The Scars You Can’t See Are the Hardest to Heal

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Trauma is a response we can have after we see, hear about, or go through something distressing. In the aftermath of tragedies, it is normal to have a wide range of thoughts, feelings and reactions. For very public tragedies like the Greta bus tragedy, even those who are not directly involved may be affected.

Over the coming weeks, months, or even years, feelings and emotions may bubble to the surface such as denial, shock, confusion, anxiety, guilt, depression, helplessness, or anger. You may experience physical symptoms such as nausea, headaches or fatigue. These are all normal and you should never try to suppress what you are feeling.

Everyone experiences trauma differently and the healing process is also different for everyone. Most people start to feel themselves again with the help and support of friends and family. However, some people may need additional support such as the help of a mental health professional.

Loss is aways heartbreaking. And when a loss is sudden, coping in the aftermath can feel impossibly hard. It can be difficult to move forward. But there are ways to heal, and it is vital that you seek help and support.

From all of us @ The Coalface, we extend our heartfelt sympathy to everyone who has been impacted by the Greta bus tragedy and we hope the following information can be of help.


What physical trauma may feel like:

  • Being easily scared
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Having trouble concentrating or remembering things
  • Having tense muscles
  • Avoiding places where the event happened
  • Not wanting to be around family and friends
  • Loss of interest in enjoyable activities

What emotional trauma may feel like:

  • Feeling numb or no longer connected to people in your life
  • Feeling stressed or anxious
  • Fear
  • Guilt or shame
  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Having memories or nightmares of the event
  • Panic


  • Spend time with friends and family, don’t isolate yourself
  • Take breaks and get lots of sleep
  • Try to get back to a routine but don’t push yourself
  • Limit how much media coverage and social media you see and hear about the event
  • Ask for support when you need it
  • Know that you won’t have all the answers
  • Know that others are going through trauma too, you are not alone
  • Express your feelings in your own time and way
  • Try not to take big risks or make life-changing decisions until you are ready
  • Write down your worries and concerns
  • Accept help if people are offering it
  • Eat well and limit alcohol


  • Extreme feelings of distress
  • Emotional reactions that last longer than a few weeks
  • Distress that stops you doing your day-to-day activities
  • Not wanting to be around your loved ones
  • Avoiding enjoyable activities
  • Feelings of extreme fear for no reason
  • Panic symptoms (e.g. racing heart, light-headedness, breathing difficulties)
  • Avoiding things that bring back memories, so much that you can’t do normal activities
  • Feelings of extreme guilt or sadness
  • Using alcohol or other substances to cope
  • A loss of interest in the future
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide


It can be difficult to know how to help someone you love and care for when they have gone through a traumatic event. It’s natural to want to make someone you love and care for feel better again, but it’s important to accept what has happened. There is nothing you can say or do to make the person’s pain disappear. That will happen with time, rest, and appropriate support. Explain to them that you are sorry about what they have had to experience and that you are there to help them in any way they need. Ask them what you can do to support them.

Make time to be with the person and make it obvious that you are available. Sometimes, there can be a tendency to want to move someone on before they are ready, because the traumatic experience makes us feel uncomfortable. Try to avoid doing this. People who have had a traumatic experience can feel very reassured by human contact.

Don’t take their feelings to heart. They may be irritable, depressed, angry or frightened. Strong feelings and emotional outbursts are common – try not to take it personally. It is important to recognise that they have had a stressful experience and that their reactions are normal and will subside in time. You can help by reassuring the person that their reactions are normal.

Offer practical support:

  • You could do the housework or the grocery shopping for them, or pick up their children from school.
  • Encourage the person to take good care of themselves, for example, by eating well, avoiding alcohol, drugs or stimulants, and by attempting to maintain regular sleeping habits.
  • You may need to let the person have time by themselves.
  • Let them know you are there for them without judging.
  • Suggesting to a person that they maintain regular daily routines and habits can be helpful as well.

Talk about the trauma:

  • Allow the person to talk about what happened, even if they become upset. Just be calm and listen carefully.
  • Don’t insist on talking if the person doesn’t want to. Tell them you are there to listen whenever they feel ready.
  • Reassure them you care and want to understand as much as possible about what happened to them. They may shut you out. Be patient and see what else you can do to help.
  • Try to make sure there is someone else they can talk to if they don’t want to talk to you about it.
  • If there are some difficult decisions to be made, talk about the situation with the person and help them to identify the different options. However, don’t make the decision for them.

What not to do or say:

  • Don’t avoid talking about the event.
  • Don’t think you know how the person should think, feel or behave. Everyone’s response is different.
  • Don’t use general phrases such as ‘look on the bright side’ or ‘look for the silver lining’, but help them think about what they do have.
  • Don’t judge their thoughts or feelings – being accepted helps put things in context.
  • Don’t be impatient or expect them to ‘get over it’ in a certain time. It can take months or longer to recover from an event.
  • Don’t insist they need professional help. Not everyone who experiences a distressing event needs treatment. It will be more effective if they get it when they want it, even if that is later than is ideal.
  • Help them to relax and get involved in activities. Relaxation and fun are important recovery tools. Exercise burns off stress chemicals, reduces muscle tension and encourages better sleep.
  • While the person needs to spend some time alone, help them to strike a balance. Socialising – even low-key events such as sitting around with friends – can help to reduce stress levels.
  • Laughter is a wonderful antidote to stress. Find ways to help them to smile or laugh.


If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 000 or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.

General Practitioners (GPs) for advice and treatment. GPs also provide Mental Health Treatment Plans and referrals.

Specialised mental health clinicians and services such as psychologists, social workers, mental health nurses or psychiatrists.

Telephone support services

NSW Mental Health Line: 1800 011 511 (24/7)

Lifeline: 13 11 14 (24/7)

Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800 (24/7)

Suicide Callback Service: 1300 659 467 (24/7)

MensLine: 1300 789 978 (24/7)

Beyond Blue Support: 1300 224 636 (24/7)

NALAG Grief Support Service: 02 6882 9222

National Centre for Childhood Grief: 1300 654 556

Online support services

National Association of Loss and Grief (NALAG):

Grief Link:

Good Grief:

Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement:

Beyond Blue:

Black Dog Institute:

Head to Health:

Mental Health Online:

This Way Up:

ATCF 20 Crash
If you would like to make a donation to provide benevolent relief and support to survivors, victims and their immediate families, you can do so through the Hunter Valley (NSW) Bus Tragedy Fund at

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