Things Never to Say to Trauma Survivors

Asma Rehman, LPC

Someone who has suffered through a traumatic event could benefit from having the right type of both personal and professional support. This personal support involves knowing what to say, and what you should avoid saying, in order to avoid further affecting the trauma survivor. Here are a number of phrases that shouldn’t be said to trauma survivors, as well as a number of things that you can say, in order to support your loved one.

It’s Time to Move On.

The person must have enough time in order to process the traumatic situation. The usual processing pattern includes working through it in their minds and hearts, and then coming to a place of acceptance. Every person is different, and the length of the healing process is unique to each person.

It could not have been that bad.

This undermines the situation, making it seem as though the trauma doesn’t matter. To put it simply, a traumatic experience shouldn’t be undermined, ignored, or minimized in any way. What may be traumatizing to someone, may not be traumatizing to another person. This statement not only minimizes someone’s traumatic experience, but it also sends the message that the person is overreacting.

Stop Being Negative.

When someone is being negative about the situation, this could be a symptom of a bigger problem. For example, it might be a sign of depression, anxiety, a sense of hopelessness and helplessness, or even of suicidal thoughts, low self-esteem, and lack of confidence. Telling someone to stop being negative is the same as telling them that they need to snap out of it.

If You Continue Dwelling On It, Then You’ll Never Move On

Making the trauma survivor feel guilty about the situation is not a good way to support them.

This statement can make them feel guilty about having the feelings and thoughts that they do. Don’t force them to put a timeline on their grief or to push through the processing stages until they’re ready.

Do You Think You’ll Ever Stop Being Depressed?

Depression is a complicated disorder that can come and go. Also, depending on the severity of the trauma, depression can change from mild to severe and then back again.

You’re a Survivor, So Quit Being a Victim

Being a “survivor” is categorized by having lived through a traumatic experience. Yes, the person lived through it and “survived”, but  by saying this, you’re forcing your point of view on them.

Read: Big T vs Little T Trauma

It Could Always Be Worse

While this statement is inherently true since it can always be worse, do you really want to tell your loved one that? Just because someone’s problems are worse than the trauma survivors, this doesn’t make them any easier to process.

Why Didn’t You Say Anything Sooner?

People who’ve lived through a trauma more than likely have issues discussing what happened. They wonder if in anyone will believe them, and worry about anyone retaliating on them for talking about it. Instead of shaming the person for not coming forward sooner, tell them that they are strong for sharing it with you.

Quit Being So Uptight About It

People with PTSD (which could happen after a trauma) tend to feel edgy or jittery. They don’t have a choice in the matter. Some people with PTSD still have symptoms after undergoing treatment, and the symptoms can pop up when you least expect them to. If you’re bothered by the way a person with PTSD reacts to you being in their space or to something you said, try not to make it an issue.

It’s Time to Report What Happened to the Appropriate Authorities

Someone who has experienced trauma went through something that was completely out of his or her control. Telling them what to do puts you in control of the situation. Accept that everyone copes with trauma differently. If that person wants to go to the authorities, it is up to them.

Instead of saying all of those negative things to a trauma survivor, here are some things that will help, instead of hurt, the situation.

I’ll Be Here For You No Matter What

Yes, there definitely isn’t a timeline on recovery.  Some people heal faster, while others need time to process what happened. It can be somewhat cyclical as well, as the trauma goes through stages. Knowing that someone is there for them will help.

I Know This Isn’t Fair

We all know that life isn’t fair. Sugarcoating the situation tends to make it worse. Instead, state what you know – that this isn’t fair at all. One of the many gifts we can give our loved one is the ability to share honestly how unfair everything feels.

Healing Is Possible, But It Takes Time

There are many stages of healing following a trauma, and everyone goes through this process differently. Understand that your loved one can cope and heal, but that it will take time. It won’t happen overnight, and it certainly doesn’t adhere to a time frame.

None of This Was Your Fault

Let your loved one know that they didn’t do this to themselves. They more than likely, deep down, already know that, but if someone else tells them, then they are more likely to believe it.

I Will Support You In Every Way That I Know How

This one is more about actions than words. Do enjoyable things with your loved one, and encourage them to try to do at least one enjoyable thing each day. You may need to help them come up with some ideas. Try asking them what activities they used to enjoy before the traumatic event, or making some suggestions. As long as you don’t try to plan the activities for them, it could help.

Do You Want to Talk About It?

This phrase gives the survivor permission to choose what they would like to do. Offering a survivor the opportunity to choose gives them a sense of control, which is something that they lost when they went through that situation.

Are you a trauma survivor?  Look no further. Grief Recovery Center in Houston, TX professional therapist is here. You can reach us at (832) 413-2410 or by filling out the form on our website.

