he fear of recurrence is a normal reaction that will usually subside as time passes. Explaining to survivors that fear is a normal adaptive reaction, a life-saving emotion, can be reassuring to them.
As mentioned earlier, a common first reaction is wanting to help other disaster survivors. Those who want to help can be referred to Volunteer Services. Engaging survivors in their own recovery is one of the most effective ways to help them in their recovery (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2008).
Responders can encourage survivors to give themselves positive instructions in difficult situations or talk through an event. Some examples of positive talk include, “It’s natural to feel anxious, to feel weak.” or “These feelings are natural! It’s okay to have these feelings even if they are uncomfortable.” By learning to give themselves permission to feel these emotions, they will gradually start to accept them as normal.
Responders can help survivors to see their anxiety as a normal part of their reaction to the disaster. As well, they need to realize that human beings are vulnerable and though they cannot control the situation, they are not helpless. A survivor’s responses to a situation can be controlled by being prepared or by using coping strategies.
Strategies that can be used with children may include:
- Encouraging parents to talk to their children about their feelings – they will find that many feelings are shared, regardless of age
- Encouraging the children to draw pictures of the disaster – this will help their caregivers understand how they view what happened
- Talking with children about what happened – provide factual information that they can understand, talk about their family’s preparedness, including the role the children can take
- Reassuring the children that they are safe – repeat this assurance as often as necessary
- Encouraging parents to hold their children – touch provides extra reassurance that someone is there to comfort their child
- Encouraging parents to spend extra time with them, especially at bedtime
- Encouraging parents to relax rules, and praise and recognize responsible behaviour