If your loved one suffers from life-altering trauma, the one thing to keep in mind is family support and its importance. How can you help? A frequent question with a simple answer. Respect, listening, and encouragement is simple and goes farther than you think.
Respect comes in many forms. First, respect for them as a person. Treating someone differently will only cause them to alienate any help you can offer. Second, respect their decision to be closed off emotionally. Not everyone is ready to talk, or if they are they may reach out to someone else. Don’t question their decisions for whom they reach. Always be open to listening.
Listening may be the most important thing you can do. This does no mean that you need to give advice. Your loved one needs to be heard and feel they are appreciated. Spend time with them, social isolation can make them feel like no one is listening. Listening is effective as it adds to a person’s self-worth. No one wants to talk to a wall. While you are likely trying to avoid pushing buttons, you need to let them know you are there to listen. A gentle reminder doesn’t do harm, but don’t pester. Let your friend/family member come to you. Encouragement is key.
Encourage social contact as it will help your loved one build a solid support system. There may already be a solid support system in place, but a survivor may not see things through the same lens as everyone else. Encouragement can be very simple but try not to create a false sense of hope. There is hope, but one of the most common phrases that a survivor doesn’t like to hear is, “it’s okay.” This is true for a number of reasons. First, if you have not been in their position, they are likely to think that you don’t understand what they are going through. Second, they do not feel like what happened to them is okay. It is not the intent of the phrase, but the perception is in the eye of the recipient. This generic response also lacks in personal connection. It is always better to be genuine than generic.
These are by no means foolproof for everyone, as individuals are unique. When you truly know someone, you can gain a better insight into what is likely to help.