I've been approached by gentle, caring parents, family members and siblings of someone who has been through a trauma. They've been asking how to care for their loved one who has been through A big trauma or a small trauma.
Here's the thing about trauma; even when it's over, it never really goes away.
Yes, good trauma treatment helps the significantly reduces symptoms and allows the individual to rebuild a sense of safety. However, long term healing takes time and positive, healing experiences which allow the individual to settle their mind and body into the here-and-now and learn a new way of existing in this world.
I've been humbled and inspired by the fierce energy survivors of trauma possess. Each individual in their own right, their specific journey, scripted by their unique nature. Trauma survivors have been through the scariest of things, and part of healing is knowing that their loved ones will be there for them.
It can be confusing to understand the person who has been through something tough, as they may keep you out, leaving you unsure about where to place yourself. However, over time, you'll have moments where you'll get a glimpse of their abundant strength and the desire to connect beneath the sadness and fear.
Those who have been through trauma don't walk around sharing their war stories, yet they carry the scars within, and it can be difficult to find a way to settle back into reality and family life. The fact that they survived and chose to keep going, means they are strong.
So, if you're loving someone whose in the process of healing from trauma, take a moment. See the new layers of skin slowly pulling themselves through . Notice the efforts and believe in their resilience.
Stand beside your child or your sibling. Stand there with integrity, patience and care. Let them know with your gentle eyes, your warm embrace, your caring stance or your soft words that you're there. Let them know you believe in them. Try not to rush the process of connecting after trauma. A trauma survivor may have layers of fears they grapple with as they learn to reconnect with their families, as stains of memories from the past may pop up, causing waves. Know that this is normal, and part of learning to trust again.
Try to understand them, while obviously keep limits of what is ok in the relationship. They need to be carrying their weight of the healing, and your job is to support their process. Over time, you'll get to reconnect, and see them for who they are beneath the wounds. You'll get to know the healthy self that comes through as the "symptoms" they've been carrying slowly fade away.
And as you stand besides your loved ones, your child, your siblings or your friend, know that this journey is soulful. The healing, the reconnections, and the building a life after "upset" is one of the most magnificent processes.
Blessings to you and your loved ones.
Esther Goldstein LCSW is psychotherapist and trauma specialist with a private practice in Cedarhurst, NY. Esther specializes in treating anxiety, trauma, relationship issues and parenting struggles with an emphasis on developing healthy attachments. Esther currently runs Dialectical Behavioral Therapy groups in her practice, and facilitates Trauma Informed Consultation groups for therapists committed to improving their trauma-informed practice. Esther's website is esthergoldsteinpsych.com