10 Responses to Things Never to Say to Trauma Survivors

  1. Jeannie April 26, 2021 at 1:59 am #

    One thing I have not seen in any articles in what not to say to someone struggling with ptsd is “Let it go”. Or “make the choice to be happy”. Or “don’t care”.

    I sooo wish people would stop saying “let it go”. It’s actually cruel because people suffering with ptsd are not choosing to have ptsd and the symptoms are intrusive and can be down right crippling. 🙁

    • Tanya March 8, 2022 at 4:12 am #

      That’s 100% facts – it hurts so much when someone tells me “to just let it go” and it doesn’t have to be about the trauma if it’s a similar situation it’s the same – why don’t they get it?

  2. Jasmine October 10, 2021 at 9:43 am #

    “Get help!” is also supposed to be a good thing to say but is actually often not. Yes, everyone knows that’s the pat answer. But it ignores that many people have taught help, been mistreated or inappropriately treated by the medical community (psychiatry has done some horrible things and -can be- INCREDIBLY abusive). PTSD often worsens under psychiatric care, especially when people are shamed for needing anxiety medication that actually works (not just useless SSRIS) and when they are locked inside, even if it’s only temporary (for an evaluation). Put these two together and you get a person who will NEVER, ever, seek “help” again. The “help” community needs to improve it’s treatment of patients because right now, it often makes them worse.

  3. Lorrie Murphy November 20, 2021 at 5:06 pm #

    That’s what my psychiatrist told me; move on, it’s in the past; that was a long time ago

  4. Kay January 3, 2022 at 5:57 am #

    I have not seen “I don’t believe you” or “Did that really happen?” or “You seem totally normal. No one would act normal if that happened to them”

    I just lost 2 of my best friends because they refused to believe my trauma.

  5. Lynn February 17, 2022 at 11:46 pm #

    I WAS IN A VERY ABUSIVE relationship, for
    5+ years.. It was EXTREMELY PHYSICAL, FULL OF MENTAL & VERBAL torture!! Even EXTREMELY, I’ve been away from him for years, I’m remarried, reunited with my 3 sons, working a full time job going on 5 years…
    SOMETIMES I still feel panicky, over anxious, scared of what’s ahead or around the corner, terrified to 100% completely trust people (especially my husband), to let my guard down & be me ( my true self), and in some past situations like at work, having a regular disagreement makes me get all tongue tied to the point I stutter, break down in tears, wanting to run & never look back, but my husbands been there going on 9 years & I can’t do that to him, but it’s made my boss man look at me differently, like I’m crazy, definitely treating me completely different than he does everyone else….All this has brought up old feelings and thoughts about myself, within me causing me to be kinda withdrawn, a little depressed at times…It’s starting to actually show in my work, in our family & home life’s…I’m withdrawn, and reflecting alot. I never got the help I should have because of being ashamed & finances….
    What is wrong with me?? Instead of actually healing like I thought, did I just push it way down until its literally busting out?
    Is this possible after years have passed or am I actually going crazy??

    • Betsy May 18, 2022 at 6:36 pm #

      No. Grief isn’t one and done with. I doubt you pushed it down. It’s just time to deal with it some more. Nothing is wrong with you.

  6. margaux death in city April 20, 2022 at 5:33 pm #

    Dear asma Rehman.

