Individual family members can be at different stages in the recovery process after the event and thus have different needs. Parents need time and space to process their own emotions to effectively support their children in managing theirs. Adults that need to support children and adolescents require knowledge about both normal crisis reactions and techniques to calm themselves, so that they can be there for the children.

Losing her has almost destroyed our family. We have struggled with anger, post-traumatic stress and social isolation.

Source: In-depth interviews with bereaved parents and siblings after the 2011 Norway terror attacks.

It can be challenging for parents to support their children’s needs when they themselves are in crisis. The parents can be assisted by offering them practical help like pick-up from day-care, transport to/from activities, grocery shopping etc. Adults that need to support children and adolescents require knowledge about both normal crisis reactions and techniques to calm themselves, so that they can be there for the children.

The family may need family and/or individual counselling. Topics for the first counselling sessions could include the incident itself, information about common crisis reactions and support in organising practical tasks. When those affected begin to realise the consequences of the incident, they may need to process emotions like anger, anxiety, sadness and guilt. These could be possible topics for later discussions with parents and siblings.

The grief of bereaved close friends needs to be recognised similarly to the grief of bereaved parents and siblings.

Belinda Ekornås – Special Adviser, RVTS East

Grief in bereaved friends has not been extensively studied or sufficiently prioritised in follow-up after traumatic deaths. Center for Crisis Psychology in Norway performed in-depth interviews of young adults who lost a close friend in the 2011 Norway terror attacks (Johnsen et al, 2015). The friends felt left out of the circle of bereaved. Their grief was overlooked and many did not receive the support they required. The study showed that 68% of close friends needed help from the public health system following the event, but only half of them actually received support. Many friends felt that they were not recognised as being bereaved and they had to seek help on their own initiative. Of those who where offered help, several felt that their grief was not understood or being taken seriously.

Source: Psychosocial functioning after losing a close friend in an extreme terror incident