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Traumatic events either have or will impact all of our lives. Traumas come in many forms and impact all of us with a myriad of symptoms. Traumas are any of life’s events that have the potential to overwhelm us without the assistance from others. The death of a spouse, the death of a child, sudden job loss, rape, sexual abuse, threat of loss of health, disability, abandonment, betrayal or loss of trust, devastation due to storms or fires, divorce systemic loss (child leaves home for college), loss of one of primary senses, and imagined loss or trauma. These are but a few of life’s traumas that can suddenly change our lives, creating an overwhelming presence too difficult with which to cope.

On the evening before Jesus Christ was crucified, he went to a garden to pray. He was accompanied by three of his disciples. He simply asked them to be present while he prayed. He became annoyed when he found that they had gone to sleep. He knew that he was facing a major trauma in his life, his death, and he just wanted them to be there for him. They could do nothing, but their presence was precious to him. On the other hand, in the trials and traumas faced by Job, his three friends offered advice that was not very helpful. The scriptures reveal that God was not happy with the three friends and their words of encouragement. Since there are not sufficient healers in our areas, it is important for all interested parties to know what to do as well as what not to do when trying to assist someone who has been traumatized. Here are a few “do’s and don’ts” to keep in mind when assisting those who have been bewildered by traumatic events.

Do’s

  • Build a relationship that offers hope.
  • Listen without being judgmental.
  • Help them to understand that it is normal to feel the way they do at this time.
  • Affirm their need for crying as normal and healthy.
  • Ask questions that allow their story to be told. Telling the story of the traumatic event relieves the stress of the trauma.
  • Value their story by telling how much that you appreciate them telling you.
  • Make eye contact with the person while they share their story with you. Good eye contact conveys a message without words.
  • Encourage the sharing of thoughts and feelings. Explain how sharing of both aids in their healing.
  • It is ok to ask, “What was the worst part about the event for you?”
  • Be patient!
  • Listen to their story repeatedly if they feel the need to tell it again. Each time the story is told, the hurt is minimized.
  • Tell abut the trauma in a group if it happened to a specific group of people. If done this way, encourage others to be accepting of the one telling their story by listening, words of encouragement, and appropriate touch by those sitting closest to the one telling their story.
  • Remind the story tellers that what is spoken will remain conficdential.

Don’ts

  • Never ask “why” they feel the way they do.
  • Avoid needless challenges of their stories.
  • Avoid, “I know just how you feel,” when in fact you do not.
  • Do not attempt to solve a problem, just listen.
  • Avoid needless questioning for details of your own curiosity when asking questions that encourage them to tell their story.
  • Avoid being judgmental about their expressions. They may tell you who they hate or that they are angry with God.
  • Do not push them to feel something that they are not ready to feel. Avoid telling them how they ought to feel. Avoid statements of “you should” or “you ought to”.
  • Never lecture, just listen. They do not need to hear you, but they need to be heard.
  • Avoid telling your own war stories. They provide less comfort than you may think.
  • Avoid sharing information that has been shared with you by someone else. It diminishes trust and may inhibit others from sharing as openly as needed.
  • Avoid generalizations or statements that may minimize their feelings. Their feelings are their feelings.
  • Avoid needless interruptions or distractions while listening, which may be interpreted as uncaring or lack of interest.



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