When something terrible happens

When something terrible and unexpected happens it can create feelings of intense sadness, fear and helplessness. A traumatic event is one which is sudden and disruptive. It can make us feel vulnerable and out of control and we realise that the world is not as predictable as we believed. We can experience a trauma response – even if we were not directly involved in the incident.

When terrible things happen we experience ‘normal’ reactions such as -­‐

  • Disbelief and shock

  • Anxiety

  • Fear

  • Feeling helpless

  • Overwhelming sadness

  • Feeling sad, numb, tired, empty

  • Disorientation and denial

  • Out of body sensation, time distortions, “spacing out”

  • Being “jumpy” or easily startled

  • Being on alert

  • Anger

  • Wanting to be alone

  • Relief at survival —often followed by guilt

  • Trouble concentrating or remembering

  • Intrusive or reoccurring thoughts

  • Sleeplessness

  • Loss of appetite.

  • Increased physical aches and pain in stomach, back, and head

The following reactions, though, are more severe and although they may need to be monitored more closely – they too usually decrease over time. If they don’t decrease within a few weeks of the incident, you may need additional support.

  • Depression

  • Avoiding people, places, thoughts, or any reminders of the trauma

  • Reliving or re-­‐experiencing the event

  • Hyperarousal—feeling always on alert or keyed up

  • Panic attacks

  • Nightmares

  • Increased substance use

  • Emotional numbing

  • Persistent guilt or shame

  • Increases desire/efforts to control everyday experiences

  • Ongoing isolation from others

  • Loss of hope

  • Loss of connection and a sense of alienation

When someone we know dies, it is natural to mourn their loss; to think of them with sorrow and miss their presence in our lives. If they died from an illness we may have had time to adjust to what was happening and maybe had an opportunity to say goodbye. This is not the case when someone dies in away that is abrupt and traumatic and which gives us no time to adjust or to say goodbye.

When someone we know dies suddenly or in traumatic circumstances we can also feel a very strong desire for safety and self protection and for a while this may make us over protective of our loved ones, especially children.

It is not unusual to go over the event again and again and to use our imagination to fill in the gaps of what we don’t know or to try to reconstructed a story of events not actually witnessed. However if this goes on for a long time it can cause sleeplessness, anxiety and worry and may lead to depression or to the more severe reaction of complicated grief.

There is no set pattern of how to grieve not for everyone and not even within each person. Each grief is unique, as each relationship is unique. Respect the uniqueness of your own response and search out the sort of support that meets your own needs.

Take care:

Everyone is different and so you need to understand your own response to the trauma event– it is as valid as everyone else’s, even if it is different. The following skills are known to help us to cope with and soothe a trauma reaction and build resilience.

  • Talk to someone; stay connected to your support systems, allow your friends to care for you.

  • Ensure that you are sleeping well

  • Eat healthy foods and drink plenty of water

  • Keep exercising regularly

  • Continue to make time for your friends, family, hobbies and

  • Make time for relaxation

  • Make time for your spiritual activities, if you practice.

Try to avoid

x Isolating yourself

x Withdrawing from activities and friends

x Working longer hours

x Over eating or stopping eating

x Smoking or drinking too much

x Poor self care (losing interest in your personal appearance or hygiene; risk taking or loss of interest in your health or wellbeing)