Coping after a traumatic event

Immediately after a traumatic event, it is common for people to feel shocked, or numb, or unable to accept what has happened. Over several hours or days, the feelings of shock and denial gradually fade, and other thoughts and feelings take their place.

People react differently and take different amounts of time to come to terms with what has happened. Even so, you may be surprised by the strength of your feelings. It is normal to experience a mix of feelings. You may feel:

  • Frightened … that the same thing will happen again, or that you might lose control of your feelings and break down.
  • Helpless … that something really bad happened and you could do nothing about it. You feel helpless, vulnerable and overwhelmed.
  • Angry … about what has happened and with whoever was responsible.
  • Guilty … that you have survived when others have suffered or died. You may feel that you could have done something to prevent it.
  • Sad … particularly if people were injured or killed, especially someone you knew.
  • Ashamed or embarrassed … that you have these strong feelings you can’t control, especially if you need others to support you.
  • Relieved … that the danger is over and that the danger has gone.
  • Hopeful … that your life will return to normal. People can start to feel more positive about things quite soon after a trauma.

What else might I notice?

Strong feelings affect your physical health. In the weeks after a trauma, you may find that you:

  • cannot sleep
  • feel very tired
  • dream a lot and have nightmares
  • have poor concentration
  • have memory problems
  • have difficulty thinking clearly
  • suffer from headaches
  • experience changes in appetite
  • experience changes in sex-drive or libido
  • have aches and pains
  • feel that your heart is beating faster.

What should I do?

  • Give yourself time
    It takes time – weeks or months – to accept what has happened and to learn to live with it. You may need to grieve for what (or who) you have lost.
  • Find out what happened
    It is better to face the reality of what happened rather than wondering about what might have happened.
  • Be involved with other survivors
    If you go to funerals or memorial services, this may help you to come to terms with what has happened. It can help to spend time with others who have been through the same experience as you.
  • Ask for support
    It can be a relief to talk about what happened. You may need to ask your friends and family for the time to do this – at first they will probably not know what to say or do.
  • Take some time for yourself
    At times you may want to be alone or just with those close to you.
  • Talk it over
    Bit by bit, let yourself think about the trauma and talk about it with others. Don’t worry if you cry when you talk, it’s natural and usually helpful. Take things at a pace that you feel comfortable with.
  • Get into a routine
    Even if you don’t feel much like eating, try to have regular meals and to eat a balanced diet. Taking some exercise can help – but start gently.
  • Do some ‘normal’ things with other people
    Sometimes you will want to be with other people, but not to talk about what has happened. This can also be part of the healing process.
  • Take care
    After a trauma, people are more likely to have accidents. Be careful around the home and when you are driving.

What should I NOT do?

  • Don’t bottle up your feelings
    Strong feelings are natural. Don’t feel embarrassed about them. Bottling them up can make you feel worse and can damage your health. Let yourself talk about what has happened and how you feel, and don’t worry if you cry.
  • Don’t take on too much
    Being active can take your mind off what has happened, but you need time to think to go over what happened so you can come to terms with it. Take some time to get back to your old routine.
  • Don’t drink or use drugs
    Alcohol or drugs can blot out painful memories for a while, but they will stop you from coming to terms with what has happened. They can also cause depression and other health problems.
  • Don’t make any major life changes
    Try to put off any big decisions. Your judgement may not be at its best and you may make choices you later regret. Take advice from people you trust.

When should I get professional help?

Family and friends will probably be able to see you through this difficult time. Many people find that the feelings that they experience after a traumatic event gradually reduce after about a month. However, you may need to see a professional if your feelings are too much for you, or go on for too long.

You should probably ask your GP for help if:

  • you have no one to share your feelings with
  • you can’t handle your feelings and feel overwhelmed by sadness, anxiety, or
  • nervousness
  • you feel that you are not returning to normal after six weeks
  • you have nightmares and cannot sleep
  • you are getting on badly with those close to you
  • you stay away from other people more and more
  • your work is suffering
  • those around you suggest you seek help
  • you have accidents
  • you are drinking or smoking too much, or using drugs to cope with your feelings
  • you are experiencing problems that may be Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Symptoms that are most commonly experienced by people with PTSD include:

  • re-experiencing the trauma through vivid and distressing memories or dreams
  • avoiding situations that remind them of the traumatic event
  • feeling numb, as though they don’t have the same range of feelings as normal
  • being in a state of ‘alertness’ – watching out for danger.

