Tuesday, June 09, 2015

When a traumatic experience means a long road to recovery

Yes, this is a post related to the recent tragedy on Mount Kinabalu. No, this is not going to be a post looking for someone to blame, because it was an accident caused by a unexpected natural disaster. No amount of preparation can prepare for that. No one wants this to happen, not any parent, not any teacher, not any school, not anyone. No, neither is this going to be one declaring the teachers and guides as heroes. In my opinion, every single one who went through this ordeal is a hero, and this includes their family, friends, yes, and even the authorities.

My heart goes out to those who did not survive. Whether they are 12 or 29, the snuffing of life, whether at a young age, or at an age when one has a young family, is heartbreaking. It is unfair.

My heart goes out to the survivors, to the family and friends of those who did not come back. My heart goes out especially to those students who had to experience the earthquake and witness  with their own eyes their friends and teachers being hit by the large boulders. My heart goes out to those students whose teacher asked them to stay under the overhang, and then went out to help others, but never came back.

Their physical injuries will heal, but the psychological recovery could take a very very long time.

I can't say I understand how they feel, because I've never experienced an earthquake before.

But I can understand the stress that traumatic experiences bring, because I've been through one such experience last year. It's been seven months, and I'm still recovering. Thinking about the accident can still make me tear. I know how close I was to losing my life. That reality sunk in even more when I was in Hong Kong for my grandmummy's funeral. A similar accident happened, a wheel flew off from a mini bus, and the lady who got hit died. If the wheel that hit me had hit a few inches higher, I may not be here anymore. 

Till today, I still fear loud noises. I still tense up when I see big trucks. I still refuse to stand at any bus stops. If I have to walk by a bus stop, I would walk behind, as far as possible. I have not taken a bus since that day.

To some what I am experiencing may be considered minor compared to the earthquake. But if an adult like me is still trying to recover from the psychological effects of what was traumatic to me after seven months, the road to recovery will be all the more challenging for 12 year old children who went through an earthquake and witnessed their friends become victims of it. Effects may not be immediate, but may manifest for some time before surfacing. What's more worrying is the possibility that they may not speak up, because they are not sure how to handle it. Even finding someone to confide in may be difficult because, well, not many people have gone through the same experiences.

They will get over it and get on with life, but the process might be long, might be difficult, and some might have it easier than others. This experience will definitely leave a scar, no matter how big. They will need all the support and understanding they can get.

So while we are sitting in the comfort of our homes, following the news and trying to make sense of all that has happened, let us remember that the survivors will not have an easy path to recovery. That day on the mountain, the 'what ifs' will forever haunt them. The family and friends of those who have passed on will not have it easy either, as they battle with thoughts of what could have been.

So let's all be understanding and supportive. Let's show everyone who was affected by it that we care. Even though we may be quiet, even though we're doing it from afar.

To the survivors and family and friends of those who have passed on, be strong, be brave, but know too, that it is not necessary to be strong 100% of the time. It is ok to break down and let it out. That is also part of the healing.

Photo credit


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  1. Big Hugs! I am saddened by the unfortunate events of this unforeseen disaster. My heart goes out to all involved. And I really do hope you recover real soon. It is not easy on the road to recovery and reading what you said, I feel so much for you and teared. Be strong and I am sure your kids are the reason for being strong. Wounds will heal, it just takes longer. Scars will be there, but the best part is that you are alive. That is the most encouraging thing as your family still have you. Take good care!

    1. Thanks Christy. I also tell myself that, that I'm so lucky to be alive, to be able to hug my kids every day. That's what is keeping me going, because I also need to show by example that even in difficult times, one has to bounce back, no matter how hard.

  2. In a way, all of us are affected by that tragedy and we can only count our blessings to be alive. You are a strong mum, Winnie. Let the kids be your strongest motivation to keep going. Jia you!! You can do it!

  3. Big hugs! I am so sorry you had to go through that.


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