Supporting a family member, friend, colleague or even someone you don’t know so well, as they disclose their trauma, talk about it and seek help and support is a vital and often challenging role. It can also be life affirming.
Child abuse and trauma often leave a survivor struggling to just feel okay. Some have never felt okay. Others have never felt safe, emotionally or physically. Many feel bad and blame themselves. Many others are angry or distressed, and can be agitated and shut down at different times.
Some survivors struggle with seeking help, feeling safe and trusting enough. Many have contradictions between feelings and thoughts e.g.`I know it wasn’t my fault but I feel that it was’, Others have split loyalties e.g. positive and negative feelings towards perpetrator/s &/or family members. Many despair of ever getting beyond `the mess’.
Survivors are often labelled as ‘difficult’ or ‘attention seeking’. This is judgmental and unhelpful for all. Survivors have shown enormous strength, courage and resilience to have survived. What happened to them was wrong. The ways survivors cope and react make sense in the context of their trauma i.e. their reactions and apparently ‘challenging behaviours’ make sense given their experiences.
Coping strategies to deal with overwhelming stress are attempts to manage painful internal experience. It is normal to want to feel better. However coping mechanisms which may seem to offer immediate relief can also be risky. Recognising the purpose of coping strategies as attempts to `tolerate the intolerable’ can lessen the shame and self-blame survivors feel. That way alternative coping methods can be developed.
When you’re supporting a survivor it is important to seek as much information and support as you can for you, and for the person you’re supporting. This section of the website provides guidance and resources around supporting survivors on their healing journey. There is help and support for you too.