Many of the people who contact me have not personally been involved in an accident, but are concerned about a friend or relative who was. They want to know how to help. Here are a few tips.
First, I do not recommend pushing the individual to talk about the accident. If he or she wants to tell you what happened, you can listen with compassion and support. If he’s not ready, that’s okay. If you think your friend wants to talk, but is concerned about upsetting you, signal your readiness to listen without judgment, or offer a referral to a therapist or counselor trained to deal with trauma. Other well-meaning advice that is not always helpful — “You have to get back behind the wheel as soon as possible,” “You should resume your daily routine as soon as possible,” “You need to let your feelings out,” “Let me give you a sleeping pill (or buy you a drink),” “I don’t believe in true accidents — this must have happened for some reason.” My advice — be careful with advice!
Second, offer tangible assistance. Let your friend know that you are available to help with transportation, baby-sitting, and errands. Bring a meal over. The routine chores of life can feel overwhelming after a serious accident. It may even be helpful to — gently — offer to accompany your friend to a lawyer’s or doctor’s office, since your friend may find that memory and analytical abilities are worse than usual.
Third, if your friend was drinking or otherwise impaired at the time of the accident, this is the time to encourage him or her to seek treatment. You might want to consult with a therapist or addiction specialist about how to approach this. While it’s important to offer love and support, it’s equally important not to collude in denying a serious problem.
Finally, let your friend or relative know that you love him/her and that the accident doesn’t change your feelings for them. You can do this verbally, in a note, or with a big hug.
Please comment– what did you say or do that was most helpful to the person in your life who caused an accident? And, for CADIs reading this, what did friends and family members offer after the accident that was most helpful to you?