    Just seeking some insight into making me know again that this was not my fault . at end of being dosed for six years with intentional fails and abuse torture after an extreme mortal wound of worst kind and sent back to a hell it took me 24 years to get it and have the second lives of second life story and i can tell you how hard i worked and hd to work to push that boulder. it was a very extreme tset of wits because at onset i was not responsile for the father who did what he did to me an insane person who started the trigger trauma and lies hysteria and had MD, a clueles man. I diagnose and cured my own bulimia. at age 15, went to his medical books. A little affirmation here about this story and it not being me would be great. I manage to lose 11 year of life be tortured by a man who took my healing of going to med books 15, and got to art school 17 came home 18 healed and unbroken beaming and slap in face. im sure my sister is in denial who shelter a murderer and married him also in her choices. I chose to pattern my life against the abuse personality traits of family and chose god. Not drugs and alchol and did diagnose an cure my bulimia in art school witness my dark ride and sister and brother who also went to school but not slap in face. brother was taken to shrink, sister just drop out and brother drop out both got cars. olde sister was pulled out of art school as i was and she became the cycles of anger and damage family i was aware and studied them from a young person to pattern my life as sane and healthy they became them despite im go suffer 11 years of torture they did not. my brother and sister got cars. i came home honors and slap in face gotten ajob then a life sentence. my father wanted a happy kid working as camp sports councelor to be mentally ill disabled ( i was like the healthiest kid on earth and came up unbroken over bulimia honors and a guy in art school said he feared for me to go home. I did not seem daunted). the end of that summer lead to my torture and to years of hell 11 loss of education abuse and induce deadly cptsd by a insane confused man with a MD who could not tell truth and lied and the family are just like im i was from natural i was tortured for being who i was and jelousy also is at play here and abuse and cover ups.
    11 years of hell and abuse after a night mare end of summer after a happy summer, and bright, i walk into a drs office for a routine physical and then sent to a shrink. because my father wanted to stop me from being an artist. i had NO COMPLAINTS and smiling a young young kid and healthy. i apreciated not being sick and i did not take drugs or drink and came up happy. My family deluded themself of this story to want me to be sick even when i suffered and began to be turn into what they wanted and resisted and then escape and they came after me with LOVE BOMB, it makes no sense becuase they either fear for me to prove them insane and escape an speak again after they gagged me and kept me down and persons said they were going to kill me. I had just 24 years befor murder began as i was going to hit IT> it it in life story saves.
    A jelous cousin calling me bout meeting that guy who said he fear for me to go home. who was become a famous artist ) at a party but not hey are you ok. im here and hang out. she compete and is the filth ofall of tem are same dirty insane toxic..
    Shes compete in jelousy an wheni walk out of hell into jobs with famous artist and gallery shes right there looking for door in and i was not the trash of my family i was the star.. i held on to integral throrugh hell and was not a slob. pig or dirty player or creep as my family are all trashed.
    I walked out of them to save my life and they came after me to have me or stop me. ???? Is it me. i was unbroken and had suffer isolated abuse by them and insulted and kept silenced and told i had to be mentally ill from a lie my father told and he told me what his motie was about art school.? even when i tell this story my sister is out there trying to shut me up. silence me and try to undermin my rigths.
    when to took a leap of faith out f them into my real world and jobs dragging behind me torture and abuse and hell. i began my program to heal from Munchausen by proxy torture and what my friends said. An evil persons ( sister and family) trying t keep me unsuccessful. actually i had a very evil invisible spirit torture and sielnce me and i began to think its the sister who stalked me when i cut them off for what reason. when i was right in front of her she pissed on me shit on me and ice cold but when i began to escape was love bomb.. I did not weaken i got stronger and removed them took enough of loss of 11 years and 24 to reach my dreams and heal and fix it all. they want to rewrite my story as what they said it was where i kept guard of me and turn me into me not what they almost turn me into and they do not have remorse.
    i was crippled with ptsd from them and almost lost my life and i removed them who laugh at it all and are about them not me. denial and lies.
    I began to thrive. i began at age29 walking out of a prison and was lucky to heal and get jobs? yes i walked out of feral into jobs with famous artist and regain my speach and social function from feral and taking years.. i had no help but a boss and gallery job and most of time people took me as fool and also fear that your not. nothing of respect or true but what people cant ride you for.
    I did god cause it was only thing i had and obviously i had more of it than them all. it took work to fix and prayer and i was travel and heal and going up.
    i am amzed at the progress of me and my own self insight where drs failed abuse and insuloted me refused to see the real and damage me. so i cut off all of negatives and did me pure and me and god again clean up to heal topof world..
    six years ago a man who i knew was a pill of my famiy disease on form of a artist or black man was put in front of me and i was wing monkey in abuse for years. i escape abusers to get back ausers in and failed. i manage to do 24 years of young healthy life and my family could not get to me again . wing monkeys were sent to abuse me and failed. six years ago again the pill game for me to take up the man was not working and so he was forced on me which took me from a miracle standing up after remove abuse and put me into a persons life who god tell me and sense was not m monkey or circus and i was not in that lane and it could lead to death.
    He was used as who my father was at the top of my healing stages and to take me down induce trauma and go into blame me induce mortal wounds by a death punch game because i was not taking to him or in his life or trap. i was to smart for persons using him to kill me and then it all went bad. he moved into my lane in an assault on me and strange and disable me instanlty it took 24 years as an artist given a brand new second chance to have it all the healing and to be orginal unbroken.. this man was worst of worst worst to put in mu path for reason of he would be taken care of . my boss support died.. and if something happen to me i be done.. no one was caring about me but god had me a sister i could feel to await for me to die and go down.
    No one had me but i was alive with god. the man hit me in a death punch and sent me to hell and did every damage in one second and i was sent to hell and brain damage by an attack insult and a neurological insult that took me from a brain miracle to heal to locked in and go into shock and grief as i egan to die. in front of a stranger who di not care about who i was and i began to suffer and die. in six years no dr gave me care i was being sent to hell and abuse passive agressive and all whild drs failed …. i went from watch me defy abuse odds and my brain heal and turn into the perfect person to sucker punched by a stranger from behind and sent to hell and trying to cope i was immidiatley sentto hell and i could not process this or heal asi was drag in and under abuse sexual insulted while i was made a puppet between jelous persons and fuckery of this man and people tied to him and me being forced to die in game out of jelousy and i avoided this for a reason. i had sufer to many diversions and trauma in my free life and i wanted to be with me . the man violanted my space and over power me took me from god an i saw hell and god removed and my brain damage and left unable to heal and drs then were told to ignore me.. they did with others dose me with all wrong and abuse me and a family who began to do it all wrong and think they could excuse it by not care.. began to kill me pushed me back into it by bad drs and i was induce cancer by the grief and six years of hell and left to die in streets alone driven to lose 24 years while said man with issues took a perfect person and death punched me to lower me and take over me and detach me from god and women would then come to help im and kill me. it began six years of hell and i was a perfect 200 of ten and man who has a certain place in life and others who used him to do this as he has subtance ego and other issues. now i was induce them after i did not take up the cycles of trama and survived a horror. My sister sat and watch and listen to me die and family abuse me in all worst never asked me. what happen. and i was trying to contact FBI and others becaues other shit was going on of ex murder and abuse threats and i began to die alone from fails and n one remove me or treat mu wounds and drs abu se me to death.. I asked point blank to see a PTSD dr and they refused and so did family . my sister got cancer and was fed a crowd fund. she has house car kids and husband and fake life. i was left dying without tools alone and beging terrorized and abuse to death while she brag about her care i was silneced to die. the man being taen up as game to torture me and me never given care and turn to a mentally ill street person .. so others could abuse me also.. start fuckery games and i began to lose my life to cancer and brain damage and aphasia and death.. .1. all i asked for was concern to not die. all right as standard and 3. ptsd care. 4. to be heard and neuro care and told i was abusive. i can not write or speak and or make money and i was a genius. they said. i was not well. then and not wel now . that is it. they did not ask or care id lose 24 years of miracles and progress of ask if i was in danger.. they refused to get ptsd dr making me feel that was abuse also. and i was just not well for asking. People deprived me of means to find m ex roomates who said my familywere going to kill me and i began to suffer extremes of grief shock abuse and torture to die alone a sick and ragic person from a whole young young person. it took one second for this man to scope me out and hit me with something and no one helped me. hes got women to do it al and people and i was left being beaten up as if its a contest . i did my time already and i could not do one more..

