Loving Survivors (a note from a survivor, to the loved ones of other survivors)
If you are here, reading this post, you are already doing a great job loving the survivor in your life. Whether it is a child, sibling, parent, partner, friend, or whoever else, the time you invest in supporting them is significant. Thank you for being here.
One of the most difficult things between survivors and their loved ones is the lack of shared experience. The survivor went through it, and their loved ones are here to care for them after. Although they may share their stories, the reality is certain details are left out. Some by choice, but others that may be repressed from their memory. Additionally, the storyline could be shared, but the depth of emotions like fear and pain cannot be fully articulated. This is hard for loved ones, often wanting to empathize, but not understanding the situation fully. But the thing is, whether your survivor has shared the details, or you have only heard the surface of the situation, you can still love and support them the same. Understanding every detail is not what makes you an impactful presence, instead it is recognizing they experienced something, it was sh**ty, and you want to love them through their healing. This information disconnect is also tough for the survivor. Sharing every detail with everyone is hard. Personally, I cannot do it, however I sometimes feel like if others do not know everything, they won’t believe me. Or they will say I am overreacting. Additionally, I sometimes struggle with the empathy loved ones show me. You do not understand, you cannot feel the same pain, you were not there. These thoughts are not totally rational, but healing does not always make sense. Survivors spend a lot of time in survival mode, their minds anxious and defences high. In the moment, hearing things like “You are valid, I believe you, I cannot understand it all, but I still want to love and support you” would bring a lot of peace. Validating the survivors in your life is huge. When legal action is taken, a court case basically feels like a bunch of time and money spent deciding “Are they telling the truth? Did that really happen?” Talk about invalidating! Showing them you do not need to catalog evidence or cross examine their story to believe them is validating.
I am one survivor. I am not your loved one, I do not know their story or what they need. I am going to share personal recommendations for you to support and love them, however, they are individuals with specific needs and desires. At the end of the day, you know this person, and likely know what they need to feel loved. But the best thing you can do is ASK! For me, I might feel a bit awkward if I was asked this question face to face, but sending them a text, or writing a note saying something like:
“Hey I really want to love and support you right now. I do not know exactly how to do that, I know you might not either, so do not feel pressured. I was just wondering if there was maybe a list of some things I could do to support you! No rush (:”
Maybe even add some of your ideas and ask for feedback. Doing this may feel a bit odd at first, but allowing them space and time to think about and develop these needs may allow them to voice a concern they have been anxious to bring up.
Here are some ideas:
- Help with grocery shopping
- Assistance cleaning
- Running errands
- Reminders (meds, therapy, work, school)
- Encouraging notes
- Advocating for them (if they want this)
- A place to vent
- A place to cry
- A place where there is no talk of the issue, no sadness, just a positive space that gets their mind away
- Outings (distractions)
- Being there (in court, in hard times…)
- Again, ask (: even if they are unsure right away, reminding them they can bring an item up anytime creates space to ask for help without feeling like a burden
Loving a survivor can be hard. Taking time to “research, reflect, and ask” can change your survivors’ life. Just reading this article is an amazing step. If you are a survivor, send this to your loved ones. Or just remember you need to love yourself too! How can you apply these ideas to self love? Your loved ones want to be there, but might not know how, reach out to them. Express your needs, they will be happy you did.
My name is Amara and I am a new member of the Sonriendo Pa’lante team! I am excited to post more on the blog, and I am also going to be managing our Instagram [@sonriendopalante]! Feel free to reach out there, or to my personal Instagram [@amarajoyy], with any questions or for a safe place to chat. You are capable, you deserve peace, you are so loved. Take good care.