What do you think when you hear that word???
Something traumatic?? What do you understand by that statement??
Ultimately trauma is relative. And it can be different for each one of us. What we as individuals define as traumatic is individual and unique to each of us. We all have different thresholds. We all experience things differently. Some people bounce back from certain events more quickly, while others take a long time to heal. There is no right or wrong. Sometimes people avoid things – while others face them head on. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how you recover or cope. What matters is that you find peace in the end.
The list of traumatic events is endless –
- Domestic violence
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Natural disaster
- A serious car accident
- Sudden death of someone close
- Violent attack – mugging, assault etc
- Political violence/unrest
- Relationship break down
- Supporting a loved one with a long-term illness
These are some of the many things that people find traumatic – but realistically there are many more. Even change can sometimes be very traumatic for people.
There are key signs when someone is traumatised – they may have upsetting or disturbing memories, they may have frightening dreams. Children suffer with these a lot and they may also act out the trauma through play and appear to be experiencing it as though it is happening right now.
People may get very upset or distressed when they hear certain noises, or if they are faced with reminders of certain things. They will naturally also want to stay away from conversation that relates to the trauma and find themselves trying to avoid any feelings associated with it.
Naturally when people are traumatised, they begin to lose interest in the things they once found enjoyable. They isolate themselves more and more. They may show less emotion and not want to be around others. Or at times extreme emotion and go through phases of blaming others or even blaming themselves.
Sleep is one of the first things that can be impacted when someone is traumatised. They may also lose their ability to concentrate and find themselves easily startled, nervous and jumpy at times. Some people often become very reckless and dangerous as they act certain behaviours out and lose a sense of caring about what happens to themselves. Anger can also come out very frequently and often in different directions.
Children can become more fearful of strangers and seem clingier. They may regress and act younger in their behaviour and often talk about physical complaints such as stomach aches and pains. They may show fear around being separated from a caregiver who they feel safe with. And they may struggle to concentrate and have outbursts regularly. Mood changes will be common – as well changes in appetite.
Once you understand and recognise why a person is acting the way they are – then you can really begin to help them. Once you see past the behaviour and understand how traumatised they are – then you will be able to see their vulnerability.
You will be able to understand the pain they are experiencing and learn about the things they are doing their best to try and block out and at times suppress. Often people need to experience compassion, kindness, care and understanding. Even when it is hard to do so, and you feel tested and pushed to the limit – it is important to try and remember what a person is going through. To try and understand the place they find themselves in. And in turn to be there for them.
There are many types of therapy available to help someone that is traumatised. Whether it is cognitive behaviour therapy, play therapy or an analytical approach (to name a few). It can have a positive impact and will help people of all ages.
However, there are also things that can be done at home and around someone who is traumatised in order to help them. You can also apply these to yourself if you are the one who has experienced the trauma.
- Offer a calm and structured environment
- Develop some important routines
- Think about expectations and limits – what is reasonable for someone going through this ?
- Pay attention and listen to someones feelings
- Remain calm when someone else is anxious
- For young people plan for any transitions
- Focus on the hear and now
- Look at identity and learning about a sense of self
- Take care of your own needs
- Be aware of reactions – yours and the person dealing with the trauma
- Incorporate regular exercise
- Make time for relaxation
- Focus on a balanced diet
- Make sure sleep is a priority
- Focus on having healthy relationships
- Aim to manage stress
- Make sure you talk about your feelings
- Focus on a good support network
- Get a doctor and medication involved if you think it’s necessary
None of us can undo the trauma that someone has experienced, and we cannot take away the pain they have endured and continue to overcome.
We can however help them to make life more manageable for them and to learn how to live with the things that have happened to them, without them totally taking over.
All of the above can really help people in moving forward and finding a healthy way of manging and coping with things. And in time true healing can take place and a brighter future is possible.