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How to Help a Friend

When someone you know is hurt—in an accident, by another person, by personal loss—support from friends and family is extremely important. But reaching out to a friend in need isn’t always easy. How do you know what to say? How do you know what to do?

20 ways to help a friend cope with trauma

1. Be a good listener.
2. Be understanding.
3. Acknowledge that your friend’s feelings are normal.
4. Be sensitive to your friend’s circumstances and points of view.
5. Don’t take emotional outbursts personally.
6. Respect your friend’s need for privacy.
7. Organize support groups to help you help someone else.
8. Give plenty of encouragement and support.
9. Find out where your friend can go to get professional help.
10. Be alert for changes in behavior
11. Spend time with your friend.
12. Offer to help with everyday tasks, like doing laundry or covering a class.
13. Respect your friend’s need to be alone.
14. Keep communication lines open.
15. Watch out for drug or alcohol abuse.
16. Accompany your friend to appointments.
17. Don’t be judgmental.
18. Be an active partner in your friend’s recovery.
19. Don’t talk about your friend’s experience with other people.
20. Let your friend recover at his or her own pace.

Helping a friend recover from any traumatic event can be hard on you. While it’s only normal to feel sad for someone else, you also need to take care of yourself. Take a break if things get too intense. Organize a support network so you don’t get in over your head. Don’t ignore your own need to talk about your feelings. Make time to do something you enjoy every day.

Good friends help friends when they hurt. But that doesn’t mean you need to hurt too.

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