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Helping Yourself Or Someone Else Deal With Emotional Trauma

Donna Morrison 0
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Woman leaning on friend's shoulder for support

Enduring a traumatic experience has different effects on each of us. While some may feel scarred for life, others find the capacity to recover and even grow from their journey.

Effective recovery from trauma requires hard work and dedication to the process to include coming to terms with your painful emotions as well as learning from your experience.

When someone you care about has experienced emotional trauma, your support is critical for helping them to process their experience and deal with their emotions healthily. While you may not think there is much you can do to help your loved one, you would be a mistaken.

There are many ways you can support someone who is dealing with emotional trauma.

Dealing With Your Own Emotional Trauma

When you are trying to navigate the emotions and thoughts that happen after a traumatic event, it is vital that you have help and support.

Recovering from this type of experience cannot occur on its own; you need to be connected to other people to heal effectively, regardless of the strength of your inner resources of resolve.

If you want to properly deal with the profound stress and emotional turmoil that comes with trauma, you will need to progress through four stages of healing. Some people spend longer in one phase over another, but those who recover fully find they must complete them all for the sake of their emotional health.

The Stages of Trauma Recovery

Here are the four stages that you need to go through on your journey to recovery.

Focus on Basic Needs

When you experience trauma, you are likely to become overloaded with emotions, images, memories, and stimulation from stress and other input that leave you feeling as though you cannot process anything.

So, why bother trying or doing anything?

This feeling of numbness is a result from the shock and overloading of your brain, and during this time, you are not thinking clearly or rationally. Many people describe feeling dead inside or disconnected during this time in their recovery, and the focus on living turns to basic needs.

Make sure you eat, even though you may not feel hungry.
Try your best to stick to a healthy sleeping routine.
Take a shower or a bath every day.

Express Your Feelings

After your mind begins to recover and can accept more input and stimulation, emotions start to return. In most cases, people can process their feelings and work through them with the help of their support system, but if your trauma was intense or prolonged, you might need professional help to navigate these waters.

During this stage, it is crucial that you express your emotions. Tell your story; talk about it. The more you discuss your feelings, the more you can detach your distress from the memories of the events.

Feeling these intense emotions now allows you to heal.

Take Action

Find something to do that allows you to feel powerful and purposeful.

Action helps you make a difference, even in a small way, that leaves you with a sense of control. Find something that allows you to put positive energy out into the world and make a difference for yourself or other people.

Accept The New You

After surviving a traumatic event, you will change and grow in dramatic ways.

You will not be the same person you were before your experiences, so it is essential that you learn to find ways to reintegrate the new you into your life. Your values may have shifted; your priorities might have changed.

How will your new life embrace this version of you that has come out of this experience different but stronger than before?


Helping Someone Else Deal With Emotional Trauma

Three friends supporting each other while looking at a field of flowers

It is hard to watch someone you love in distress. And if you have never experienced trauma in your life, you may not fully grasp the scope of emotions that can accompany traumatic events. But even if you struggle to know what to do, know that being there for your friend and showing your love and support is just what they need in their time of struggle.

Support Their Practical Needs

When someone experiences a traumatic event, it is vital that they can find some control and predictability in their life.

Returning to a routine, one that helps them cope with their “new normal” is crucial, and you can help provide that. For example, you can give them the space and time they need to effectively work through their emotions by helping to watch their children, making sure they have groceries, or doing chores around their house.

You can also provide gentle but consistent encouragement to them to ensure they are taking care of themselves, eating well, getting enough sleep, and making time for their emotional needs.

You can spend time with them and provide some enjoyable distraction or light-hearted amusement from time to time.

Support Their Emotional Needs

Everyone processes trauma differently, and your loved one may want to talk about their experiences, or they may not.

What is important is that you provide support in whatever way they need and that you do not force them to confront these feelings before they have decided they are ready.

If they decide they are ready to talk about their feelings, be sure you have the time and distraction-free environment to listen well. Reassure them that what they are feeling is perfectly normal and to be expected. If they become too upset to talk, make a plan to try again in the future.

Be prepared to accept their intense emotions and realize that it is not your role to make these feelings disappear.

As time passes, be sure to acknowledge their accomplishments in their process, as this can help them see the positive achievements in their life.

Listening to their experiences and thoughts can be difficult, and you may worry you will not know what to say or do, but just remember to be empathetic, to avoid minimizing their experience, and to ask questions that help them process their feelings.

When your friend is not ready to talk, you can still support their emotional needs just by being there. By providing the practical help we mentioned above and just showing up regularly, you are letting them know that you are there for them, whenever they are ready.

Support Them in Getting Help

Sometimes, dealing with trauma is too intense for people to handle on their own.

If you notice that your loved one is really struggling, if they are isolating themselves, or if their emotions are causing them to make unhealthy or harmful choices in their life, you may suggest that they seek professional help to help deal with their emotional trauma.

Offer to help them make an appointment or find a provider. Let them know that seeking help is an excellent strategy for coping with trauma and encourage them to get help as long as you are concerned for their well-being.

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