Self-care is an art, one that our culture is not good at
You are probably like most people – busy with work and home life, and self-care is the last thing on your to-do list. By extending yourself grace and understanding that it is not selfish to consider your own needs, you can choose a path of healing that will work with your personality and circumstances. Recovering from a violent crime has similarities to recovering from any other attack on your body – be it from disease or injury from an accident. Time helps, but you need more than just the passive movement of time. Your mind and body need to heal, to recover. You need to do this to survive the stress of enduring the criminal justice system.
If you have been the victim of a crime the physical aspect of the injuries are often the easiest to recover from. The emotional and mental injuries are the hardest and often the ones your support group may struggle to identify or understand. Few people know how to help a victim, so I have addressed that in a different section. Please don’t hesitate to suggest those close to you read this site, especially the Care for Others section and blog posts in Victim Care.
Create a group that you can call on at any time. Let friends or family know ways in which you want them to respond when you call. This can be very difficult. Asking for help is hard when you already feel so vulnerable and weak. If your request is rejected, it stings more than it would under normal circumstances. Some things to ask for – provide company, bring food to you, spend the night, run errands with you, help you prepare meals for the week, help you come up with a list of what you need to do each week, make decisions about how to make your home safer.
Contact your local police department and ask if they can patrol your area more frequently. Let them know your situation, provide a photo of the predator, and let them know what hours of the day or night you feel most vulnerable. For many people, it will be the time of day the incident occurred.
Think of what brings you joy and do it, even if modified.
For example, I love being social. However, I did not feel safe away from my house. So I started a book club and a Bible study and volunteered to have small groups from church meet at my house. It kept me active after work and kept people around me in my home. I had lots of parties on the weekends and invited people to bring movies and pot luck and camp out or binge watch a show. Do be careful to research the shows as you will be shocked at what may disturb you. Even seemingly safe movies can have scenes with violence or some traumatic event that may trigger you. Let your friends know that you might have to request that a movie or show be stopped because it is too hard to watch. This will vary with each person and each incident.
Don’t isolate yourself. Surround yourself with as much laughter, uplifting and hopeful people, music, movies, and books as possible. I even made jokes about my experience with friends to occasionally lighten things up and help them feel more at ease about what happened to me. Remember that what happened to you did not happen in a vacuum. All those that you know and love will feel a trickle-down effect. It will shock them to the core, and they may struggle with their own sense of safety. As a result, they may try to downplay what happened to you in order to make themselves believe they live in a world where these types of things don’t happen. Try to understand that the people who love you most may not know how to help care for you during this time. It is something you will have to learn together.
Care for Others
Consider what you would do for a friend who has suffered the death of a love one. The same type of care would be appropriate here. Be with them. Listen. Sit with them. Listen. Walk with them, get them moving and if they are ready, get them out of the house. Listen. Get sunshine on their faces. Listen. Are you sensing a pattern? Listening and sharing words of comfort and understanding are essential to healing.
Help them feel safe again – whatever that looks like. Share rides to work, ask them if you can go to the grocery with them, run errands with them, and help them get back into daily life. It can be scary just going to the grocery store. I didn’t go without a gun in my purse for years.
Food. People in extreme trauma don’t think about basic needs. They are struggling just to get decent sleep, shower, and survive each day. Food becomes superfluous. It is almost too much trouble to think about. Good nutrition is a key to recovery. Trauma is like recovering from the flu – it affects the body as well as the mind. You can connect with friends and family to schedule taking meals to your loved one who is recovering. Make meals as easy as possible, take them in individual portions, and provide as much fresh fruit and vegetables as possible. Find out their favorite snacks and supply them.
Ask what they need. If they don’t know, and likely they won’t, then provide them with food, a funny movie, a book, and gift card for a massage, etc. They will know you are trying, and that is worth its weight in gold. The last thing they need is to feel they are going through this alone.
Creating a Safety Plan
You can find many self-protection experts to provide you with helpful tips in creating safety plans at home, at work, and in the car. It will not take long to create safety plans, and they could save you significant harm if needed. Remember, safety plans are useful for a variety of events unrelated to crime such as: natural disasters, car wrecks, or accidents inside the home. Please return to this page as we continue to develop this area and list resources for your convenience.