Many of us have trauma from our pasts, or from current situations and circumstances. It may not always be severe, but we can be traumatized from our childhood, witnessing or experiencing violent acts, relationships, illnesses, and more. The thing with trauma is that it can be lingering, and you can carry it with you throughout your life.
This can lead to individuals needing to share their traumatic experiences, to talk them through and gain support from others. The issue is, you may not know how to respond when someone shares their trauma with you.
Luckily, we are here to help. So, let’s take a look at what trauma is to help you understand it and learn how to respond.
What is Trauma?
Trauma is the term we use for the emotional response to a traumatizing event in someone’s life. This could be due to an accident, assault, childhood, natural disaster, a personal loss, unfortunate diagnosis, etc.
When someone suffers from trauma, the initial response could be denial, shock or even grief. However, long-term effects may be strained relationships, lack of trust, flashbacks, unstable emotions, panic attacks, or even depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
Trauma can be described as acute, from a single incident, chronic trauma from repeated traumatic events such as abuse or domestic violence, or complex trauma when someone is exposed to various events.
When someone suffers from trauma, they may seek validation, acceptance and support from others in order to unload and understand their emotions. In these cases, it is vital that you know how to respond in order to help them.
Ways to Respond When Someone Shares Their Trauma with You
When someone shares their trauma with you, it can sometimes take you by surprise. This can make you feel uncomfortable or unsure of what to do to help. Follow these steps as a guide:
Know What to Say
When someone is disclosing information about their experience, or about a traumatic event, it is often in the hopes that you will support them. It takes a lot of courage to share their experience, so be mindful of this and do not dismiss their feelings or concerns.
It is important that you know what to say, and that you acknowledge their trauma. Try to focus on using non-judgmental language and be compassionate to limit the feelings of guilt and shame. Try saying things such as “You did not deserve that.” and “I’m sorry you had to deal with this.” and offer support.
Give Them Space and Listen
Sometimes, sharing trauma is cathartic. The person sharing needs space to talk and unload their feelings. Give them the space they need and listen carefully to what they say.
Don’t try to fill in the silence—just let them speak. Do not press for details so that they don’t have to relive what happened. Just be there to listen and hear what they have to say.
Thank Them for Trusting You with This Information
Sharing a traumatic experience such as an assault or domestic violence can take a lot of bravery. Let them know that you appreciate them trusting you with this knowledge.
Acknowledge that you have been trusted with that information and that you respect what they have to say by not sharing it without their permission.
Offer Guidance and Support
While you may be there as a form of comfort, it is helpful to offer guidance and support. Respond to the trauma, and acknowledge that what they went through is painful, and let them know that they deserve help and support. Whether that is through speaking to you, a therapist, or a close friend.
Finally, depending on your relationship and the situation, it could be appropriate to suggest pursuing a therapist or counselor to help them cope with their trauma and heal from it (if they haven’t already). At Emerge Counseling Services, we are here to assist those facing trauma, as well as those who may be providing support.
Contacting us is a step in the right direction towards your healing journey.
(248) 2-EMERGE (248-236-3743)