Roughly 8% of the general population suffers from PTSD. Chances are high that someone you love will experience difficult symptoms after a traumatic event. It can feel overwhelming and confusing. What can you do?
The A B Cs of Loving A Traumatized Person
AttuneMeet their energy level with a mostly silent presence. Listen far more than you talk. Reflect the things they say to show you heard them (without altering what they say). Avoid the impulse to rush them to healing. Allow them to have time and space to feel what they feel. Paradoxically this will actually speed their healing process later.
BelieveWhen you hear their stories, believe them. Don't offer alternative explanations or challenge their narrative. If you were there when it happened and remember the experience differently, don't offer that unless asked. Allow them to "think out loud" about what happened to them and how it felt for them. Again, this will speed their healing later.
ContactPeople suffering with trauma tend to withdraw emotionally. This can lead to a vicious cycle because they most need support and are least likely to ask for it. Maintain or even increase contact with them. It doesn't always have to be in depth- even a simple text message of support (with no expectation of return) can let them know they are not alone. This way, when they are ready to reach out, they will know who is in their corner.
De-personalizeTraumatized people tend to be numb, disconnected, over-reactive, fearful and/or angry. Understand that if you notice any of these mood or behavior changes they are not aimed at you. Their nervous system is having a hard time regulating and it makes everything feel like too much. When you see them having a hard time emotionally, the best thing you can do is maintain an attuned and believing contact. Don't argue or rush to positivity. Understand that this is not a reaction to you, or about you. While still respecting your own safety and boundaries, leave room for them and their big emotions.
The good news:
As they heal the level of support you gave will pay off. Connection with others can make all the difference in healing PTSD. Those who have experienced traumatic events often find they have amazing resilience and gain new strength when they come out the other side. This is called "Post Traumatic Growth" and its a new area of meaningful research. With the right support (sometimes professional) people can and do come out the other side. And those people are often the best people to know because of their empathy, compassion and strength.
Extra Support Ideas
Partner Support Group On Facebook
Birth Trauma Support Group On Facebook
Birth & Trauma Support Center On Facebook