In the wake of terrible disasters, like the Greek fire that claimed a large number of lives and hurt many more just recently—or like the Grenfell disaster—we can’t help asking ourselves how the survivors cope. How does anyone ever completely recover from going through such a dreadful experience?
The survivors of disasters often find that they struggle to cope with one or more of a range of mental health issues. They may experience post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) with symptoms that can include flashbacks to the awful event and sudden onset panic attacks. They may experience survivors’ guilt, whereby they feel guilty about having survived when so many other people died. They may feel the need to turn to prescription or non-prescription substances (such as alcohol) to help them deal with their emotions. They may feel compelled to talk about the event endlessly—or conversely, go into total avoidance mode and become deeply upset whenever anyone mentions it.
The sad reality is that it can be difficult to recover from having been involved in an awful tragedy like the Greek fire. Even when physical wounds have healed, the mind can be left in turmoil. However, with support and persistence, people can get better.
It is often said that time is a great healer, and that is true up to a point. It does take time to process the difficult emotions associated with having been through a devastating event. Time alone, however, is rarely enough. People need to feel that they have a safe space in which they can talk about their experiences and feelings without being judged or rushed towards an outcome that they might not be ready for. While close friends and family can provide comfort, survivors can be reluctant to unburden themselves completely to their loved ones, lest they upset them.
Different types of therapy can help a great deal in the case of survivor trauma. Many people find it helpful to take part in group therapy, where they can talk about their feelings with others who have had similar experiences in a fairly structured setting, with a therapist on hand to manage and contain participants’ interactions with one another. Others might benefit from one on one therapy. Many people find it useful to talk about their intense feelings of upset and trauma outside the family or home setting, so that these emotions do not “infect” their everyday lives.
If you or someone you care about has been through a very traumatic experience, know that help is available and that with help—and time—they can emerge from the far side of trauma and get on with their lives.
WHO CAN I SPEAK TO FURTHER ABOUT THE ISSUES IN THIS ARTICLE?
For help with the issues discussed in this article speak to one of our therapists here at Private Therapy Clinic for a free initial chat or to make an appointment.