able to get through their day. By taking the time to help them with their daily self care, they will, as time goes on, learn how to take care of themselves again without taking so much time and effort to be able to do so.
Remind your loved one that it may take time to get through their feelings and encourage them to take the process more slowly than they may want to. This goes hand in hand with the patience aspect, but in general, you want to make sure that the person feels like they can take all the time that they need to work through what they are dealing with. They need to know that what they are feeling is normal and that you are someone safe that they can work through the feelings with. Obviously, you are not a therapist and you may not be able to work through everything with them, but you can at least provide moral support and be someone they can come back to when their feelings have become too much to bear. Time is hard to deal with, and because of that, you may have to approach the topic with your loved one a number of times in order to help them see that it is a process that may take them months or even years to get through. Will they get frustrated? Absolutely. But will they see the light at the end of the tunnel after some time? Yes, and that's what you have to remind them as they are going through and beyond the traumatic events that has happened in their life at this time.
Help your loved one to connect with other people who may have gone through the same sort of experience or that understand their feelings. Support groups can work wonders for people involved in them, no matter what the issue may be. By helping your loved one to connect with other people that have been through some of the same things as they have. Finding the support of other people can be incredibly healing, and it can also help the traumatized person to be able to process their feelings better. It can also help them get used to being social again, which is an important part of the process after a traumatic event has occurred in someone's life. It can also help them learn how to trust other people again, especially in talking about what has happened to them and how they are able to work through their feelings. It can help you as well, because you can see the stories that other people have and learn from what they have done as well.
So, as you can see, there is a lot that you can do in order to make sure that you or your loved one is able to cope with the results of a traumatic event. These can be life changing and people need a lot of love and patience to be able to get through them effectively. If you or someone you love has been through a traumatic experience, you should consider possibly seeking therapy or counseling. There are many qualified therapists that can help you through the pain and hurt that happens after trauma, and you can find many of those resources here on our website. Start the journey toward healing today.
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