Things you Shouldn’t say to a Trauma Survivor

Many people cannot cope with another person’s pain. They do not want to know, and they cannot stand to hear. As a consequence of this, they will try to shut you down, and often they will do this by spouting platitudes. Pointless, empty words that can make you feel alone.

Examples include the following:

“Just let it go.”

“Are you over it yet?”

“Try to focus on the positives.”

“It’s going to be OK …”

“You still have so much to be thankful for.”

“At least you can be grateful that …”

“Fake it till you make.”

“I know how you feel.”

“Let me tell you what happened to me …”

“At least it’s not bad as what happened to X.”

“One day you’ll look back, and be grateful that it happened.”

“It will all work out for the best in the end.”

These cruel and thoughtless comments weave a web of toxic shame. They make it even harder to reach out for support. They leave you feeling judged. Written off. Misunderstood. When, really, all you want is to feel that someone cares. To find someone who’ll listen, and share the load with you.

Something to consider: “Trauma that is stored in the locked closets and cupboards of the subconscious mind continues to control from within, often without the survivor fully understanding what’s happening. The process of letting go can’t happen until those things are dragged into the light and fully processed. That means feeling uncomfortable feelings. It means grieving. It means giving yourself the kind of care and attention that no one else did. Sometimes, it means wallowing for a while.” – Vicki Peterson

23 thoughts on “Things you Shouldn’t say to a Trauma Survivor

  1. Thank you, very powerful post and I actually cringe when I read some of these things, I heard them so often over the past few years. I have learned to ignore it when people say it to me now. I shared it… ❤️

    Like

  2. Some people have to believe every situation has a solution

    Through their eyes our PTSD has simple cures and it is our lack of courage or desire that fails us

    Friendships dissolve around their attitude

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This hits home. I’ve experienced these kind of statements many times and from people whom I thought loved me most. In all honesty I know I’ve said them too. Not in a spirit of conscious harm but because I couldn’t hold space for my own feelings and without that ability it’s been my experience that it’s most difficult, if not impossible to hold space for anyone else’s.

    Liked by 3 people

    • That is a very insightful point: we need to be able to hold space for our own feelings first in order to be able to hold space for another person’s feelings. This isn’t a skill that many people have. We haven’t experienced it, or been taught it, so we don’t know how to relate in this way.
      Perhaps it gives us more understanding towards those who say inappropriate and damaging things when we are hurting or traumatized. If nothing else, it alerts us to the fact that we have to be cautious and guarded around these individuals. Thanks for highlighting this Catherine.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on DIVERSITY University and commented:

    In each of our lifetimes, there is bound to be some form of trauma experienced by our friends and loved ones or perhaps ourselves. It may be difficult to know just what to say or do to provide some comfort to others at those times. Everyone needs something different, because we are individuals and will respond to and process life . There are some basic similarities in the responses we provide to others with the best of intentions.

    Seeing others in pain, triggers our own natural desire to eliminate the discomfort. Unfortunately, in the midst of showing empathy and compassion, we feel compelled to say something. However, sometimes, the words we speak can be unhelpful and worsen matters. They can send the wrong message to survivors of trauma.This post from “Don’t Lose Hope” details many of those unhelpful responses.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I found this post to be quite helpful. Thank you for sharing! I reblogged it. Amidst so much trauma around the country and the globe, it is necessary that we know that some of our almost ‘natural’ responses send the wrong messages. I may follow up with those most helpful and empathetic responses to trauma….unless you do first.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to write such a thoughtful response. Yes, the intention is often to help and yet inadvertently we get it wrong. And it’s a great idea to provide follow up responses that are helpful and empathic. Thanks for the suggestion ❤️

      Like

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