Coping with trauma

When you have been personally involved in a traumatic incident or someone you  know has been injured or died suddenly, the feelings you experience may be new  and frightening and you may wonder what is happening to you and how to cope in  these circumstances.

You may experience some or all of these mental and  physical feelings, now, or even weeks or months later:

  • Sleeplessness
  • Headaches
  • Bad dreams
  • Backache
  • Loss of concentration
  • Neckache
  • Anxiety
  • Stomach upsets
  • Grief
  • Tension in muscles
  • Anger
  • Shaking
  • Guilt
  • Dizziness
  • Helplessness
  • Palpitations
  • Numbness
  • Tiredness

These feelings are common to everyone, in different strengths, in different  ways, at different times. 

They are all genuine feelings that should be  allowed to come out as part of the healing process. It may help to express the  feelings by crying for the loss and raging at the unfairness of it all. If  someone has died it may help to talk to others about her or him. You may need  more support from family and friends. 

Ask for physical and emotional  help. Talk about things over and over again if you need to. Talk to people who  are sharing the loss or who have had similar experiences. At first you may feel  numb. This doesn't mean you don't care about what has happened, just that you  can't take it all in at once. 

It is good to keep active but don't overdo  it - this can be a way of blocking out the feelings that need to be expressed if  you are to recover from this trauma. You have to come to terms with the reality  of the tragedy. Talking about it and, if death is involved, possibly going to  events like funerals can help.

When to seek help

Family, friends, tutors etc. may be helping you all they can but if you feel  that you need extra help ask for this at the Counselling Service. 

Ask for  help if:

  • you feel you can't handle your deep feelings
  • you feel you aren't getting back together over a period of time
  • you continue to feel tense, confused, empty or exhausted
  • you have nightmares and can't sleep
  • you've no-one to share your feelings with
  • your relationships suffer, or you develop sexual problems
  • you have accidents
  • you drink, smoke or take drugs to excess
  • your work suffers
  • others close to you are not recovering

There is nothing to be ashamed of in needing help.

Do's and don'ts


  • let others - family, friends, tutors or counsellors, share in your feelings  and let them share their own. They may be feeling much the same as you
  • take time to rest and be with friends
  • give yourself time for privacy or to be alone
  • keep your life as normal as possible as you begin to recover
  • believe that your feelings are as important as those of others who may be  more closely connected to the tragedy


  • bottle up your feelings - make sure you express them
  • avoid talking about what happened - think about what happened and talk it  over with others
  • expect the memories to vanish - they may stay with you for a long time
  • give a lot of time and help to other people without getting some for  yourself