NHS Lothian

Helping a loved one make sense of trauma

1 min read

When a loved one goes through a traumatic event, it can be hard to know what you can do or how you can help. It’s important to know that everyone responds and makes sense of trauma differently, and can have different needs.


Try to be patient and understanding. Making sense of trauma and healing from its impact takes time, so be patient. Your loved one will need to go at their own pace. Everyone’s response to trauma is different, so try not to judge your loved one if their response is different to yours, or anyone else’s.


Offer practical support. Following a traumatic event, your loved one might be finding it overwhelming just to do every-day things. They might find it hard being in busy places, for example, so you could ask them to make a list of the groceries they need and pick things up for them. They might be feeling very tired and distracted, and find it difficult to do their normal housework. You could do it for them. Or they may simply need you to be available to listen or talk to. If you find it difficult to know how to help, ask them what they need.


Don’t pressure your loved one to talk about what happened but be available if they want to talk. It isn’t always necessary or helpful for people to talk about what happened to them. For some people, talking is helpful. For others, it isn’t. But you can still be present and supportive, whether they want to talk about what happened or not.


Help your loved one to engage in social, enjoyable and relaxing activities. Encourage them to move and exercise, see friends and pursue hobbies. Don’t force them or get frustrated if they find it hard. Be gentle and give them time.


Don’t take things personally. Your loved one may feel overwhelmed, sad, angry or irritable, and they may become emotionally distant. Remember that this isn’t related to you or your relationship. It’s a response to their traumatic experiences.



Urgent Help


If you, or someone you know, is in crisis and in imminent danger of causing harm to themselves or others, call 999 immediately

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