Shock and disbelief
Anger and frustration
Allowing yourself to express them will help with healing. Sometimes people block feelings fearing they are too painful, often by being over-busy. Constantly pushing feelings and memories out of your head may lead to loss of memory or concentration and fuzziness of the mind.
You may not be able to express or deal with your feelings immediately—you may take months or even years to fully experience them. The earlier you are able to deal with your feelings, the sooner healing can begin.
Prolonged blocking of feelings may lead to difficulties. If these feelings continue for an extended period you should seek professional help.
The events and feelings may return to you in your thoughts, daydreams, images, flashbacks, dreams and nightmares. You may remember past crises. These are normal ways to work your way through the impact of the event.
Some people increase alcohol, coffee or drug consumption after an event. Accidents are more frequent after intense stress. Pregnancies are more common after some crises. Do your best to take care of yourself physically—illness frequently occurs when you are run down.
Some simple steps to look after your health:
Some people may find it more difficult to adjust to life after the event, and may require more support from their community.
A crisis may be more intense for people who have suffered heavily or been particularly involved.
Bereavement can be especially difficult when deaths were multiple, sudden or violent, a child or young person died, the body was not found, or when the relationship with the deceased person was difficult.
High profile events can also take on a community dimension, where the public also grieves for the deceased. This public grief often subsides quickly after public memorial services, leaving the directly affected people to cope within their own circle of family and friends.
The responsibility of helping out in an emergency can give people stronger reactions, especially those who gave deeply of themselves, came into close contact with the injured, dying or dead, felt they failed to do their job properly, or experienced ‘burn-out’.
Elderly people may find it harder to readjust because of reduced energy, increasing frailty and limitations on social and economic resources required to rebuild their lives.
Children also experience emotional and physical responses to crises. Their imaginings and nightmares can add to their fear after an event. Sometimes children show their distress by behaving in ways they did when they were younger, such as clinging.
These behaviours may be a burden on already stressed parents, but be aware that children need the closeness and comfort of their families. They need to be understood, believed and given honest explanations of the event.
It is important to make sure that children of all ages are not exposed to horrific images in the media, including on internet chat room sites. Be mindful of what they also might be exposed to listening to adult conversations and in the school yard. If you have concerns talk to your child’s teacher or your GP.
Kids Helpline provides confidential anonymous counselling for young people aged five to 25.
Constructive activities like drawing, playing and talking can help children to express their feelings.
Emergencies may put stress on existing relationships within the family and friendship circles. You might feel that your friends and family just can’t understand; they weren’t there. Common reactions to these feelings can include anger, conflict, jealousy and on rare occasions, violence.
Some friendships won’t prove to be as supportive as you expected; others may be surprisingly stronger. In some cases you may form new friendships and relationships, particularly with people with whom you shared the event.
Seeking support after a major personal crisis can be a positive step. Some people choose to seek informal help from family, friends, colleagues or through their faith. Sometimes, however, informal support may not be enough.
Consider professional assistance as preventative health care and get information and advice earlier rather than later. You can seek assistance from your GP, community health service or an experienced registered psychologist.
Some great organisations you can contact for immediate support:
This is general information about how to look after yourself and it may not always be right for you. Think about what is best for you. Some people to ask for help are family, friends or a Red Cross worker.