Coping with trauma and loss

11 Jan, 2016

After the recent South West fires we have witnessed a community and countless families and individuals suffer many losses.

Dealing with the loss of physical property can be overwhelming, and financial concerns can increase our stress. The loss of treasured and sentimental mementos can hit us hard. On rare occasions we may have to deal with the loss of family pets, or in the worst case scenarios, our loved ones.

We may initially feel like we can cope on our own, but once the clean-up is over and life begins to slow down and return to ‘normal’, feelings of grief and loss can catch up with us. These are completely normal reactions, and we shouldn’t feel ashamed at a need to reach out to others for support during these difficult times.

For those who haven’t personally been affected by this event it’s important to remember to provide support to those in need, not just financially, but also emotionally. This can include staying in contact, having a cuppa with them and inviting them to share how they are going, and listening without judgement. For some people, they may find emotional support by having someone sharing in getting things done, rather than talking about how they are going emotionally. Find out from them what they want from you and others.

Children are often greatly affected by disasters such as these, but a change in their ‘normal’ behaviour will let us know if they are not coping with the situation. At the same time children can be very resilient, and can often bounce back from trying situations more quickly than many adults.

But if you do notice a difference in their behaviour be prepared to listen to their concerns. Depending on their age sit them down for a chat and allow them to validate their thoughts and feelings about what has happened. It can also be a good idea to let them know about the Kids Helpline, should they feel more comfortable talking to someone outside the family.

If neither of these approaches are suitable, make an appointment with a counsellor to talk about any concerns you have and get their advice as to the best approach for your child. Our counsellors are trained to work with families and children.

Tips for managing trauma 

  1.  Keep up your daily habits as much as possible. Routine can help alleviate any feelings of displacement or loss.
  2. Try and maintain regular sleeping patterns, eat healthily and exercise every day, even if you don’t feel up to it.
  3. Take time to participate in something other than dealing with the clean up or financial concerns. Sometimes taking a walk with a friend, reading a good book or watching a light entertaining movie gives us a break from grieving and the tasks of rebuilding our lives after the event.
  4. Don’t keep your emotions bottled up inside – talk to someone, whether it be family, friends, neighbours, work colleagues or professionals.
  5. Chalk up your achievements – reflect positively on the small things you have done in your journey to pull everything back together.
  6. Appreciate how your family, friends and even the wider community have helped out when you needed it. Often it’s times like these in which the community pulls together in support and the best in society is highlighted.
  7. Watch for any changes in your children’s or partners behaviour.
  8. If you feel like you aren’t coping alone, don’t be afraid to seek professional support. There are a range of options available including your GP, Lifeline and organisations such as Relationships Australia WA.

If you need support, Relationships Australia offers counselling services. Call us on 1300 364 277.

If you are in crisis phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Kids Helpline is Australia's only free, private and confidential, telephone and online counselling service specifically for young people aged between 5 and 25. You can reach them on 1800 55 1800.

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