On-scene crisis intervention for victims and witnesses of violent crime, incidents relating to sudden death or serious injury to which any of the Milwaukee County Police Departments have been called. Crisis Response Team members will respond to scenes, hospitals, police stations or to other designated areas.
Support and Referral
Immediate support for a victim or witnesses: Listening to the account of victimization, exploring options, notifying family and friends to build a strong support network for the victim or witness and initiating community resources, if needed, including crime victim compensation, counseling and safe shelter.
Follow-up support is always provided to help victims and witnesses get their lives back together after a crime or traumatic event.
Common Reactions to Trauma
As a victim or witness of a traumatic event, you may experience a variety of reactions. Some people report almost no reaction to a traumatic event, while others report a variety of physical, emotional and social responses. You may find yourself faced with feelings unlike those you have previously experienced. These feelings may come and go and vary in intensity. These are normal responses to abnormal situations. These reactions are not uncommon, but may be unique to you.
- Shortness of Breath
- Change in Appetite
- Sleep Disturbances
- Increased Heart Rate
- Muscle Aches
- Sexual Problems
- Heightened Startle Response
- Increased Sense of Smell
- General Health Problems
- Confusion and Poor Concentration
- Frequent Thoughts of the Event
- Memory Loss of Some or All of Event
- Difficulty in Solving Problems or Making Decisions
- Avoiding Situations that are Reminders of the Incident
- Not Wanting to Be Alone
- Withdrawal from Family and Friends
Sense of Loss
- Personal Boundaries
- Power and Control
Reactions Common to Children
- Problems at School
- Physical Complaints
- Acting Out
If you feel additional help is needed, consult your family doctor, school counselor or mental health professional.
After Trauma Happens
Understand that there is no right or wrong way to feel or react as a victim or witness. Many others who have been victimized have felt the same as you do now. While these reactions may be painful, they are part of the healing process. It is important to talk about what you have experienced and how you feel about it with concerned family members and friends or a counselor. Here are some recommendations to help you through these uncomfortable times.
- Attempt to maintain your normal routine
- Maintain a good diet: eat well-balanced meals high in carbohydrates and low in sugar
- Avoid excessive use of caffeine and alcohol: this generally leads one to feel more depressed in the long run
- Take time for leisure activities. Exercise may help alleviate some of the physical reactions
- Keep a journal as a safe place to process the feelings that may arise
- Expect that you will be bothered by “unusual” feelings that may not be “like you”
- Give yourself permission to feel bad about the events that have occurred
- Avoid making impulsive decisions, such as resigning from your job, until you have worked through the crisis
- Be aware of your thinking and that post-trauma effects are normal
- Rest more often
- Talk to people who love you
- Contact friends – don’t hesitate to ask someone to spend time with you
- Ask for help if you need it
Helping Your Family
One of the best ways to help you and your family cope is to realize that they are going through the trauma with you. Although you might want to protect them by not discussing what has happened, your actions may make it very clear that there is something bothering you. It will help everyone involved if you share this information sheet with them. Although you might want to ignore your reactions, it is usually best to deal with concerns as they arise. If not allowed to be expressed, feelings have a way of resurfacing later on.
Dealing With the Death of a Loved One
Responses to the Death of a Loved One
Dealing with the death of a loved one is one of the most difficult experiences you may face in your life. After the initial shock and numbness wear off, you may experience some depression. Your emotions may go up and down, but your pain may be there for a long time. Give yourself time to heal slowly – grieving is an important process. It can also be emotionally draining, confusing and sometimes frightening because many people are unfamiliar with death and the impact associated with it.
Grief is a reaction to a significant loss. Most people who have lost a loved one, report going through several stages of grief. These stages vary in length for each individual. Any feelings you have are normal. Remember that the intensity of these feelings will not last forever.
The “impact stage,” involving shock, disbelief and denial, is the first stage. You may feel numb, paralyzed, confused or helpless. It is too soon to accept the depth of your loss.
