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What Not to Say to Someone Going Through Trauma

Jul 01, 2024

Navigating conversations with individuals who are experiencing trauma can be challenging. While our intentions may be well-meaning, our words have the power to either comfort or inadvertently cause further harm. In this blog post, we'll explore common phrases and responses that may be hurtful or invalidating to someone going through trauma, as well as alternative approaches that convey empathy, understanding, and support.

  1. "It could be worse." While the intention behind this statement may be to provide perspective or reassurance, it can come across as dismissive or minimizing of the person's feelings and experiences. Instead, acknowledge their pain and validate their emotions by saying something like, "I'm here for you, and I understand that this is really tough."

  2. "Just get over it." Trauma doesn't have a timeline, and healing is a complex and nonlinear process. Encouraging someone to "just get over it" undermines the gravity of their experience and fails to recognize the depth of their pain. Instead, offer your support and reassure them that it's okay to take the time they need to heal.

  3. "I know exactly how you feel." While it's natural to want to empathize with others, claiming to know exactly how someone feels can be invalidating, as everyone's experiences and reactions to trauma are unique. Instead, express empathy and compassion by saying something like, "I can't imagine what you're going through, but I'm here to listen and support you in any way I can."

  4. "You should be grateful for what you have." Suggesting that someone should feel grateful or lucky in the midst of their trauma can be invalidating and dismissive of their pain. It's important to acknowledge that trauma can coexist with other aspects of a person's life, including blessings and privileges. Instead, validate their feelings and offer your support without judgment.

  5. "You're being too sensitive." Dismissing someone's emotional reactions as "too sensitive" implies that their feelings are invalid or exaggerated. It's essential to validate the person's emotions and acknowledge that their responses are valid given their experiences. Instead, offer your empathy and support without judgment or criticism.

  6. "Everything happens for a reason." While this sentiment may be intended to provide comfort or meaning, it can be deeply hurtful to someone who is grappling with trauma. Suggesting that there is a predetermined purpose or lesson behind their suffering can feel dismissive and invalidating. Instead, focus on offering your support and empathy without trying to impose meaning on their experience.

Conclusion: In times of trauma, our words have the power to either uplift and support or inadvertently cause further pain. By being mindful of the language we use and the messages we convey, we can create a supportive and validating environment for those who are going through difficult times. Instead of trying to offer solutions or explanations, it's often more helpful to simply listen, validate, and offer our unwavering support and empathy.


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