If you are experiencing problems that might be PTSD, you should seek professional help.

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My Mother’s Garden

My Mother kept a garden,

a garden of the heart,

She planted all the good things

that gave my life it’s start.

She turned me to the sunshine

and encouraged me to dream,

Fostering and nurturing

the seeds of self-esteem…

And when the winds and rain came,

she protected me enough-

But not too much because she knew

I’d need to stand up strong and tough.

Her constant good example

always taught me right from wrong-

Markers for my pathway

that will last a lifetime long.

I am my Mother’s garden.

I am her legacy-

And I hope today she feels the love

reflected back from me

I wrote this poem when I was 11 years old, I realised that my Mom was my reason. My mom became my reason for everything after I lost my Dad, it was so inspiring to me that she was so strong for herself and all of us. So I wrote this poem so she could understand how important she and all mothers are.

 Prab Collects her Award

Losing a Mother Figure

Hi, my name is Kiran Mistry; I am 19 years old and studying at sixth form. I came to Edwards Trust, because at the age of 10, I lost my granddad on the 1st March 2006 to a stroke and my grandma on the 10th March 2006 to cancer.

Even though she was my grandmother, she was a mum to me, and every year I would always buy her a card and a small present. Now that she is no longer with me, I’ll go out and there will be lots of signs about Mothering Sunday and I’ll see something like a photo frame, a jewellery set or even her favourite perfume that would be the perfect gift for her, and it will instantly bring back the memories of her.

During the first few Mothering Sundays, I used to feel all these companies would bring these signs out and gifts just to rub salt into my grief, but slowly, over the years, it hasn’t brought me more grief but has helped me remember and cherish all those special moments I shared with her. I still buy her a card every year and place it in front of her photo just to say how much she still means to me and how I am trying to make her proud of the young lady I am turning into.

Mothering Sunday is a day, which I use to remember her at her best and thank her for everything she taught me when she was here and remind myself that she may not be here in person but her watchful eye is never far away.

All these years without her has helped me to cherish all the moments I spend with my mum and aunts today.

DSCF9326

Thank you Mom

My name is Ryan, I’m 21 years old. When I was 11 I lost my grandad, this was my first time dealing with death at an age where I could understand what it meant. When I lost him, I went into myself, I lost all my confidence, trust in the world, happiness and sense of humour. It also lead to me developing anxiety.

The effect was I lost all the trust in the world, with losing someone close, it meant that I had a constant worry of losing someone else. Especially my mom, she is one of the people I’m closest too. I became very overprotective of her; I had to know where she was at all times. Every Time I had to leave her, I had to know everything, where she was going, how long for and when she would be back at home.

This was very strong within me, in my first year of secondary school, I was in a constant state of worry about losing someone else. This really started off my anxiety, which I still suffer from today. Without my mom, the anxiety would be much worse. With the counselling from Sue at Edwards Trust, my anxiety has got much more manageable, I still have moments, but the majority of the time I can cope, without the continued support of my mom this would not be the case.

Edwards Trust 69

A Mother’s Day Poem

Relax, relax, someone help me!

Please please calm down as you have your melt down again and I breath and I breath as you slowly go into la la land.

The medication beat you,thank god!

The quiff wasn’t ready back then but your peach fuzz was.

Dad digs your pride out as the blade cuts the straw like hair and my little Humpty Dumpty is born out of the mist of her chemotherapy treatment; her horseman couldn’t put her back again as she fell from her wall…I’m sorry but I made you smile, even though there were too many cracks to mend.

You remember the doctor toy you brought me? You said, and I’m sorry if I paraphrase, but ‘oi idiot you know a lot and one day your going to be a doctor or something that helps the wrecks in life’,

You always knew I would do good but if you stayed around longer you would have more reasons to be proud but I personally think your looking down from your cloud and smiling as we used to do before the cancer consumed you.

I know I know I am not good with dates but there is no such thing as mothers day as I do it everyday and I celebrate your life each and everyday; apart of me died when you did but I carry a part of you too. You are never truly over.

Happy mothers day my big old sweetie

Archy xET Xmas 2014 web-193