Those affected by a crisis gain confidence in their own coping skills when they are included in the planning of support measures. Knowing there is light at the end of the tunnel makes it easier to tolerate the grief, while accepting that this process takes time.

The crisis team drew two circles for me. One is the big black sorrow after Sara; the other is everyday life and the life ahead.

Jostein Sandsmark, lost his 13 year-old daughter Sara in a motor vehicle accident

Transfer of care from the crisis team to conventional support services usually happens from the first working day after the event to anywhere within the first few weeks. At transfer, the affected individuals should be assigned a contact person who monitors the recovery process and assesses the need for further follow-up:

  • Some do not have a need for further support and would like to be discharged from follow-up. They are resilient, have resources in their personal network and the recovery process has started.
  • Some have moderate and diminishing stress reactions and understand their own reactions to the incident. They tolerate the situation and have begun adapting to the new everyday life.
  • Some continue to experience strong reactions and/or unhealthy coping strategies.

Before making a decision about further follow-up, the situation should be discussed with the affected individual, focusing on their needs and potential support measures. Increased knowledge about their own situation makes it easier for those affected to focus their energy on adaptive coping strategies. Support personnel may contribute to this understanding by discussing adaptive and maladaptive coping strategies, based on the individual’s vulnerability and resistance.

Avoiding reminders of the incident can provide breathing space and create distance. Those affected may for example avoid:

  • Public transport if the incident occurred on a bus
  • Situations with high sensory input such as cinemas and malls
  • Talking about the incident

This promotes coping and recovery immediately following the incident. However, if avoidance becomes a coping strategy over time, it can have a restricting impact on life and recovery. Talking about avoidance is important, whether it comes up naturally in the conversation or through specific enquiry.

Provide information about peer support, e.g grief support groups. Help establish contact for those who are interested.