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Helping a Loved One with PTSD During the Holidays

Updated: Jan 1, 2021

This holiday season will be unlike any we’ve ever had before, because of ongoing quarantines and social distancing. For someone with PTSD, the solitude brought on by these events can be both a blessing and a curse. As a family member or friend, it’s imperative that you’re there for support, but sometimes knowing what comprises support can be tough.

PTSD can be brought on by a number of traumatic events. According to a 2018 study by the Sidran Institute, the percentages of people who will develop PTSD after certain events can be quite high:

  • Sexual assault: 49%

  • Severe physical assault: 32%

  • Serious accidents: 16.8%

  • Shoot and stabbing victims: 15.4%

  • The unexpected death of a loved one: 14.3%

  • Parents of children with life-threatening illnesses: 10.4%

  • Witnesses of violence: 7.3%

  • Natural disaster victims: 3.8%

My PTSD was a direct result of a physical assault. I struggled for months to fit in with my peers, friends, and family. I also kept a lot of what I was going through to myself. I felt like I had already been a big enough burden, between the medical issues and recovery time. It wasn’t until I began to open up and be honest with myself, and others, that I began to heal.

To help your loved one do the same, the first step is to allow them to choose when and what to talk about. You can’t force the conversation, or force them to confront a life-altering trauma. Second, when you hear about their struggles, don’t be quick to judge or offer a string of platitudes. Respect their experience, and decisions. A large crowd can be overwhelming (and isn’t a good idea right now anyway), so keep any get-togethers small and intimate, allowing your loved one space. Have a gentle conversation with them about anything that might be a trigger, from sights to sounds to smells, and give them a space to get away from it all, if need be. Sometimes just having a few moments to collect yourself can make a huge difference. Most of all, be there with hugs and support.

If you are the one dealing with PTSD, and aren’t ready to have the conversation yet, just print out this blog post and give it to your loved ones. The people who care about you want to help, but often have no idea how. Be sure to take time as needed to regroup and recenter yourself, but please don’t isolate and allow depressive feelings to consume you. If you feel like hurting yourself or just need to reach out, please call 800-273-8255.

People are here, ready to help. I am here to hear your story and support you. If you want to know more about me and my battle with PTSD, check out my book You've Got Some Nerve.

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