This was sent to me by my friend Gail, who got it from a co-worker. Much of this parallels what is taught to EMS providers about post-incident stress reactions/stress management.
As I read it I remembered how some of this helped me through some awful calls in my paramedic days. What was stressed to us was that all these reactions were **normal**. It didn't mean we were crazy or falling apart. It really helped to be aware of the process and helped us as a group talk about things and seek support. I'll add one more thought in that line. It's important sometimes to realize that not everyone can listen to everything you're feeling, especially when they're dealing with the same or similar situation. Even uninvolved people sometimes can't give the support we need. that's not a fault of theirs -- it just might not in them to give right then. Seek support somewhere else if you sense someone giving "can't handle that right now" signs.
A couple thing about kids. Most of the experts I heard speak today talked about limiting the amount of exposure little kids have to TV report. One finally said why: small kids don't realize that the single, often repeated clip is a repeat. To them, each showing can be seen as a new occurance. So seeing the same clip five or ten times makes a bigger event in their head.
Also, parents were encouraged with younger kids especially to initiate the conversation and to start by asking what they know about what's going on. They may have different mixes of info and emotions, but to then give them more information based on the level of what they are already thinking about, rather than starting on too high a level. Also don't be afraid to bring it up again because the child will continue gathering info and trying to piece it all together.
This is a good list of suggestions for adults and children on dealing with this tragedy....
"Coping with Unexpected National Trauma"
Because of their degree of violence and complete unexpectedness, the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon may have left you with a number of unsettling reactions. These reactions are shared by people undergoing sudden trauma (from natural disaster, crime, accidents, acts of war, etc.) and are normal ways of trying to deal with abnormal situations. During the next few days and weeks, you may experience some of these reactions. They will vary in intensity and duration with each individual. Though your thoughts, feelings, and responses may be unsettling, it is important to recognize them as natural and human. You may not be able to prevent these reactions but there are ways to help yourself and others.
- Preoccupation with the event/difficulty thinking about other things. This is our way of trying to absorb the enormity of the event, little by little, at a pace we can handle.
- Thinking of the event over and over, being riveted to television, radio, and web reports. This is our way of trying to re-establish some sense of understanding and control.
- Trouble remembering or concentrating. Our intellectual and emotional energies are focused on dealing with the shock.
- Guilt. We all cope in different ways. If you use humor to cope, don't feel guilty for not being "appropriately sober" in all your responses.
- If you use activity to cope, don't feel guilty for not wanting to spend every moment trying to listen the news. If you use keeping up with the news to cope, don't feel guilty for being "inappropriately morbid." Each response is understandable and helps us in different ways.
- Anxiety and fear
- Desire for revenge
- Feelings of helplessness
- Wanting to spend time talking and being with other
- Feeling protective of loved ones
- Sleep disturbances
Ways to Help Yourself and Others Cope
- Talk with people. This helps us feel less isolated and anxious. This also helps us "reality check" our reactions, making us realize our feelings are normal. It also helps to bring back to reasonable parameters feelings of vengeance or fear we may be experiencing.
- Give yourself permission to be distracted.
- Be kind toward others and tolerant of ways in which their coping needs may differ from yours.
- Avoid real and symbolic violence. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the television images of the Trade Center collapsing, listen to the radio. Or avoid news sources altogether for awhile. Periodically, you can ask others if there is any significant new information you should know. Avoid entertainment with violent themes or images.
- Structure your time. Keep your life as normal as possible.
- Help your children understand in ways that are not overwhelming. For example, young children might need breaks from the television imagery. You might reassure children that it is okay for them to not know what to do. Instead, there are responsible and competent adults who are handling this byeach doing their specialized jobs. Emergency crews are helping the victims and their families, investigators are working to identify who is responsible, safety personnel are working to prevent other incidents.
- Take care of yourself physically. Eat nourishing food, try to get enough sleep, do mild exercise . Don't demand that your body perform at high levels. Now may not be the time to adhere to a rigorous new workout, an austere diet, or a taxing workday.
- Spend time with people you enjoy, doing things you enjoy.
- Engage in activities that reaffirm your sense of yourself and others as members of a caring community.