Coping with a crisis

In a crisis someone close to you may have died unexpectedly. You may have been injured yourself or you may have witnessed the death and injury of others. Your experience is a very personal one but here you can read about how others have reacted in similar situations. We also suggest ways in which you can help healing to occur, and how you can avoid some pitfalls.

Feelings after a crisis

To begin with, you may feel numb. The event may seem like a dream, or something that has not really happened. People can sometimes (wrongly) see this as being 'strong' or 'uncaring'.

You may also feel:

  • Fear: of damage to yourself and those you love; of being left alone; of having to leave loved ones; of 'breaking down' or 'losing control'; of a similar event happening again.
  • Sad: as a result of deaths, injuries and losses of every kind.
  • Longing: for all that has gone.
  • Guilty: for being better off than others, for being alive and not injured, for feeling regrets about things not done.
  • Ashamed: for having been exposed as helpless, 'emotional' and needing others, or for not having reacted as you would have wished.
  • Angry: at what has happened, at whoever caused it or allowed it to happen, at the injustice and senselessness of it all, and at other people's lack of understanding and inefficiencies.
  • Helpless: powerless, or as if you don’t know the right way to react.
  • Let down: disappointed at all the plans that cannot be fulfilled.
  • Hope: for the future and for better times.

You may find you are have strong memories, of feelings, of loss or of love for the other people in your life who have been injured or who have died. You may also find yourself repeatedly dreaming about what happened. A disaster may become the main thing that you think about for a long time. The stress of this and the lack of ability to focus on the here and now may make you more accident-prone.

The extra tension may lead you to increase your intake of substances such as alcohol or drugs. You may feel this will dull the pain temporarily, but it is important to seek help if you repeatedly turn to alcohol or drugs to cope.

It is common to have some or all of these feelings after a disaster and you may experience them immediately or some time later. The feelings can be very strong and frightening, especially if a death was sudden or violent, or if a body was not recovered, or if many people died. It can feel as if you are losing control or 'going mad', but for most people the feelings become less intense over time. Many people find that crying can give relief but it is also common to experience other responses, such as a desire to be alone.

Relationships after a crisis

A crisis can bring people together and lead to new friendships, but it can create tensions and strains. Some families are able to support one another, but this not always possible and conflicts may emerge. Relationships between partners can also be affected.

What can help after a crisis

  • Reality: attending funerals, returning to the scene and talking to people who know what happened are all ways in which a situation which seems unbelievable may be made more credible and easier to bear.
  • Talking: many people find it helpful to talk about what happened and how they feel. This can be an important part of the healing process.
  • Support: sharing with others who have had similar experiences can help.
  • Privacy: some people want to be left on their own.

Further help

Our booklet Restoring Hope gives more detail on how you may feel following a bereavement. Other publications are available from our online shop.

Cruse Bereavement Care is here to support you after the death of someone close. If someone you know has died and you need to talk, call us freephone on 0808 808 1677.

The helpline is open Monday-Friday 9.30-5pm (excluding bank holidays), with extended hours on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings, when we’re open until 8pm. 

Our website for children and young people is www.hopeagain.org.uk

Face-to-face

Face-to-face and group support is delivered by trained bereavement volunteers across across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Other ways we can help

We offer information, publications, and support for children. We also have a number of specialist projects

Other people who can help

Check out our list of other charities and organisations who can help you after someone dies.