Emotional First Aid- How to help the Emotionally Injured After a Tragedy Strikes

A set of life skills used by lay citizens and emergency responders to provide the support a person who is emotionally shocked needs immediately following a crisis event.

Don't Overlook the Quiet Victims
Many victims after a tragic event are stunned and may appear unaffected. Remember that many people can be affected by a tragic event-
witnesses, rescuers, children. Don't overlook these invisible victims. When you suspect someone is affected by a tragic event, reach out with Caring Curiosity - How are you?

Reach Out

Reach Out Physically :

-Position yourself at the victims side and at his level.

-Touch, unless the victim pulls away.

-Use a soft voice-Use the victim's name Reach Out Emotionally

-Ask the victim how he is feeling

-Acknowledge the victim's experience

-Don't minimize the victim's experience (i.e. "You'll be O.K." )


Protect the victim from making impulsive decisions.  Most major decisions can wait until the victim is thinking clearly.

-Protect the victims from being victimized by others who may not have the best interest of the victim in mind.

-Provide for the victim's physical needs-food, medicine, safe place.


Many victims have an urgent need for information after a tragic event, "What happened?"; "Why?"

-Assist the victim in getting the information he needs. The victim may need an Information Advocate.

-Victims often blame themselves for the crisis event. Help a guilty victim gain perspective by asking him to tell you the "whole story".

-Try to gently point out to the victim what he did right before, during, or after the tragic event.  


Victims are often paralyzed after a tragic event and often lose their capacity to deal with all the new demands created by the tragedy. 

-Assist the victim in developing a simple plan. 

-Suggest: "Let's focus on what needs to be done now."  


The actions which the victim is taking or wants to take to emotionally survive the tragic event.  The victim will struggle to find something or someone to hold onto in the first few hours.  You may need to "clear the way" so that what the victim wants to do, he is able to do.  

-Do not "over care" or do too much for the victim.

-Remember that the primary psychological challenge for the victim is to regain a sense of control. Therefore, the victim should be encouraged to make decisions and take action in his own behalf.

Finally,  a broken heart cannot "be fixed."  Don't try!  A caring presence is what you can offer to someone who is emotionally devastated.  Just being there is very powerful and will be experienced by the victim as very helpful.

In the first few hours after a tragic event, the victim is often surrounded by people who have "a job to do" or who have opinions about what the victim should or shouldn't do. The  primary goal of the person providing Emotional First Aid is to enable the victim to act according to his wishes, values, and beliefs and not according to what others think should be done.

Resources for those who are grieving over the loss of a loved one, or know someone who is ...


Communicating with Children about Disasters

What To Do When Death Enters the Life of a Child-Personal Rituals of Healing

What To Do When Death Enters the Life of a Child-Clichés To Be Avoided

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

SIDS Parents Need Reassurance

Helping Children Grieve

How To Cope After Tragedy Strikes-Tips for Teens

Helping Teenagers Cope After a Traumatic Event

Dealing with Loss/Traumatic Event

Helping Others After Tragedy Strikes: What To Say and Do

Is There Anything I Can Do to Help

Common Reactions Following a Traumatic Event

Effective Ways of Coping After a Traumatic Event

Coping With The Loss Of a Loved One

Grief - Practical Suggestions

Final Details-A Guide for Survivors When Death Occurs

Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence

Facts About Domestic Violence

Emergency Responder Procedures

When Death Occurs: Coroner Procedures

Key Police Procedures After a Homicide


Loss Coping With The Loss of a Pet

After a Fire


After a Suicide: Do's and Don'ts

Suggestions For Survivors of Suicide

Suggestions for Helping Children Cope with Suicide

Violent Crimes

Dealing With the Media: Victim's Rights

Rape: How Family and Friends-Can Help the Victim

Rape: Reactions of the Victim

Workplace Loss

Helping Employees React After A Traumatic Event

When Tragedy Strikes in the Workplace-Guidelines For Managers


Friends for Survival friendsforsurvival.org

Support group / resources for those whose loved ones died from suicide.



The Compassionate Friends – thecompassionatefriends.com 

Support group / resources for those whose children / siblings have died from any cause.


Children / Youth Bereavement Groups

Sutter-North Medical 530.749.3460    

Adult Bereavement Groups

Sutter-North Medical  530.749.3460

Fremont-Rideout Hospitals 530.790.3006   

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome SIDS – CaliforniaSids.com Resources and support groups for those experiencing the death of a baby. 916.851.7437

Emotional First Aid

& Resources

Yuba- Sutter