Coping With A Loved One’s Trauma—How can you help?

In attending a seminar on trauma at the Florida Mental Health Counselors Association (FMHCA) annual conference last year, one statement stuck with me: 

If someone says they’ve never been through any trauma, they’re lying.

The seminar was being presented by a veteran, but the trauma that veterans go through is not the only trauma there is.  Traumatic events people incur do not give them any notice.  The results are dealing with the aftereffects, oftentimes long after the trauma is over. 

With recent events of school shootings, mass shootings, online bullying, and reports of suicide, it brings to the surface how going through any kind of trauma can leave people affected for long periods of time.  Trauma is a very prevalent and concerning mental health issue. 

Anything someone close to us is going through affects us. We can end up feeling helpless. We may not know what to say, how to act, or how to respond.  We can see how someone is being affected. We wish we could erase the past events from their memory that still sit with them.  Although we can’t make it go away, there are things we can do.

Be there for you.  It’s important for a loved one to address their symptoms.  But, how do we care for ourselves so we can be there for them? The adage of loving yourself first is not just a cliché. What things can you do for yourself to be present for someone else? Being aware of your own emotions and well-being can help you avoid the stress that can result from helping or wanting to help someone.  If you start to notice your own overwhelming emotions, such as difficulty concentrating, feeling exhausted, or distancing yourself from others, a therapist or a support group could be of benefit to you.  Anything that is helpful to you, is helpful to them.

Just be there. Listen when they need us to. We don’t have to always bring things up, or talk about it. But, we can be there to listen if they say they’d like to talk, or they just start talking. Many people that have been traumatized don’t want to relive what they went through by continuing to talk about it. If you don’t know what to say, a good measure is to validate what they tell you they’re feeling. 

Don’t take it personally.  Understand that your loved one’s feelings or behaviors are reactions to their trauma, and not towards you personally.  Their concerns are related to their trauma, and valid, but can be destructive between you if you take their trauma symptoms personally.  The fact that someone is struggling with the effects of trauma does not mean you are the cause.

Suggest they get support. It can be difficult not knowing what to say. But, there are many trained therapists throughout Florida that do know what to say, or have been specifically trained in a trauma therapy. You cannot make someone seek out help, but putting the suggestion out there for them can bring it to the forefront of their mind when they find they are ready to work through things. Sometimes, people who have been through events go back and forth on if they are ready to address them.

An important note.  If you feel your loved one’s situation in dangerous, and there is potential that they may harm themselves or others—don’t hesitate to call 911, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK, or going with them to the ER.   

I hope this proved helpful.  If this resonated with you, and you feel you need assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out here.  Please also feel free to share with someone you think could benefit.


  1. Be there for you.

  2. Just be there.

  3. Don’t take it personally.

  4. Suggest they get support.