A traumatic incident is an event that is sudden, out of the blue, unexpected, overwhelming, and dangerous (either to one's self or to others). It is what you get “when a normal individual gets involved in an abnormal event.”

Most people involved in a trauma will develop some stress reactions. Reactions can range from mild to intense in severity. The stress reactions are usually temporary and subside in three to six weeks.

I provide trauma and crisis counselling to people that have experienced any of the following events:

  • Death by suicide or homicide
  • Workplace accidents and injuries
  • Sudden and unexpected death
  • Robbery, and
  • Employment termination.

Normal Reactions After Trauma

If you have been exposed to a traumatic event, it can take away your sense of security and well-being. It is quite possible, even if only for a short time, that your ability to function normally could be impaired by some of the following reactions:

Stage 1 Reactions

  • Shock
  • Disbelief and
  • Denial

Stage 2 Reactions

  • Anger or Rage
  • Anxiety, Fear or Terror
  • Flashbacks
  • Irritability
  • Denial
  • Confusion
  • Guilt or Self-Blame
  • Grief or Sorrow
  • Feelings of “If only”
  • Changes in appetite
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Lack of energy
  • Restlessness
  • Easily startled
  • Heightened level of suspicion
  • Concentration problems
  • Short term memory problems
  • Repetition of tasks already completed
  • Making small errors
  • Daydreaming
  • Reluctance to go back to work
  • Tendency to overwork
  • Overprotection of children
  • Losing trust in those you’ve trusted
  • Loss of interest in intimacy

It is important to allow yourself time to experience these emotions and reactions. Take extra special care of yourself through adequate rest, nutrition, exercise and relaxation, and be patient with yourself. It is also very important to talk to friends and family for adequate processing of the event.

Keep in mind that there is no set time frame and “no right or wrong way” to experience loss. It is an individual process for all of us. Acceptance comes with time and always at one’s own speed.

Be aware of possible “trigger events.” These are situations that can cause an individual to re-experience some of the symptoms they encountered at the time of the event:

  • Seeing someone similar in appearance
  • Returning to the scene
  • Media coverage or movie themes of similar events
  • Anniversary of the event
  • Court process
  • Working in a similar environment.

If your reactions persist beyond a reasonable time frame, and give you cause for concern or interfere with your ability with your personal or professional life, do consult with a trauma professional and/or physician.


  • Allow yourself time to grieve and when you’re ready begin the process of looking at your options.
  • Focus on the future which is in your control not on the past which isn’t.
  • Seek emotional support.
  • Maintain regular activities outside of the home – do not isolate yourself.
  • Talk about the specifics of the event with your friends, family and co-workers.
  • Take a warm bath.
  • Write down your thoughts.
  • Encourage yourself to go back to work.
  • Seek additional support of counselling if the distress remain for more than 4-6 weeks.

Sometimes opportunity arrives in disguise, dressed not in excitement and anticipation but rather in fear or grief or failure. The Chinese character for crisis contains two brush strokes: one that represents danger and the other opportunity. In every event, no matter how devastating, exists the opportunity for courage, resilience, leadership or strength of character (Warren Sheppel Consultants, 2000).