Many of you are fortunate to have never experienced trauma, and when you are approached with someone opening up to you about their traumatic experience, you may find yourself at a loss for words. Hopefully this list will be helpful in what to avoid saying:
- You shouldn’t have put yourself in that position. We tell ourselves this more often than we’d like to admit, and quite often during our flashbacks, we beat ourselves up over what should have or could have done differently. The fact of the matter is, we did everything we could have done.
- Don’t dwell on it. It happened a long time ago. It doesn’t matter if it happened twenty years ago. When one’s mind keeps playing things over and over, it’s like it happens every day. If we could stop that from happening, we would.
- Just get over it. Again, if we could, we would. PTSD is a mental result from a traumatic experience. It isn’t something as easy to “get over” as a stubbed toe.
- I understand how you feel. Unless you suffer from PTSD,then no, you don’t understand. This doesn’t mean you can’t try to understand and show compassion, though. Perhaps instead of saying you understand, try telling the person that although you may not understand, you still support and are there for them.
- It could have been/could be worse. We are well aware of this. Things could always be worse, but telling someone this minimizes their experience and enhances their feelings of guilt and worthlessness.
This is a short list, but these are the most common and damaging things I’ve heard. Please DO be supportive by listening. We don’t expect anyone to fix us, but just letting us know we aren’t as alone as we feel can make a huge difference.