Malaysia Airlines Tragedy: Trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder -- 10 Tips for Recovery

A few months ago I played golf with a friend whose sister was killed on Pan Am Flight 103, which was destroyed by a terrorist bomb on December 21, 1988, killing all 243 passengers. Although it had been 26 years since her sister died the loss of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 on March 8 of this year brought back that terrible tragedy and memories of hearing about the event and identifying the remains again surfaced. I can only imagine how she felt today with the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, hit by a missile while flying over the Ukraine. My heart goes out to her and all of the families who have lost loved ones in traumatic accidents and events, especially airline tragedies.

I have never lost a loved one in an airline crash, but I know the pain of recurring thoughts surrounding an accident. My 17 year-old son, Scott, and his cousin were burned to death in an automobile accident many years ago. I now know that at the time I had many of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I wish someone had pointed this out to me at the time as giving a name to my suffering would have been helpful.

The following are some of the symptoms that I had and a few tips on how I coped. I hope this will be helpful to those who are beginning the grief process.

I relived the stress of the event when I:
  • Heard about other traumatic deaths and revisited my experience.
  • Looked at Internet and pictures on television of crash scenes.
  • Listened to radio shows and watched television shows highlighting death.
I avoided reminders of the event by:
  • Trying to stay away from situations or people that triggered my memories of loss.
  • Keeping overly busy at work.
Physical symptoms I experienced:
  • Excessive anger and irritability.
  • Trouble sleeping or concentrating.

Ten things that may help you cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder:

  • Take a news break.
  • Choose a friend or a family member who can support you.
  • Keep yourself well hydrated.
  • Cut down or eliminate alcoholic beverages.
  • Watch a silly movie.
  • Read a good book.
  • Listen to some uplifting music.
  • Go for a walk or find other exercise.
  • Consider professional help.
  • Remind yourself "that this too shall pass."

Our hearts and prayers go out to everyone that was impacted by Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.