Providing social support to a family member or friend who has unintentionally killed or seriously injured another person will help them cope and heal. Many CADIs fear that they will be shamed, rejected, and cast out of their communities and friendship circles. Simply reassuring them that you care is so important. In addition, even when the CADI is overwhelmed by trauma, life goes on — the kids need help with homework, the bills need to be paid, and so on. Your caring and help will make a big difference.
There are many different ways to show caring for the CADI in your life. First is emotional support. This means listening with love and acceptance while withholding judgement. It means offering a hug, a shoulder to cry on, or simply the comfort of your presence. It means assuring the CADI that you will not abandon them.
Practical social support is also important. What errands need to be run? What household tasks can you take care of? Would the CADI appreciate help dealing with the insurance company or finding a therapist? Can you screen social media for them? Your assistance can allow the CADI to focus on getting stabilized.
Another form of social support is companionship. Watch a silly movie or take a walk together. Offer to accompany them to the supermarket or gym. If he or she is afraid to drive after a car crash, offer to go with them when they first get back behind the wheel.
There’s also help with coordination and organization. Accidents tend to generate considerable paperwork and require various tasks, such as keeping track of medical expenses, dealing with a damaged car or equipment, working with an insurance company, pulling together information for an attorney, and so forth. This can be overwhelming, especially when each task carries an emotional charge. If you’re a good organizer, offer to help set up files or make copies of the paperwork. This can save time and stress.
To the greatest extent possible, allow the CADI in your life to be in charge of their own healing and to make their own decisions. One of the most painful elements of a trauma is the sense of helplessness it engenders, because we are confronted with the fact that we are not fully in control of ourselves or our lives. So balancing social support with respect for their capabilities is important.
If you believe the CADI is suicidal or at risk of hurting him or herself, however, it is time to intervene. You can contact the suicide prevention lifeline, bring the CADI to a local emergency room, or contact their therapist or doctor (or encourage the CADI to do so) for crisis intervention. If possible, stay with the CADI and offer your love and compassion.
It is so hard to see those we love suffer, but you can be with them in their suffering and show them how much you care — and that is huge.