Coping with trauma and loss

05 Feb 2021
Coping with trauma and loss

As WA continues through our current COVID-19 restrictions and the uncertainties ahead, we have also witnessed families and individuals suffer tremendous loss due to the devastation of the Wooroloo fires.

Not only will many people be facing the long journey ahead to rebuild their homes and lives, they will be doing so during the COVID-19 pandemic – already a stressful and concerning time for many in our community.

Dealing with the loss of physical property can be overwhelming, and financial concerns can increase our stress.

But often it is the loss of treasured and sentimental mementos that hit us the hardest.

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 to 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 people who have not been adversely affected by the Wooroloo fires or COVID-19 pandemic, 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.Some people may find emotional support by having people help 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’ behavior 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 behavior be prepared to listen to their concerns.

Depending on their age sit them down for a chat and allow them to express their thoughts and feelings about what has happened. Take time to validate your child’s experience, even if they are having a different emotional reaction to the situation.

Much of what your child experiences and the way your child behaves after a traumatic event can be seen as a normal response.If your child behaves in challenging ways, let your child know it is normal to be upset and angry. Helping to find other ways to express these feelings will get rid of the pent-up energy and divert it into a more acceptable physical activity, e.g., kicking a football or some indoor activity (room permitting!).

It can also be a good idea to let them know about the Kids Helpline, should they feel more comfortable talking to someone outside of 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 after an event include:

  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. Get more comfortable asking for help - this is difficult for many people but at times like this it’s unrealistic to do everything by yourself..
  7. Appreciate how your family, friends and even the wider community has 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.
  8. Watch for any changes in your children’s or partners behaviour, and offer help if needed.
  9. 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 are feeling concerned about yourself, your family or relationships, contact us on 1300 364 277 to see how we can support you. 

If you need immediate support, contact:

Lifeline on 13 11 14

Suicide Line on 1300 651 251

Mensline on 1300 78 99 78

Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800

Rurallink on 1800 552 002