How to help a loved one that has faced trauma – Kendra Schmunk

It can be challenging to navigate trauma.

It’s complicated, it’s confusing, it’s painful, it’s messy. Some days you feel okay and the next you might feel at war. It’s not a linear journey but rather a process that can go up and down. Everyday might look a little bit different, and that’s totally normal and okay. Trauma is unpredictable. 
Having loved ones support you in your trauma is so important. However, it can be hard to know where to start when you are walking alongside a loved one facing trauma. It can be daunting and overwhelming watching someone you love suffer through the painful journey that trauma brings. When I first started working in trauma – I was overwhelmed and felt like I had to do everything, but I learned that while I can’t be everything, there are little ways that I can better help those in my life that are walking through trauma. Here’s a few of those ways: 

  1. Be there.

Just be there for them. This may seem obvious – but one of the most important things we can do is listen and be present. You don’t have all the answers – but you can listen in a non-judgmental way. Don’t listen to reply – but rather listen to really hear them out. Oftentimes people don’t want you to have all the answers – they just need someone to truly listen to them and hear them out. However, it is also important to be okay if they don’t want to talk about it. Often talking about trauma can be an overwhelming event – so be patient and okay if they aren’t ready but let them know you are there when they are ready to talk things through.

  1. Be patient with them.

You can’t rush trauma or healing. It’s a journey and it might take time. Be patient with your loved one and let them feel what they need to and process what they need to process. It’s important to be patient with those walking through trauma as trauma can often resurface itself. Don’t rush them, but rather let them know that you are with them and standing beside them however long it takes.

  1. Encourage them to find resources and seek help.

You can only help so much – sometimes they need to advise a counsellor, a support group etc – in order to get the help that they truly need. Don’t push them too much, but gently encourage them to seek help for what they are facing. Getting them connected with professionals who understand trauma is highly important in the healing journey.

  1. Educate yourself.

There are so many resources/courses you can take to become more trauma informed. Look into ones in your area that may be of aid to you as well as online courses and books. By educating yourself and becoming trauma informed it can help you understand trauma better so that you can better help those around you. *resources linked below

  1. Take care of yourself.

It’s important to take care of yourself and practice self-care. If you aren’t careful to take care of yourself – you could experience vicarious trauma, which is when you experience trauma from someone else’s trauma. Taking care of yourself could look like setting healthy boundaries, practicing a variety of self-care, whether that be a creative outlet, getting outside, taking a bath, seeing a counsellor yourself, etc. We can’t help others if we are not helping ourselves as well.
These are a few ways I’ve learned how to better help those in trauma. Remember that you are just one person – you can’t fix everything, but you can walk alongside your loved one the best way that you can by listening to them, being there for them, finding resources, and educating yourself. But remember to be kind to yourself as well in the process. 

-Kendra Schmunk from the No Society Team

A few resources on helping with trauma: 


The Body Keeps the Score

Bessel van der Kolk M.D.

Trauma & Recovery – Judith Lewis Herman

What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing – Bruce D. Perry & Oprah Winfrey

First Stage Trauma Treatment – Lori Haskell

Trauma Informed Training:

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