Trauma is a powerful force that can wreck lives and relationships, especially if it goes unchecked and untreated. Oftentimes, traumatic events are the root cause of other types of mental health issues. Worst of all, trauma is all too common in today’s society. Statistics show that 15-25% of women experience sexual abuse and trauma during their lifetime. Nearly 20% of returning veterans report symptoms of PTSD. And 15-20% of people experience a life-threatening natural disaster. It’s clear that trauma is a more common problem than most of us realize, and understanding how to deal with trauma is important for our own well-being, our communities, and our relationships.
When we deal with trauma, family is thought of as a powerful resource, as it can make up the heart of your support system. However, this can get complicated when traumatic events impact an entire family, as different people may cope in different ways, and not all of them are positive. Learn some important tips about how to deal with family trauma, below…
Try Group Therapy
First of all, attending therapy as a family can be a powerful way to honestly share thoughts and feelings that can be difficult to express in your everyday life. A professional therapist can provide valuable mediation that helps expand upon the underlying causes of destructive emotions. The key to doing group therapy is to try to make sure that all the necessary family members are there and that they participate. Another important aspect is to set clear expectations about what you are looking for from family therapy, and have reasonable expectations about what it can provide for you.
Keep Communication Open
When we are hurting from trauma, it is all too easy to try to bury our feelings and not talk about it. While family therapy can provide help in these area, it’s important to keep open line of communication throughout a family, even when not in a therapy-setting. Communication is key to the healing process, and to putting the whole family on the same page of where they are in that process. This communication isn’t always easy, but it is always necessary.
Build Trauma Resilience
One of the goals that you should be having in group therapy (and in personal therapy, as well) is to build trauma resilience, which is how psychologists identify a person’s ability to recover and cope with trauma. Trauma resilience helps you bounce back from the hard times, and puts the control of your life in your own hands, giving us control instead of helplessness.
Here are some key traits associated with trauma resilience:
- Problem-solving skills
- Clear aspirations and goals
- Having strong role models
- Emotional intelligence
- Meaningful relationships
- Feelings of safety
- Cultural foundations
- Community ties
Don’t Stay in a Harmful Environment
Sometimes, the impact of trauma can leave relationships fractured, or can lead to problematic and abusive behavior. These are sure signs that person is coping with trauma in all the wrong ways. While it can be emotionally difficult to get out of these situations, because you see where the pain is coming from (having dealt with it yourself), nobody should ever stay in an abusive environment. If you are in a relationship with an abusive spouse that has been impacted by trauma, then that pattern of violent behavior should be enough to bite the bullet and hire a divorce lawyer.
Reframe Your Relationship with Trauma
Your relationship with trauma is nurtured through checking your language and mindset, and it’s important to keep that personal experience in mind when working through trauma as a family. Never wonder “what is wrong with you?” but rather, “what has happened to you?” when communicating with someone who is struggling through trauma. This helps us to move past shame and instead acknowledge the external factors that have led to the difficulties.
It’s also important to acknowledge the strength of the person who has undergone the trauma. Although they were a victim of the trauma itself during the fact, they don’t have to be a victim afterwards, but rather an agent. About 70% of people who have experienced trauma report growth that occurs afterwards which makes them stronger and better people.