DTAC Bulletin: Remembering Tragedy, Celebrating Resilience: Coping With Disaster Anniversaries

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Remembering Tragedy, Celebrating Resilience: Coping With Disaster Anniversaries

Five years have passed since three people lost their lives and hundreds more were injured by a terrorist bombing at the Boston Marathon. Anniversaries of traumatic events are a time for remembrance and reflection and to celebrate the resilience of a community. They also can revive feelings of unease, anxiety, and sadness among disaster survivors. Even the anticipation of the anniversary may cause some people to worry about how they will react when the day arrives.

The following resources offer insights and practical tips for supporting survivors, responders, and others affected by natural and human-caused disasters and their anniversaries.

Anniversaries and Trigger Events

This webpage from SAMHSA's Disaster Distress Helpline gives tips on how to cope with renewed stress around a traumatic event's anniversary or during "trigger events," which are moments when the person is taken back to the memory of the event or they fear it is about to happen again. A link is also provided to additional tips for coping after a trauma or disaster.

The Role of Memorials

This issue of The Dialogue from the SAMHSA Disaster Technical Assistance Center (DTAC) explores not only how memorials help communities with disaster recovery, but also how memorials add meaning and power to anniversary observances. Articles describe memorials and anniversary activities after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and 2007 Virginia Tech shooting. 

Webcast: Disaster Anniversaries

This SAMHSA DTAC webcast helps listeners understand common reactions individuals who have survived a disaster may experience as the anniversary approaches. It also suggests ways for individual survivors and disaster-affected communities to use anniversaries of disasters as opportunities to build resilience and enhance recovery. Access the presentation.

Tips for Survivors of a Disaster or Other Traumatic Event: Coping With Retraumatization

This SAMHSA DTAC tip sheet describes retraumatization, which it defines as "reliving stress reactions experienced as a result of a traumatic event when faced with a new, similar incident." It notes that a disaster anniversary may contribute to retraumatization. The tip sheet lists risk factors for retraumatization, presents retraumatization signs and symptoms, and offers tips for coping and enhancing resilience.

Anniversary Reactions to a Traumatic Event: The Recovery Process Continues

The New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) provides this webpage to describe common reactions to anniversaries of traumatic events, including grief, avoidance, frustration, and remembrance. The OMH also points out that it is common to experience challenging reactions to a disaster, even some time after the disaster.

Anniversary Reactions: Research Findings

This webpage from the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) provides background information as to why disaster anniversaries can be times of stress and anxiety. It describes common symptoms, offers tips for coping with disaster anniversaries, and lists references to academic studies focusing on anniversary reactions.

Reminders of Trauma: Anniversaries

Another online resource from the National Center for PTSD provides a description of possible symptoms survivors may experience around the anniversary of a trauma. It also lists specific ideas of what people can do to feel better, such as giving blood or spending the day with family.

Tips for Families on Addressing the Anniversary

This 2-page tip sheet from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network provides information on how families can support children on the anniversary of a traumatic event. It discusses common reactions in children of various age ranges and how to recognize those that might need additional support.

Subscribe to The Dialogue

The Dialogue is a quarterly e-newsletter that provides practical and down-to-earth information for disaster behavioral health coordinators, local service providers, federal agencies, and nongovernmental organizations. You can subscribe to the newsletter or contact SAMHSA DTAC by email at dtac@samhsa.hhs.gov to contribute an article to an upcoming issue.


Questions About the SAMHSA DTAC Bulletin?

The SAMHSA DTAC Bulletin is a monthly newsletter used to share updates in the field, post upcoming activities, and highlight new resources. For more information, please contact:

Captain Erik Hierholzer 
240-276-0408 
erik.hierholzer@samhsa.hhs.gov

Nikki D. Bellamy, Ph.D. 
240-276-2418 
nikki.bellamy@samhsa.hhs.gov

The views, opinions, and content expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).


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