Award winning author, international speaker, and host of WLAC’s ‘The Power of Real Estate’, Michelle Moore, draws on her own traumatic experience as she provides powerful tools to help loved ones in the midst of trauma.
BY MICHELLE MOORE
I’ve experienced trauma a few times in my life. Until recently, my mother vanishing when I was fourteen years old would have been the worst example I could give. It was such a horrible time for me that there was a period when I didn’t want to live. It was simply too overwhelming for life to continue. My father had been out of my life for nearly ten years at the time of my mother’s disappearance, other family members didn’t care enough to provide the emotional support I desperately needed, and my young friends weren’t equipped to be that support. Losing my mother forever changed my life and shaped who I am today—as a mother, wife, friend, and human being in general. But Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His proposes for them” (NLT). God has done that for me. And looking back, I am able to see how God took that great loss and used it to help others for His good.
Recently I experienced another trauma, which was worse than losing my mother. My ten-year-old son was accidentally severely injured. As a parent, it’s your absolute worst nightmare. Period. He was hospitalized for a month while undergoing numerous surgeries and procedures. As a family, we were shaken to our core. Everything I looked at seemed strange and foreign—like I was living someone else’s nightmare. The events in the days and weeks to follow only led to more trauma. I was later diagnosed with something I didn’t even know existed—Complex PTSD. The condition was caused by the repeated traumatic experiences I was experiencing during the eight weeks following my son’s accident. Sometimes I experienced trauma numerous times in a day.
In the midst of this ordeal our family was walking through, I realized none of our friends and family knew what to say or do. They were uncomfortable and unsure how to best help us. They sincerely wanted to help, but just didn’t know how. It wasn’t until my first counseling appointment that I began to understand the situation. My counselor, Sharon, said, “Every single one of your friends and family are going to let you down.” In that moment I realized most people haven’t been through a trauma and have absolutely no idea what’s going on for the loved one who is hurting, thus making it very difficult for them to know how to effectively care and help. And sometimes because of a lack of understanding they might even make the situation even worse.
If you’ve never been through a traumatic event (you’d know if you have), I’ve written the following five to-dos for you as a guidepost for helping someone who is experiencing a trauma. Keep in mind that everyone processes hurts and traumas differently. Reactions vary, but these work regardless of the circumstances or the person.
Your loved one needs your prayers more than ever before. Simply put, when traumatic things happen, the very foundation of their entire world crumbles into millions of unrecognizable pieces. They need your real, fervent prayer. Many people say they will pray, but I suspect many never do. Be different—take the time to pray for them, their needs, their peace, and any other thing you think they will need in the coming days, weeks, and months. What if your prayers are the only prayers that are being said on their behalf? Prayer is powerful and can work miracles for many. Prayer can move mountains, and your loved one has a mountain in front of them right now.
Your loved one needs to know you care. Most times the best way is to visit—whether they are at home or in a hospital. Many people use the excuse that they don’t like hospitals. Get over it. Where you spend your time shows what you care about. A visit can help someone know you really care and they really do matter to you—you’re not just giving lip service. Actions speak louder than words. Your loved one is in the trenches and needs you. Stop making excuses. Get up and go. If you get there and it’s not a good time for a visit, come back another time.
Your loved one needs caring friends to sit with them. This is a time for you to be present. They may need you to sit and listen to them ramble about nothing or they may need to share about the traumatic situation in their midst. You may spend time holding them while they cry or waiting with them for a doctor to come out of a surgery to give an update. Regardless, you are there in some of their darkest days. Just your presence will be a comfort.
Your loved one needs caring friends to say the right things. Verbal support is a real need in times of trauma. Oftentimes people feel if they visit, they need to say something but they struggle with what to say. Stop trying to figure out the right words. Nothing you say is going to make the pain go away or the situation better. Saying clichés like “it’s going to be okay” or “time will heal your pain” can make things worse. It has the potential to make your loved one feel like you don’t understand their current pain. But being silent doesn’t help your loved one either. That makes them feel isolated and alone. Just acknowledge that you don’t know what to say. I suggest saying, “I love you, and I’m sorry you are hurting.”
Your loved one needs help, but most of us are pretty reluctant to ask for it. Or your loved one may be so overwhelmed, they don’t know where to begin. Say, “I’m going to be in your neighborhood, can I pick up your mail?” Or, “I’m on my way to the grocery store. What do you need?” Or, “I know you can’t possibly have time to cook. Can I bring you a meal tomorrow night?” Taking care of small tasks or errands can seem menial to you but to the loved one whose life has been turned upside down, it can provide a huge relief.
I pray you never have to console a loved one who is hurting, but suffering is a part of life, so we know it’s likely that the day and time will come—many times. Now you know what to do in those times. May the Lord guide you in helping those who will desperately need you.
Michelle Moore is a regular contributor to Southern Guide to Life. She is an award winning author, speaker, leadership coach, and sales trainer. She is the author of ‘Selling Simplified’, and ‘Abandonment to Forgiveness’. To find out more, visit her online at BeYourTop.com. Follow her on Twitter at @BeYourTop. Visit her onFacebook.com/LeadershipPower, Linkedin.com, Google+,Goodreads.com, Pinterest.com, and Youtube.com