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Common reactions

Talking it over with friends or family can help
Photo: Australian Red Cross/Tim Lofthouse

You’ll most likely have a range of feelings and emotions after a major crisis....

Expressing your emotions does not mean you are weak or out of control. These feelings - even the most intense ones - will usually only last for short periods of time.

Some common feelings you might have:

Shock and disbelief:

  • the event might seem unreal, like a film or a dream.


  • your emotions might be cut-off, like you feel nothing.


  • of death or injury to yourself or family and friends
  • of being left alone, or having to leave loved ones
  • of breaking down or ‘losing it’
  • of a similar event happening again.


  • that you don’t have any power or control. Crisis can reveal human frailty (as well as strength).


  • for everything that’s gone
  • for things that won’t happen because of the event.


  • for not helping or saving others
  • for being alive or uninjured
  • for being better off than others.


  • for things you did or didn’t do.


  • for not reacting the way you would have liked to
  • for feeling helpless or emotional
  • for needing others.


  • like no-one understands or cares
  • like no-one can help you.


  • joy of survival, excitement
  • feeling close to everyone.

Anger and frustration:

  • about what happened
  • at whatever you believe caused it or allowed it to happen
  • at the injustice and senselessness
  • at the shame and indignity of it all.


  • for the future
  • for better times.

Remembering and memories:

  • the events and feelings may return in your thoughts, daydreams, flashbacks, dreams and nightmares
  • you may remember other traumatic events from your life
  • these are normal ways to work your way through the impact of the emergency.


  • emergencies can put stress on relationships
  • some friendships won’t be as supportive as you expected
  • others may be surprisingly stronger
  • you may form new friendships and relationships, particularly with people who shared the event.

Sometimes people block feelings because they’re too painful. Constantly pushing feelings and memories out of your head may lead to loss of memory or concentration and ‘fuzziness’ in your mind. You might not express or deal with your feelings immediately – it could take months or even years to fully experience them. That's okay, it takes as long as it takes. The earlier you’re able to deal with your feelings, the sooner healing can begin. But If you feel like you consciously keep blocking stuff out and it's causing problems, or if the feelings continue for a long time, you should seek professional help from a doctor or counsellor.


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