At this stage it is common to feel that the recovery is slowing down. Progress may be difficult to notice; life can feel hard, empty and without meaning. This can be very challenging. For some daily life has been greatly altered and the brain needs time to adapt to the new life.
In the first few months after the incident, it is normal for the affected person’s social network to initially retreat. The affected individuals may then feel lonely and miss this support. It is important to inform the network that grief and recovery take time. There is still a need for support.
Belinda Ekornås – Special Adviser, RVTS East
Show an interest in how those affected experience their situation in the here-and-now. Use this as a starting point for counselling after the incident. Traumatic experiences will influence the perception of self and others, as well as personal values and existential questions. This can be overwhelming, particularly at early stages in the recovery process. As time passes, this can turn into a more constructive process where values and the meaning of life are reassessed. These can be important issues to talk about for those affected by a crisis.
Negative thoughts and emotions concerning oneself, others and life as a whole are not uncommon. This can lead to both social and emotional withdrawal. The basic trust in the predictability and safety of everyday life is lost: “When this could happen, anything could happen…”
Typical negative thoughts can be:
- All or nothing – no in-betweens (everything is ruined / nothing is changed)
- This is unavoidable, it will happen again
- Catastrophising – this will never end well. Thoughts about accidents and death
- Self-reproaching thoughts – this is my fault, I am a bad person
These are distressing thoughts that can make it difficult to see a meaning in life. Affected individuals need to understand that these thoughts are part of the reactions after a crisis and that they will change with time. Persisting negative thoughts can be a risk factor for depression and can prevent processing of the incident. Regaining trust in life can be a long process.
However, many experience a greater awareness of what is important in their own life after traumatic events. Life can take a new direction and, over time, a new meaning. Increased awareness of personal values may lead to a greater understanding of self with which comes a renewed sense of self-respect. Regardless of how life has changed, some things remain more important than others. Support throughout this process can help those affected become more aware of their own strengths, resources and passions.