Post Traumatic Stress: Tsunami Survivor – Part 2 Fran’s Story

It was the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami....

If you haven’t read Part 1 – go here

We stayed stranded in the mountains for days with no money or clothes. We walked between people digging out dead bodies in the rubble. Ute loads of corpses drove past us. We had survived, unlike the many we saw that had lost their lives. We had an option to go home or to stay on. My husband and I felt if we stayed on for the rest of our planned time it may give our children time to absorb what they had witnessed before they were to be bombarded  by hundreds of questions at home.

We were given a house to live in by the Thai people in the village and stayed on for a further nine days. We did everything to protect our family from the destruction the Tsunami had caused and still managed to enjoy our holiday away from the death. The children,  my husband and I relaxed a little and tried to put the images we had witnessed out of our heads, for a short while anyway.

After arriving home, although feeling very sad, I felt like I was coping okay. I felt I had to be the strong one for my family.

After a few weeks the nightmares started.  I would relive the Tsunami. This time in my dream we weren’t so lucky. Each night I would have the same dream and a different member of my family would be taken by the wave. I started to hear constant screams in my head. I had a feeling of guilt, asking myself how we had all survived. If only’s… were constantly going through my head, if we hadn’t rang our friend that morning we would have been down the busy street when the Tsunami hit and not all survived. If we had stayed in the breakfast room only ten minutes longer, where all the people we had eaten with that morning, we would have also lost our lives. Different scenarios were going through my head. I had gotten to the stage where if anyone spoke to me I would burst into tears. Although I didn’t realise I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress. It got to the stage I couldn’t go to work as if anybody so much as looked at me or spoke to me I would burst into tears.

My work insisted that I talk to a counselor, so I did. He told me that I had to get my feelings out of my head.  If I couldn’t talk about it, to put all my thoughts and feelings down on paper. At first it was very hard as I wrote I had to relive every scene I had witnessed. It took me six months to finally write my thoughts down. It did help but I was still unable to talk about that day. If people were to ask me questions I would burst into tears. It took me around two years before I could talk about that day without shedding a tear. It has been nearly six years now, but I can still remember everything as if it was yesterday, and it will still bring a tear to my eyes.

Post Traumatic Stress seems to sneak up on you. It doesn’t matter how strong you think you are overcoming any tragic event in your life, it will have some effect on you. The best thing I feel is to try and talk about the event as much as you can to someone who will listen and for them not to ask you questions.

Crying I feel is good, it does release emotions; just don’t try to be too strong like I did. I felt like I had to keep my emotions to myself for my family. I was more concerned about how they were coping and neglected how I was feeling.

It will take some time to heal.Maybe you will never completely heal, but as long as you have love, understanding and support from your friends and family you will overcome these confusing feelings you feel deep inside your heart and your head.

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Thank you Fran for sharing your story.

Stay tuned for Fran’s upcoming book – due out in early 2011.

Please leave your comments below.  Fran is also checking in and her comments will be published.

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