Next, the reality of your loss begins to sink in. This can be very upsetting. You may feel overwhelmed by guilt, anger and/or depression. You may feel vulnerable. You might find yourself directing anger at the nearest person, whether appropriate or not.
Your mind may wander, making it difficult to read, write or make decisions. Sleep can be difficult, leaving you tired and less able to deal with everyday matters. You’re eating habits may change. You may also be more susceptible to minor aches and illnesses. You may have an irresistible urge to get away, a fear or dread of being alone or a heightened fear of danger.
Remember that any or all of these feelings/reactions are normal and that they will not last forever. These stages can be experienced in any order, and also over and over again. Most individuals will move beyond this stage of anger and depression into the acceptance or recovery stage with time. This does not mean that you will forget your loved one or that the pain disappears completely. But you do slowly heal and start to break the strong emotional ties with the past and focus on the present and future. You become aware of sources of strength within yourself and decide to move on with your life.
Some Suggestions for Healing
- Take care of yourself. Don’t expect too much. Take some time to let your body and emotions rest. Take care not to overextend yourself.
- Eat a balanced diet.
- Stay away from alcohol and tranquilizers – they will only delay the healing process.
- Give yourself permission to pamper yourself or to be pampered.
- Take baths, walk in the park, read a book, get a massage, listen to music, and/or go to a movie. Do whatever makes you feel better.
- Work can help you ease your mind, but be careful to do only as much as feels comfortable and no more.
- You will probably need more rest than usual.
- Ask for help with daily tasks. People want to be helpful.
- Reach out to others. Don’t isolate yourself. Accept support and understanding from your friends, family and fellow employees.
- There is no need to overprotect yourself. Understand that most of your energy is being used in the healing process.
Final Arrangements Checklist
In this time of loss, making decisions about the way you choose to honor your loved one may be difficult. If the death is sudden and plans have not been made, you can still make solid choices. The funeral or service can be an important ritual acknowledging the life and death of your loved one. It may be useful to understand that the planning may be difficult/painful.
- Locate the will of the deceased (it may contain information as to the burial wishes of your loved one).
- Notify lawyer and/or executor (they may have information pertaining to burial instructions).
- Notify utilities, landlord and the post office where to forward mail, if the deceased was living alone.
- Check promptly on all debts and installment payments. Some may carry insurance clauses that will cancel the account(s). If there is going to be a delay in making payments, consult with the creditors and ask for more time before the payments are due.
- Decide on a mortuary to be used, decide on the time and place of the funeral or memorial service(s).
- Make a list of immediate family, close friends, employer or business colleagues to be notified about the death. Attempt to make contact with these people.
- Select pall bearers (if you so choose) and notify them of selection.
- Arrange for member(s) of the family or close friends to take turns answering the door or phone. Keep a careful record of the calls received.
- Arrange appropriate care for children, after determining to what extent you would like the children to be involved in the funeral/burial services.
- Coordinate food and pet care if appropriate for the next several days.
- Consider any special needs of the household, such as cleaning, etc. which might be done by friends.
- Prepare a list of distant persons to be notified by letter and/or memorial folder. Decide which to send and to whom.
- Decide on an appropriate memorial to which gifts may be made, if flowers are to be omitted (e.g., church, library, school or charity).
- Write the obituary. You may want to include age, place of birth, date and cause of death, occupation, college degrees, memberships held, military service, outstanding work and list the survivors in the immediate family. Give the time and place of the service. The finished copy can be delivered in person or by phone to newspapers.
- Prepare information and any pictures to be used in a Memorial Folder or Prayer Card, if one is desired.
- Prepare a list of persons to receive acknowledgements of flowers, calls, etc. Send appropriate acknowledgements (these can be written notes, printed acknowledgements or some of each).
- Plan for distribution of the flowers after the funeral (i.e., hospital or rest home).