In continuing the discussion of trauma, I want to review secondary trauma & how it impacts our children.
The definition of secondary trauma is: secondary traumatic stress is the emotional duress that results when an individual hears about the firsthand trauma experiences of another.
When we experienced our house fire over 7 years ago, we had gotten everyone out of the house safely before the fire reached the house. I want to make sure I start with that. The kids & dog were safely next door with our neighbor who was making breakfast at 5:00am. The teenagers, ours & our neighbor's, did not venture to the scene of our fire until around 10-11am. So the reality is they did not see much. We were woken up at 4:20am & the kids were promptly woken up & sent next door. They were sleepy & saw nothing. But my memory, my now husband's memory & our neighbor's, who not only woke us up, memory is very vivid. I remembered the big ball of fire on the patio. I don't remember the picture I took of it but I have it. Interesting how are memories work. I bring this up because all of the kids, 6 in total, heard all of our memories to the point that they all believed they saw the ball of fire when they had not. The kids did see the firefighters & spoke to some of them. They all had different emotional reactions from excitement to fear. 2 of the kids were sick with flu like symptoms the next day which included 102 temperature & vomiting. After the firefighters left we went through the rubble together. We were amazing by what was saved for example an iPod found under the book The Hobbit. We were grateful we were safe. It was until 2 weeks later that a Battalion Chief from Rancho Adobe Fire Department stopped by, that I realized the secondary trauma the kids had experienced. He asked about our stress response & listed various symptoms of PTSD. One of the kids then described the ball of fire. It was at that point that I realized the kids were focused on everything we said & remembered it as if they saw it happen.
We have to remember the impact media can have on our children & how he can increase secondary trauma. We also see secondary trauma in foster parents or in the children who live in the house with a traumatized person.
I have included some articles discussing secondary trauma in children: