Trauma is not just having an unforgettable ill-feeling. It’s not simply being scared of things and it doesn’t heal so easily. Hence, saying things like, “It’s going to be okay,” doesn’t help a traumatized person. Same with, “You just need to forget about it,” or “There’s a reason why it happened.” Words like that cause more anxiety rather than being helpful. Perhaps the good intention is there but what we should do first is make sure our words and actions are appropriate.
Do you have friends healing from trauma? Here are some simple ways to be there for them.
Research about what they’re going through.
They don’t have to know this, of course. But believe me, it’s an act of love when you intend to learn more deeply about their situation. Read credible articles and look for books that comprehensively discuss topics about their experiences. Read self-help books on their behalf. Don’t like reading? Watch documentaries. Listen to podcasts that discuss psychology. If you think this is too much then just remember that they are worthy of this type of effort. We shouldn’t simply assume what’s good for them, we should intend to empathize with them and be cautious about what to say and do for them.
Check in on them in a way that doesn’t remind them of their trauma.
Checking in on them is a great idea. Every person appreciates being asked about and cared for. Every person cherishes thoughtfulness. But perhaps consider your way of asking. Avoid reminding them of their trauma by saying specificities like being scared, being pained, being abused. For example, don’t say, “Are you still scared?” or “Is it still painful?” Perhaps you could ask specific questions about their experience when there’s a need to and when they’re ready. But sometimes, a simple how are you is more than enough. They may not say everything but remember that it’s the thought that counts.
Be sensitive to what you share online or anywhere you’re connected.
We can’t just let a good online post pass by. But sometimes we have to consider the people who can see what we share. It doesn’t mean you need to compromise your preferences or your freedom of expression. That’s why Facebook and Instagram created some ways to filter your audience. Not everyone may understand your posts the way you do. If you want to share something that your healing friend might still find triggering, you may want to filter them out for a while. It’s not betrayal, it’s just a way to care about them.
Learn the art of validating their feelings.
Validating their feelings isn’t just done by saying it’s okay to feel that way. It just doesn’t end with telling them that their emotion is right. It’s good to also instill in them the idea that widening their perspectives can help them out once their emotions subside. Instill in them that it’s good to analyze everything they have felt once they move on. Why? Because it can help them cope with more complex emotions in the future. I used the word “instill” because you can’t just directly say it—they may find it offensive. There’s an art of doing so and it’s only you who can figure that out because you’re the one who knows them.
Reassure them and be consistent.
Tell them that you are always there to listen. Be honest that you may not know the right answers to their questions or what you should say but guarantee that you are there for them. You don’t have to always say what they want to hear but you can offer options of other ways to help. They need someone right now. Remember this is just temporary. They will definitely heal. If they find you as their refuge then be grateful because it means they trust you. Isn’t it fulfilling to finally see them becoming free from trauma and being a part of the process? It will be worth it. Trust me.