Help Your Loved One through Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
A wounded person definitely needs his/her space. For the sake of simplicity I will use “his” for the moment, though the victim may also be a woman or child. “Down” time, spent alone, is critical to recovery, so be prepared to carry more than your share of the weight in the household if your partner is wounded and you remain functional. Your partner no longer has the capacity to deal effectively or consistently with daily stresses and responsibilities. It may seem to you that he will never rebound from pain, but will recover unless you compound it with misunderstanding and misplaced pressures.
It may be a lonely time for you while one who may once have been strong limps through a period of weakness. Listen sympathetically to his hurts, fear, depressions and angers, but don’t wallow in them with him. At all costs remain comforting, but also positive. He doesn’t need the pressure you create by be coming angry with him or by insensitively demanding the he do things to correct his condition or his behavior.
Above all, believe in him when he can’t believe in himself. You can face him directly and firmly and give them positive reinforcement-“you are a good pastor, a good father, and a good man.” The wounded partner needs to hear it-and often. It helps them to hold on to their identity.
Your wounded partner may have lost all faith that God will conquer the situation. If this is the case, your job is to maintain faith on his behalf, no matter how difficult it may seem. The wounded one is hanging on my a decision of his will—“white-knuckling it,” if he’s hanging on at all—not feeling near to God or even that God is willing to help. If you can believe for him, you can help rebuild his faith.
Keep the household running smoothly. Maintain a light atmosphere, happy and orderly. The comfort and the refuge of home are a balm to him. At this point in his life it’s too easy for home to become a place of pressure that drives him out of the home in order to find “space.” Out of the home, his vulnerability opens him to those who would prey upon his emotional need. Home must be a place where he knows he won’t be wounded or pricked. Therefore, if you find your wounded one sitting alone in a stupor, leave him there and deal with the household on your own. He’ll be fine and eventually he’ll come out of it. You’ll only drive him deeper into withdrawal by making demands.
Out in the world, the whole one in the relationship must keep a sharp lookout for what kinds of people are around the wounded one. This is true especially in church where people press in on the leader, demanding ministry with no concept of or care for, his personal condition. Begin by guarding his heart with prayer. With the help of God, be strong in your own spirit and, almost in a mystical way, carry the bleeding heart of your wounded one in your own bosom. Lift his pain to the father on his behalf. “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
As the functional one in the relationship, be acutely aware at all times that those who wounded your partner were probably trusted friends, people into whom he poured his time, love and energy. He may already have forgiven them, but wounds take time to heal, even after medicine is applied. The process will often take much more time than you can bear. Comfort him often. But NEVER betray a confidence.
Deep wounds from betrayals such as these take years to heal. As you conceal from others what your warrior has shared with you, conceal his general condition as well. In every way help him preserve the image of strong functionality before the world. No one, except those the warrior says are all right, need know how he really feels. Don’t risk damaging your warrior’s trust in you. He may have no place else to go, and his trust in you can spell the difference between survival and complete breakdown.
Your own needs will have to be set aside for a while. The warrior in deep wounding isn’t capable of meeting them. He’ll try, but he really has nothing to work with. Your response to his incapacity can be either healing to him or immeasurably destructive. You will have to learn to draw from the Lord alone what you need to sustain your own emotional health during this time.
Finally, in no way take personal responsibility for your Wounded warrior’s recovery. What he is suffering is an issue to be settled between him and His Lord. You can pray, support, comfort, love and listen. You can avoid being part of the problem and you can help by creating an environment conducive to healing, but you may not turn out to be a key part of the solution. The solution can only be found between the wounded one and Father God. They’re the ones who are arguing. They’re the ones who must settle it. Grant him the room to hash it out within himself without joining him in his bitterness or confusion, or offering unsolicited counsel.
The end result in your recovered Wounded Warrior will be increased wisdom, balance, stability, power and all of the fruits of the Spirit. It’s worth waiting for.
Taken from Wounded Warriors. Tulsa, Oklahoma: Victory House Publishers, 1987, pp.103-118. Used by permission.