Providing Support

"A kind gesture can reach a wound
that only compassion can heal"

Steve Maraboli

When you’re supporting a survivor, it is important to seek as much information and support as you can for you, and for the person you’re supporting. This section of the website provides guidance and resources around supporting survivors on their healing journey. There is help and support for you too.

Supporting a family member, friend, colleague or even someone you don’t know so well, as they disclose their trauma, talk about it and seek help and support is a vital and often challenging role. It can also be life affirming.

Experiences of complex trauma including trauma and abuse from childhood often leave a survivor struggling to just feel okay. Some survivors have never felt okay. Others have never felt safe, emotionally or physically. Many feel bad and blame themselves. Many others are angry or distressed, and can be agitated and shut down at different times.

Some survivors struggle with seeking help, feeling safe and trusting enough. Many find that their feelings and thoughts are conflicted e.g.`I know it wasn’t my fault but I feel that it was’. Other survivors have split loyalties e.g. positive and negative feelings towards perpetrator/s &/or family members. If you are supporting a family member, these feelings may come to the fore. Many survivors despair of ever getting beyond `the tangled knot of complex trauma’.

Survivors are often labelled as ‘difficult’ or ‘attention seeking’. This is judgmental and unhelpful for all. Survivors have shown enormous strength, courage and resilience to have survived. What happened to them was wrong. The ways survivors cope and react make sense in the context of their trauma i.e. their reactions and apparently ‘challenging behaviours’ make sense given their traumatic experiences. That’s why it is helpful to find out as much information as you can to help you understand what the person you are supporting is going through.

Coping strategies to deal with overwhelming stress are attempts to manage painful internal experience. It is normal to want to feel better. However coping mechanisms which offer relief at first can also be risky and affect the person’s health later on. Recognising the purpose of coping strategies as attempts to `tolerate the intolerable’ can lessen the shame and self-blame survivors feel. And start to help survivors build the inner resources and external supports they need to find other ways to cope.

Elderly Couple Standing on the Shore

It is important to look after yourself at the same time. The following suggestions might help.


  • Think about what helps ground you in your body so you enjoy the present moment e.g. a long hot bubble bath, classical music, lighting candles, jogging or watching old movies.
  • Make sure that your bedroom and bed are comfortable. When you want some time out, you will have a place that honours your worth, makes you feel safe, and comfortable.
  • Do things just for the joy they bring. Read a book, just for you. Play with pets. Listen to your favourite music. Explore your garden.
  • Do something physical or learn a new skill. Learn to dance or join a bushwalking or jogging club. Exercise burns off excess emotion and helps us be more comfortable in our bodies.
  • Undertake “mindfulness” classes to help you live in and enjoy the present.

Please click the button below to go back to Supporters