Our hearts go out to the people of Norway who suffered such a horrific national tragedy over recent days. The violence of events is terrible and made more so by the fact that so many of the victims were children and young teens. Human-triggered disasters are particularly difficult to cope with and recover from.
While everyone is disturbed by such a sudden and terrible set of events, some may feel and react to the news more intensely than others. Reactions may be exacerbated as stories emerge about the horrific attacks and we learn more about the details of the violence and the personal stories of victims and their families. As memorials occur, we are exposed to the grief and raw reactions of survivors and grieving families. Events become more personal.
Some of the people for whom this might trigger a heightened level of grief, stress, or anxiety include:
People with a direct connection to the events. That would, of course, encompass those who suffered a loss in the event. But it might also extend to any who have some personal association with Norway, such as people with friends or relatives who live there. Even people who developed an affinity for the country through studies abroad or travels might feel a heightened reaction.
People who have been a victim of violence themselves. This could encompass assault and rape victims, people who were held hostage, people who have been part of random shootings, or people who lost loved ones to random violence. The Norway events might rekindle memories, grief, loss, fear and heightened anxiety.
People who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This might include veterans, victims of 9/11, survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing, or many others who experienced trauma and are not able to get beyond it. The Norway events might trigger heightened memories, fear, anxiety, anger, stress, or disruption of eating or sleeping habits, among other things.
Children and young people. Violent events can be particularly frightening to children, and this event even more so because it included the specific targeting of children. The sudden and random nature of events may be terribly upsetting and threaten to a child’s sense of security. Some children may be intensely fearful of their own safety or the safety of loved ones.
Responding to events
Be sensitive to others and how they experience events. People handle stress and grief differently, and we don’t always know what experiences others have had that might intensify a reaction. While some may hear such news and move on relatively easily, others may need more time to process and react. Don’t assume everyone feels things the same way that you do – be sensitive to those around you and let them express their feelings.
Limit exposure to gruesome details in the news. The 24-hour nature of the Internet and cable news mean that we can be bombarded with nonstop news and images of a disastrous event. This continual exposure can exacerbate anxiety and fear, particularly for children.
Take positive action. When violent events occur, it can shake our faith and trust in our fellow man. Counter these feeling by spending time with family and friends. It can also help to do something to reduce the feelings of helplessness that many experience in the face of such events: Help others. Give blood. Organize of take part in a memorial activity. Write letters. Make a donation. Volunteer.
Consider counseling. If you or somebody else is having a particularly hard time coping with these events, counseling with a professional may be in order. Signs that you or a loved one may need help getting past this might include sleeplessness, heightened anxiety or phobias, and preoccupation with details of events.
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- National Center for PTSD
- Coping With Stress
- Guide for Parents and Educators: Tips for Talking to Children and Youth After Traumatic Events
- Children and Violence
- Children Now – Talking with Kids About TV News
- Talking To Children About Terrorism And War
- National Child Traumatic Stress Network
- Helping Your Child Deal With Death
- Kids’ Health: Anxiety, Fears & Phobias