Gun Shot

10 Jan

Letterbalm Masked GunmanDear LetterBalm: A close friend was robbed at gunpoint while she was working late at night at a neighborhood grocery store. She quit that job right away and, after a time of recuperation, got a different job that doesn’t involve night work. She also got into therapy to deal with the trauma. But six months later, she’s still nervous and anxious. She’s stopped going out and stopped doing things she enjoyed, like going to movies and dinners with friends. She just goes to work, grad school classes and the gym. She insists she’s O.K., but I’m worried about her. What can I do and say to help her?

–Friend in Need               

Sadly, these days your friend is living a diminished life. She was robbed of more than money; she was robbed of her ability to feel safe in the world. Facing the barrel of a gun is a life-threatening event, and your friend is likely suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. You must give her time to regain her psychological resilience. She may be feeling fear, anger, even guilt that she “let it happen.” It is hoped her therapist is helping her heal. Ms. L.B. advises you to get on the web and read up on PTSD and how a layperson can understand it and help a friend. Mostly, you should be there for her, listening and offering emotional support and patience. You can start the process by inviting her to your home for daytime tea as a break from her studies. (Pick her up and take her home, if necessary.) During the visit, say something like this:

Lori, I can’t possible know what you went through and are still going through. I know you are trying hard to regain your balance. All I can promise is that I will always be there for you to listen and offer encouragement and understanding, and I’ll never push you to do anything you don’t feel ready to do. I hope your therapist has suggested you join a group of people who have undergone trauma because only they will truly understand and offer insights for you. As time goes on, I’d like to be there with you when you begin to step out again in the world – and, you will, I firmly believe that. You will get better. There is one thing I’d like to do for you: Next week the botanical show opens, and I know how much you love flowers. I got preview tickets for us because the crowds won’t be so big. We could go first thing in the morning on Tuesday before the exhibition gets filled up and have lunch there before you have to go to class. Does this sound like something you’d like to see?  

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