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How to help a loved one through a traumatic experience

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

It can be hard to see someone we love in pain. However, at some point in our lives, we all go through something. Whether it’s a death, serious illness, or accident, the support network we have around us is vital to helping us pull through. 

How can you provide support to someone who has experienced trauma? 

Ask what you can do to help

It might sound simple, but people often don’t like to ask for help, even though they know that others will be more than happy to provide it. Ask them what you can do for them. It could be something practical like helping them find a personal injury law firm or looking after their kids for a few hours. Or it can be emotional support, a shoulder to cry on. 

Don’t try and solve their problems, unless they want you to

Often, people going through a traumatic time, don’t want you to solve their problems for them. They want a sounding board who will listen to them. Of course, if they do ask directly and you think you know the answer, then that’s a different situation altogether. 

Don’t take things personally

People can react in different ways to trauma. They may withdraw from contact, or even say and do things completely out of character, hurting the people they care about.  If the person you’re trying to care for does start acting out of character, try not to take it personally, and don’t overreact if you can help it. Remove yourself from the situation for a while if you’re upset. 

Give them space

Knowing when to reach out to someone and when to give them space can be difficult. Sometimes people need to be able to get some distance to mentally deal with their situation. So back off when you need to but still reach out regularly through whatever method is the best for them. 

Encourage them to get help

Unless you’re a trained psychologist, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to provide comprehensive help to someone in genuine emotional or mental distress. If you’re worried about them in any way, encourage them to seek help either through their doctor or directly with a therapist. Don’t force someone to talk about something if they don’t want to, even if you believe it will be the best thing for them. If you believe someone is at risk of depression or self-harm, you need to seek help immediately. 

Realize that recovery is not a straight line

Recovering from trauma has many ups and downs. Often people assume that the worst consequences will slowly get better over time. This is seldom the case. People often experience relapses, even after long periods of feeling better. It’s not a failure on your part to help them, it’s just a natural path of recovery. 


Our first instincts are always to help the people we love through hard times. But it can be a really tough balancing act to know how much support to give and when.