Research tells us social support is a significant contributor to emotional health following a traumatic event. We know that today, many people are experiencing incredible loss, suffering, pain, grief and hardship—including right here in our southwest Minnesota communities. There are steps we can all take to be more aware and supportive of the people around us. And, there are resources for when we ourselves need help and support.
Amy Brustuen, Southwest Initiative Foundation’s youth and family specialist, has 20 years of experience as a social worker, including supporting communities going through trauma. Here are some tips from Amy on how you can take care of your community following crisis and/or traumatic loss:
- Leave space for connections and discussions. Having ample opportunities to feel loved and discuss experiences is part of the healing process and crucial for recovery following trauma.
- Encourage opportunities for people grieving to tell their stories, share mementos, and even to sit quietly with you. Do not force the conversation or request details people are not ready to share.
- Acknowledge the loss: Generally speaking, avoiding the subject or sidestepping with euphemisms sends the message that it’s not okay to talk about it, it’s not important enough to talk about, or there is something to be ashamed of.
- Give control to the grieving (if they want it): Offer choices, give notice before visits, allow privacy if wanted.
- Look for small opportunities to let your presence be felt. Do this even after normal routines return. If you bring food, consider bringing it in a real dish that can be returned over coffee at a later date.
- Be patient with forgetfulness. Short-term memory confusion is common throughout the first year after a loss.
- Encourage rest, eating, a feeling of safety and predictability. Is there anything you can do to help ensure basic needs and tasks are covered? Children process emotional distress differently than adults, and it may show up indirectly or at a later time. Many of these suggestions can be adapted to a child’s level, but remember this step especially.
- Be mindful of your own traumas and other people who are hurting directly or indirectly. One loss affects many people, and those effects trickle down to others. Many of us also have a previous loss that can bubble up at times of stress. Your neighbors are experiencing this, too. This is an opportunity to discuss and share feelings with others.
What other tips do you have based on your experience? Share your experiences with us at [email protected]. By working together, we can meet immediate needs, promote healthy responses, and begin healing.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact someone immediately, or call 911.
Call 1-800-432-8781 24 hours a day and for crisis support.
Crisis Text Line
Free 24/7 support at your fingertips: Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor
Disaster Distress Helpline
SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline provides 24/7, 365-day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters.
Call or Text 1-800-985-5990
Español: Llama o envía un mensaje de texto 1-800-985-5990 presiona “2”
Coping with grief after community violence (PDF)
Help For Helpers
These free tools from Southwest Initiative Foundation include short podcasts, articles and exercises that can help relieve stress, release your spirit and increase your ability to take on the world.Visit Help For Helpers