When words seem so shallow, the strength of your presence and your support slows the emotional bleeding. Nothing will ever completely heal the lose the family, friends and other survivors are experiencing. All we can do is metaphorically cry with them.
The above says it all when it comes to providing emotional first aid to those experiencing a traumatic event. If a more definable function description must be provided, the role of the emotional first aider would be teacher and manager. As a teacher, you can provide information as to what has happened and what will happen in the near term. The answer as to why certain activities are taking place contributes to some level of understanding. When people understand, fear and anxiety are reduced.
The dissemination of that information must be accomplished in a managed way. To best manage the scene, the crisis first aider needs to become fully aware of the situation and the people involved. As noted in previous chapters, each crisis scenario is subtly different, and the personalities involved will influence how the situation is to be managed.
There are the “book learned” aspects of administering emotional first aid, and on an equal footing, if not more, some intuitive thinking comes into play. There are rules, and the crisis responder will want to remember to maintain the line between becoming someone’s newest best friend and the structure and formality the situation demands.
The crisis responder is the one to resolve immediate issues and lay the groundwork for any ongoing support that may be required.
In any after-crisis situation, the individuals involved will react with grief, anger, sadness or complete calm at different times throughout the cycle. It is important to “work the room” and identify the individuals involved and in what stage of the process they are functioning. While it is natural to focus on the individual who may appear to be the most directly impacted by the trauma, all those immediately involved must be attended to, even if only with an “are you OK?”. That includes the first responders.
Children and teens also present their challenges. While they may appear quiet and off to the side, many questions and fears are being processed. Don’t forget the children.
The variables are many and combining them in a given after trauma crisis creates a complex stew for the crisis responder. No single rule applies in all situations, and the crisis responder must cultivate the skills of observation, thinking on their feet and flexibility.