Jewish Ozzies' Inter.Net
The electronic voice of the Australian Jewish Community


" ... treat yourself as if you are recovering from an illness ... "

By Amanda Gordon
Clinical Psychologist

The following message is republished with permission of the Sydney Daily Telegraph.

When a terrible tragedy occurs such as that which befell the Australian Maccabiah team in Israel, it affects not only the people who were in physical danger - everyone is at risk. In the case of the Yarkon Bridge disaster in Israel, the whole Australian Jewish community was rocked. But they were not alone. As Australians, they have many friends, colleagues, and people who simply care about other Australians - or, for that matter, people who care about others' distress.

We wished our competitors well and felt grief at the cruel deaths and injuries that they have suffered. The thousand strong attendance at the service at the Great Synagogue last Wednesday evening, and the outpourings of sympathy to families is testament to that.

When an accident such as this occurs, it is not only the people who were physically in danger that suffer. Shock can affect even those who are just onlookers from afar, and can lead to real symptoms that have to be addressed. These may include changes in sleep patterns, nightmares, fatigue, health problems, difficulty with concentration, excessive fear, anger or depression. These are all natural reactions and, although painful, are part of the natural healing process.

These and other symptoms can occur immediately after the event, or gradually come on over the following days and weeks. They may be triggered by a reminder of the event, such as news articles, or the return of the team members to the community.

There has been a response too, by Australian Psychologists. They have been on standby since the tragedy, assisting people in coming to terms with the pain of this event. They have gone into schools - private and public - to support the children who are grieving, and have been available for anyone who has needed their help.

There are basic things that anyone who is affected by grief can do to reduce the impact of their symptoms. The most important thing is to talk to people, for talking is the healing medicine! Remember, you are normal and having normal reactions - don't label yourself as crazy. When you talk to others, you will find that everyone's reaction is different, but we all experience pain in our own way. Reach out to others, and find out that people do care. Give yourself permission to feel rotten and share those feelings with others.

Keep your life as normal as possible, keeping busy and structuring your time. Within that structure it is quite reasonable to allow yourself time out to be sad, but then return to 'normal'. Be wary of numbing the pain with drugs or alcohol - you actually have to move through the pain to recover from your grief, and running from it will only prolong the process!

Keep a journal, and write your way through those sleepless hours. Don't make any big life changes right now, because you are probably not thinking as clearly as normal. But do take control of your own life, by making ongoing daily decisions, even though they may feel surprisingly hard. Eat good balanced meals, have rest and exercise - in fact, treat yourself as if you are recovering from an illness, and be kind to your mind and body.

Return to J.O.I.N. Home Page

Copyright © 1997 J.O.I.N.