Coping with your reactions after a road death

All the common reactions listed here are normal, but they often affect people more than they expect. Most people find the intensity of their trauma and grief reactions will gradually lessen but recovering usually takes longer than what they expect. 

Looking after yourself is important
Encourage others who have been affected to do the same. Eat healthy food. Drink enough water. Keep up routines and get good rest and sleep, as best you can. Do some simple exercise. Take some slow, deep breaths. Spend time with people you can relax with, or with a pet. Spend time in nature. If you find keeping busy helps, find useful tasks to do. See a doctor if you’re unwell, extremely anxious, or are having difficulty sleeping. Draw on any cultural or spiritual beliefs you may have. Accept caring offers from others if that would help.

A flashback feels as though you’re back in the middle of your traumatic experience or reliving some aspect of it. This can be in vivid detail and during a flashback it can be difficult and confusing to connect back to the present and to what is real.  To better understand flashbacks and ways to manage them, see our information sheet Dealing with Flashbacks.

Talk about what happened
When you’re ready, talk to someone you trust about what happened, such as a trusted family or whānau member, a close friend, your doctor, a counsellor, a psychologist, a respected elder, rangatira, or a Victim Support Worker. If any aspects of your story are particularly disturbing, speak to a professional. Talking honestly about how things are can help release the stress and emotional tension inside.

More tips for managing your reactions
To understand more about trauma and grief, and to find some ways to manage your reactions, please see:

While most people gradually do recover well from a traumatic experience, some people may experience ongoing symptoms of trauma that are hard to cope with or are getting worse. This may be a sign that they have developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is vital to get professional help and advice as soon as possible. See your doctor, a counsellor, a psychologist, or ask a Victim Support Worker about help that is available to you. You can call us 24/7 on 0800 842 846 to be connected with a Support Worker.

If your reactions trouble you

  • Visit your doctor. They can do a health check and support you with any ongoing issues, such as sleeplessness, anxiety, or depression.

  • Consider talking with a counsellor or psychologist. They can help you work through your reactions and the consequences the crime has had.

  • Find a doctor, counsellor, or psychologist here

See also how we can help you after a road injury or death

Free road death support resources available from the charity Brake

Coping with Grief.
This free guide helps you to understand common emotions and feelings following a road death. It provides straightforward advice on how to cope and who can help.  

Someone has died in a road crash - a picture book for bereaved children
This book, designed for adults and children to read together, looks at what happens following a road crash and the feelings and reactions children may experience. It also helps adults to answer questions children may have. Printed copies are available in English, Te Reo Māori and Chinese (simplified).




Coping with Trauma
When you are Grieving
Dealing with flashbacks
If you have discovered or witness a crime or traumatic incident