Shock and Awe: Post-Traumatic Stress and How to Help

Shock and Awe: Post-Traumatic Stress and How to Help

Rape, robbery, suicide, and the ravages of combat are just a few of the circumstances that can cause post-traumatic stress disorder. As pastors and concerned friends and family members, it is important to realize the stages these victims will experience and assist them on the road to healing. Obviously, PTSD victims need professional help to heal, if at all possible. But here are a few insights into what a person who has been “violated” might face.


The Impact Stage


This period occurs immediately after the traumatic event and is characterized by shock, denial and loneliness. A victim of a robbery will sometimes go through denial by stating that they possibly misplaced or lost the stolen items. They experience confusion and their defenses are weakened. They feel that their sense of control has been taken away.


How to Help


It is important that the caregiver “give back” some of this control by doing only what they give permission to do, and allowing them to do as much for themselves as they desire.


The Recoil Stage


The victim begins to come to terms with the loss during this stage. Their fragmented lives slowly come together as they continue to talk and bring some order to their daily existence. The victims begin to engage in recuperative rhythm as they deal with the crime/trauma and the emotions it aroused and then defending against them by denial. Mood swings-moving from controlled to raw emotions, especially fear and anger will be experienced, as well as anger with God because He “allowed” it to happen. The main question the victim is trying to answer at this stage is the reason this event occurred, or an attempt at making this pain go away.


How to Help


The victim will have to be assured that God has not abandoned them. They wonder why God allowed this to happen to them instead of another person. They need comfort, prayer and continuous ministry of scripture concerning God’s love and care.


The Reorganization Stage


During this stage, the victim has resolved their experiences and integrated them into their understanding of the world and themselves. The amount of time this takes is determined by several variables. First, the severity of the catastrophe. The more traumatic the experience, the longer it takes for them to heal. Secondly, the depth of the loss will be a factor. In the case of a robbery, the meaning attached to the articles stolen will be a factor. Try to understand this by asked about the items stolen. Thirdly, the life skills of the person must be taken into account. Some have not learned healthy coping skills. They have not learned how to deal with their emotions. Fourth, the responses from family members can be healing or detrimental to them in their recovery process. Sometimes family members will not be empathetic to the victims. They get advice to simply “get over it,” or other comments such as “the items will be replaced” or “life goes on.”


How to Help


Listening and patience as the victim processes is essential. Don’t minimize their pain. Recognize signs of PTSD and help the victim to discuss their feelings of vulnerability and anger. Learn as much as you can about post-traumatic stress so that you can be an informed friend or loved one. Help them find a counselor, especially a Christian counselor. Just as the Holy Spirit is the paraclete (One who comes alongside), come alongside the injured person.


“Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

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