How can relatives help with trauma?

Anyone who lives closely with a traumatized person will notice drastic changes. Often the personality of those affected changes and sometimes you can no longer recognize them. In many cases they withdraw from social life or behave aggressively. Both can lead to loss of contact in the social environment, which is why the remaining, close caregivers such as close friends and family then play a particularly important role.

Knowledge is the be-all and end-all

In order to be able to accompany a traumatized person, it is important to find out more about the clinical picture and the associated symptoms. For example, those who suffer from trauma can struggle with memory lapses or partly amnesia. Traumatic experiences are stored in emotional memory and we do not always have conscious access to them.

Those affected often struggle with depression and suicidal ideation, and their risk of developing addictions is increased. Should the plans for a suicide become concrete, those affected should be given professional treatment and be admitted to an appropriate clinical facility. If you do that as a family member, it is not a matter of abandoning yourself, but acting responsibly that can take the pressure off the shoulders of everyone involved.

Anyone who experiences trauma often also loses confidence in the previous foundations of life. Especially then, trust and security from the close environment are important support. It is important to take the limits of those affected seriously and to accept them.

In practical terms, there should be a lot of routine and continuity in everyday life. This can mean, for example, getting up and going to bed at the same time of day and adhering to regular meal times. Since many people with trauma also suffer from insomnia, going to bed together and thus a feeling of security and security when falling asleep can help.

It can be difficult for those affected to share the traumatic memories because they don’t want to burden others. At this point, as a family member, it can help you to show yourself strong and, above all, to give time and attention to those affected or just to be there. Reactions to what is shared should be balanced, because too much empathy can put those affected into a child-like role and thus into a situation of helplessness.

Relationship despite trauma

To be close to a traumatized person and to endure the whole severity of his trauma and its consequences is not easy as a family member. You not only have to learn not to relate the feelings and reactions of the other person to yourself, but also to deal with the fact that everything in the relationship may revolve around the trauma for a while. Fortunately, trauma can now be treated better and better and there is also a time after the trauma.

Living together with a traumatized person can inevitably lead to conflicts over and over again. It should always be clear that violence is a red line. Even with traumatized people, violence cannot be excused and relatives should under no circumstances feel guilty and apologize for everything. Feelings like anger and impatience towards a traumatized person also have their place.

You can only give if you have enough yourself

In the support and care of a person who suffers from trauma, however, you can get lost. If you do not have any professional training in the psychological field yourself, it can be difficult to offer the right support here.

It is particularly important that relatives and caregivers of people who have to deal with trauma learn to take care of themselves, to recharge their batteries again and again and to stay mentally healthy themselves. Because only from this strength of your own can you offer care.

It is quite normal and highly recommended to get professional help yourself in order to be more balanced and to be able to offer those affected more support. As a relative: r you can get help even if those affected are perhaps not ready to do so themselves. In any case, it helps to deal with the difficulties of living together with a traumatized person and can also serve as an important role model. Because when those affected notice how much better close confidants are doing with therapy, they may also dare to do it themselves.

Just as you, as a relative: r can be important support to a person with trauma, you too should not hesitate to ask for support from your family and friends. If you would like to exchange ideas with people who may be going through something similar, you can also find support in self-help groups.


Roestel and Kersting: Simple and Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders. (2008).

Knaevelsrud, Stammel and Boettche: Post-traumatic stress disorder in victims of torture and war. (2012).