In my last post we talked mainly about telling others about your trauma after you’ve had a chance to process through some of it. But today I want to share some tips for how you can be prepared for the initial communication about your trauma. Having the answers to a few questions will help you communicate well, even in the midst of shock, confusion, grief, and more.
1. Take some time to think through how your communication chain will work. Who are your primary family contacts? Parents? Siblings? Who is your main contact for your passport country fellowship? What about your organization? Who is the one person you need to call?
Consider creating an email group with these main people. This way you can send everyone one email if needed without having to search for your contacts. You can also pass off some communication responsibilities to these people. Your family member can share with the rest of your family and close friends. Your fellowship and organizational contacts can communicate as needed with others in those groups.
2. Social media presents a host of challenges when trauma occurs. One person finds out and posts a vague comment that others can see. And when others read the comment, they begin asking questions, and so it goes. You may not be able to or even want to look at your social media immediately after trauma, so ask someone close to you to respond to the comments. Share with the person responding what you would and wouldn’t like them to share, and then allow them to take over. This could also work for emails too. My sister handled my social media for me from the States, and my parents read through emails for me once they arrived in South Africa so that I didn’t have to read anything that might be unintentionally hurtful.
3. Does your organization have a policy about media coverage? Is there a public relations staff member that could help you? Thankfully my story did not become international news, but we knew it had the potential to. Because of this, my teammates dealt with the local media and managed to keep the story quiet and confined to the small, local paper. God was gracious in this for me. Depending on the type of trauma you experience, you might not be able to “manage the media” on your own or even keep the story from becoming bigger than you want. Check with your organization about how they handle these types of situations, and if trauma does occur, don’t be afraid to ask them for help.
4. In the case of medical trauma, the communication may look vastly different than in the case of a home invasion like I experienced. Medical trauma often involves many decisions about where to receive care, what type of care to receive, etc. Seek the advice of those who understand the medical system of your adopted country, as well as someone in your passport country. Make a quick list of these people now, so you don’t have to think about who to contact while processing difficult news.
5. If the trauma leads to you returning to your passport country, think about how you will want that communicated. This, of course, depends on the type of trauma experienced. However, here are a couple of general ideas: Medical – let people know you’re coming back for medical reasons. Emotional – let people know you’re coming back for a time of healing. Personal – let people know you’re back in your passport country after you arrive home to avoid extra questions before you’re ready to share.
6. Even if you don’t experience trauma, one of your teammates might. As a team, spend some time discussing how you can all respect and help your teammates communicate about trauma. Because trauma and people vary greatly, there is no exact answer to reach in this discussion. However, by having a conversation now, you can learn more about your teammates and how they might handle the PR aspect of trauma. But also keep in mind that sometimes views change when in the midst of a crisis, so be sure to check with your teammates before sharing with others, even if you have discussed some of this before trauma occurs.
There’s no way to prepare completely for the onslaught of communication details related to a trauma. However, my prayer is that by walking through these six questions, you will be better prepared if you do face trauma of any kind.
Trauma Training 101: The Basics covers:
•What is trauma?
•What is traumatic stress?
•How & Why does traumatic stress become “disordered”?
•What are the stages of healing?
•What to do about the stages of healing?
You can get it here. (The price will increase on March 1, 2021.)