From the Employee Assistance Office: Responses to traumatic events

In light of the bombing which took place at the Boston Marathon, your Employee Assistance Office would like to offer the University community some information about typical responses to such tragedies and about what kinds of reactions may warrant seeking additional counseling support. We also have a detailed handout available through our website, “When You Experience a Traumatic Event.”  This can be viewed from our home page at Also, for anyone who may be interested, we do have a booklet available, “When Terrible Things Happen – A Parent’s Guide to Talking with Their Children.”  Please call the EAO at 263-2987 if you would like a copy sent to you.


Typical Responses to Traumatic Events

  • Shock and disbelief: immediately after learning about such a disaster, many people feel numb, or feel like such an event can’t quite be real.
  • Speculation about what happened and seeking more information such as listening to or watching the news, checking the web for updates, talking to others about what you each know or have heard.
  • Feeling sadness or anger about the tragedy and discussing this with family, friends or colleagues.
  • Wanting to check in with loved ones, even if they are not close to the disaster, or in any immediate danger. It is normal to want to touch base with someone you care about.

In the hours and days following such tragedies, the shock begins to wear off and more feelings may emerge, such as sadness and anger. It is important to share these feelings with people that you trust. For some people, the level of feelings or the kinds of questions that emerge may indicate that additional counseling support would be helpful.

Circumstances or signs that may lead you to seek additional counseling support:

  • Do you have friends or family members who were directly involved in the incident?
  • Is this event bringing up recollections of previous loss, trauma or crisis that you or a loved one have faced?
  • Are you experiencing heightened feelings of anxiety, fear for your safety or rage?
  • Are you crying more than usual in response to sadness?
  • Are you wondering what to tell your children about this event or how they will react?

If you are experiencing any of these circumstances, or just wish to talk to a counselor for additional support, you can contact the Employee Assistance Office at 263-2987 for an appointment.