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Guidance for following a Crisis or Traumatic Event

When someone we care about has been involved in a crisis or traumatic event, it can be very difficult to know what to do. We can feel helpless, confused and worried. Our loved ones may withdraw from our support or be emotional or angry with us. They may have a range of post-traumatic stress symptoms and sometimes it can feel as though we’ll never get the “old person” back and life will never be the same again.

As someone who cares for them, you are an important part of their recovery in their crisis or traumatic event they are experiencing and there are things that you can do.

  • Encourage, but do NOT pressure, your loved one to talk about the incident and his/her reaction to it. If they do talk, your job is simply to listen and not judge or jump in with advice
  • Take your time and accept that small steps are the quickest way to a full recovery
  • Find out about post-traumatic stress reactions – knowledge is power. Recognising the symptoms and helping your loved one to access this knowledge is generally helpful
  • Telling people to put it behind them and move on is not generally helpful
  • Ask what they need from you. Offer practical support if that is needed. Their levels of concentration and focus will be impaired and everyday tasks can become challenging
  • Make sure that they have a private, quiet space to go to when they need this. Post-traumatic stress can leave people overly sensitive to loud noises, sudden movements and bright lights. If you have a busy home, this can be difficult for them to manage continually, and they may need regular time out
  • Maintain or return to a normal routine as soon as possible
  • If they have no appetite, encourage regular, small meals that are easy to eat and digest such as soups, stews, milky puddings
  • Don’t take their anger or withdrawal personally but accept that you too will sometimes feel frustrated and helpless. Look after your own needs and make sure you have support in place for you
  • Reassure them that you value and care for them even when their behaviour means that they can be difficult to live with. They will often be terrified of losing you
  • If the symptoms of post-traumatic stress do not begin to subside within a few weeks, or if they intensify, consider seeking further assistance. It is best if they can be gently encouraged to do this themselves, but many people fear seeking psychological support. However, if you ever fear they may become a danger to themselves or to you, you must put safety first and seek immediate professional advice and support

For more informative resources on helping others, please see the following link.

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