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Open Your Heart to Survivors and to Yourself
Every October, we honor Domestic Violence Awareness Month. DVAM is an opportunity to deepen our understanding of these issues, share resources, and most importantly, support survivors.
This year, Joyful Heart is honoring DVAM by sharing tools for supporting survivors with our community. Each week, we are covering a new topic and sharing stories about how to put these tools into practice. We invite and encourage you to share these with your community.
This year’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month is coming to a close, and we are concluding our weekly blog series with two final tools for supporting survivors.
First: Keep an open heart.
There is no “right” way to heal from violence and abuse. As survivors work through their experiences, their emotions—and what they need from friends, colleagues, and loved ones like you—may change. To support a survivor, commit to being there for them along the way.
Remind a survivor you are available should they want to talk about their experiences further. The healing journey can be a long one. It can be full of many challenging—but sometimes joyful and liberating—conversations. It can make a big difference for a survivor to know you are there to support them throughout the journey, especially when they do not know what lies ahead.
However, keeping an open heart refers to more than simply making yourself available to a survivor. It is also about being mindful of your own emotions and responses when taking in a survivor’s story.
This brings us to our last tool.
Finally: Care for yourself.
There is a limit to what we are able to process. The stories of someone else’s trauma can impact or become a part of us. This experience of second-hand trauma—often called vicarious trauma—is a human response to coming face-to-face with deep suffering and the difficulties of the human experience.
This is why it is important to care for yourself as you support another person. We refer to this process as self-care: intentionally engaging in restorative, fulfilling activities to care for our physical, mental, emotional, and/or spiritual health.
You cannot be your best self in your supportive role if you find yourself too tired to listen with care and compassion, or you are overcome by your own emotions in response to another’s trauma. These feelings are valid, and they can interfere with your response to a survivor.
Self-care looks different for everyone, but activities some people find restorative include practicing yoga, listening to calming music, enjoying the outdoors, exercising, or taking in a favorite book or movie. Remember, you can be your best self for someone else when you give yourself the space to honor your own needs.
We hope you enjoyed following along with us this month and that you will be able to put these tools into practice. Remember, supporting survivors is a year-round practice. We invite you to revisit these steps anytime to learn more about how you can make a difference, change the culture, and end this violence forever.
What is the most useful tool for supporting survivors you learned this month? Tweet us your thoughts at @TheJHF.