After such a traumatic event, you might be experiencing strong feelings of fear, sadness, guilt, anger, or grief. Some people may have pictures replaying in their mind or have recurring dreams about it. Generally, these feelings will resolve on their own, and with the support of family and friends, you will recover, but it may take a while to come to terms with what happened.
You can help yourself recover and get back to your normal life by trying some of the following suggestions:
- Recognise that this was an extremely upsetting event, and give yourself permission to feel upset about it, but remember your strengths – even though it’s tough, you can deal with it.
- Get plenty of rest and exercise, and eat well.
- Avoid using drugs or alcohol to cope.
- Make time for relaxing activities.
- Try not to block out your feelings – recurring thoughts, dreams, and flashbacks are unpleasant, but they help us to come to terms with distressing experiences and they should decrease over time.
- Spend time with people you care about – you don’t have to talk about your experiences, but talking things through is part of the natural healing process and will help you to accept what has happened.
- Keep informed of the facts, but limit the time you spend looking at news sites and other media about the event.
- Focus on the many good things that happened that day – strangers helping strangers and messages of support.
After a couple of weeks, if you’ve tried these strategies and things still aren’t improving, or if you are having trouble coping, talk to your GP or a mental health professional.
Helping children and young people
Just as adults are prone to experiencing strong feelings after such a traumatic event, children too may feel fear, sadness, or anger. These feelings will usually become less intense after a few weeks, and the support of family and friends is particularly important during this time.
Children and young people may exhibit ‘naughty’ behaviour as part of their response or become withdrawn and quiet. Instead of becoming angry or frustrated and blaming the child for their behaviour, try these approaches instead:
- Children will take their cue from adults about how to react to the event – be mindful of your own reactions and manage them as best you can.
- Reassure the child that he or she is safe and cared for.
- When he or she is ready, talk with the child about the event and listen to their concerns; children can feel frightened about things they don’t fully understand.
- Answer any questions that they have as truthfully as possible. Reassure them that this was a very rare event and that Melbourne is a safe place to live.
- Minimise their access to news coverage and social media about the event.
- Give the child special attention, especially at bedtime.
- Encourage expression of emotions – they are part of the healing process.
- Enjoy activities together as a family.
- Encourage the child to participate in group activities at school or in the community that give them a chance to talk about and process the event, e.g., memorial services.
If your child is still having problems four weeks after the event, visit your GP.