  7. margaux April 20, 2022 at 5:35 pm #

    Please please let me know as i die it is not me. so god will take me up and punish the wicked involed m family are the road to hell is paved by them.. and the ex bf who jelous of me and all of the creeps before him who sought revenge and used a man in a dirty way..

  8. Margaux April 20, 2022 at 10:32 pm #

    i was assaulted as part of scheme by an ex to make my life end child hood end happiness end make me need a straight jacket and never see light of day again. seems every person in my life who abuse me might have same idea to do to me because i esdccape and survived induce trauma care alone when no dr or anyone reported abuse remove me from ,y family or ask. I did the work 24 years. i was put in path of person who should not ever be near me and induce hard core abuse but i stood up to it. i was munchausen by proxy as teen ager and my family denied it but wanted my life and anything they could feed off me to get to be me. delusional and abusive. I got the perfect life ending but was put in path of abusive dangerous minded sick vengeful. i escape to stand up and keep go to my dreams. six years ago a person with larer issues than the smaller ones and a talent it would seem for undermine others mind and to death punch me as stranger in hotel. i was very good from my life story with certain thing in medical an dmind and natural . i was unbroken and wnt to me bwith me and not into others issues after i escape death and could not afford more abuse. as result a person who was suffering and needy and greedy. took a shot to undermine my ties of god who kept me. i had very bad support my boss died and i was with god and good. i had left a list of them who were distraction not loves of my life. i was the happy healthy on eof the whole story and regain my life and that did not settle with my family who wanted me to be the sick one. I left them and retain myself… No dr helped me. i had to do god and me and i got there. so when this man hit me i was a miracle and he destroyed me in a flash and left me to suffer the end of world im not sure what his miotive was or some style to introduce himself and put his issues in my face or just no respect and cover it up to use, im not sure but sadly for me and himself it induce mortal wounds on me and left me to suffer broken oblliterated my mind and left me induce a list of sickness in one second. i knew he was not go be able to take up my life or fix this because he had issues he could not fix.. i was left to die in a sad manner and it induce mental break down mental illness all kinds of , depression brain damage in on esecond. like im saw god removed and man with issues stranger take the place and my soul deleted this was part of a cruel game. jelousy involved and my being blessed. it was so hard to carry my ball that far i went mad and was left trying to get medical care for all and aphasia loss of speach and brain damage all worst. i was not ever cared for and the cancer drs insulted me ghosted me despite i told them to not damage me more the were calous and laugh at me, and insulted me call it all drama as i lost my chances to recover from failures . my family abused me to , and ignored my needs . So now im left . im suig all of them involved thanks for some insight that i was so badly cared for it lead to cancer and death as much a loss of means to thrive i was a super star and super hero.

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