Surviving Trauma: Finding Strength Within

Apr 22, 2024 | Blog Articles

Following the recent tragedy of the knife attacks in Bondi, many people may still be feeling upset and anxious. Experiencing a knife attack resulting in multiple fatalities is a traumatic event that can have profound and long-lasting effects on people whether they were directly involved, were witnesses to the violence, or were the police and paramedics that responded. Our hearts are with everyone who was impacted by the horror that unfolded and we honour those that rushed into danger to assist in stopping the violence and treating the people who had been attacked.

The ripple of shock and distress stretched far beyond Bondi and those who were physically involved. The aftermath of such a horrifying incident can manifest in various ways, impacting individuals both psychologically and emotionally. Understanding the potential reactions and providing strategies for recovery is crucial in assisting those affected to cope and begin the healing process.

Recognising the Signs of Stress

Immediately following the event, shock and disbelief may dominate as we struggle to comprehend the magnitude of what has happened. Fear, anxiety, and confusion are common as the adrenaline rush subsides, leaving many individuals with feelings of overwhelm and vulnerability.

The experience of witnessing extreme violence can trigger intense emotions such as horror, sadness, fear, and anger. Some may experience survivor guilt, questioning why they were spared while others died. Flashbacks and nightmares may trouble some individuals, replaying the traumatic events and disrupting sleep patterns. Anxiety and hyper-vigilance can develop as people become more aware of their surroundings, constantly scanning for potential threats.

An unexpected consequence for some people will be to question their own mortality or the ‘meaning’ in their life. When we know life can be ended so abruptly, it causes some to reflect upon their own life and how they might be living it. The existential questions of, ‘who am I?’, ‘what am I doing on the planet?’, ‘am I living the life I came here to live?’, ‘if not, why not?’ and ‘what am I going to do about that?’ These questions often lead us on a new or different trajectory in life.

In the days and weeks following a traumatic event, many witnesses may struggle with a sense of numbness or emotional detachment as they attempt to process the trauma.

“Depression or feelings of hopelessness may set in as individuals grapple with the loss of innocence and the shattered illusion of safety. Social withdrawal and avoidance of reminders of the event are common coping mechanisms as individuals attempt to shield themselves from further distress.”

Physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and fatigue may also manifest as the body reacts to the stress of the traumatic experience. Appetite changes and digestive issues are common, reflecting the impact of emotional distress on physical wellbeing. These symptoms, coupled with the psychological toll of the trauma, can significantly impair daily functioning and quality of life.

A Path to Recovery

Recovering from any shock requires time, patience, and support. One crucial aspect of recovery is acknowledging and validating one’s emotions. It is normal to feel a wide range of emotions in the aftermath of such a traumatic event, and individuals should be encouraged to express their feelings in a safe and supportive environment. Those of you who’ve attended a Quest program will find the Mansion of Emotion and the Coming to Our Senses practices valuable during this time of healing.

Seeking professional help from a therapist or counsellor trained in trauma recovery can provide invaluable support and guidance. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and other evidence-based therapies can help people process their emotions, challenge negative thought patterns, and develop healthy coping strategies to manage distressing symptoms.

Social support is also essential in the healing process. Connecting with friends, family, or attending remembrance opportunities can provide a sense of belonging and understanding. Sharing experiences with others can help individuals feel less alone and isolated in their struggles.

Engaging in self-care activities such as exercise, mindfulness, and creative expression can help individuals manage stress and promote emotional wellbeing. Establishing a routine, practicing relaxation techniques, and prioritising sleep are also important in restoring a sense of stability and control.

“It is important to recognise that healing is a gradual process and that there is no ‘right’ way to cope with trauma. Each person’s journey is unique, and recovery may take time. It is essential to be patient and compassionate with oneself and to seek help when needed.”

In conclusion, witnessing a knife attack resulting in multiple deaths can have profound and far-reaching effects on peoples’ psychological and emotional wellbeing. Understanding the potential reactions and providing strategies for recovery is essential in assisting witnesses in coping and healing from the trauma. By acknowledging and validating their emotions, seeking professional help, and engaging in self-care activities, individuals can gradually navigate the path toward healing and reclaiming their lives.


Related Blogs and Life Challenge Pages


Some of Petrea King’s podcasts may be helpful and can be found on our Podcast page:

  • Sarah Macdonald Nightlife – Petrea King on Post-Traumatic Stress
  • Tony Delroy Nightlife – Dealing with Trauma

How Quest for Life can help

It takes strength and resilience to work through PTSD, and Quest for Life can help through our residential programs and online support.

  • Our 5-day residential Moving Beyond Trauma program and Healing Your Life programs offer an effective and holistic approach to managing and healing post-trauma suffering in a confidential and safe environment.
  • Healing Trauma is a self-paced multimedia online course delivered over 4 video modules to assist you to manage your anxiety and live free from its debilitating effects. Learn practical, evidence-based tools and strategies to reduce your symptoms and live a more calm and peaceful life.

Quest for Life knows how to help: participants experience a 32% increase in quantified mental wellbeing (Kessler 10 and PTSD 6) 4 weeks after attending the Moving Beyond Trauma program. This figure continues to rise as participants continue to implement their learnings. Many past participants have returned to work and/or fulfilling lives.

If you’re interested in learning more or attending the program, please submit an enquiry form from the Quest for Life page or call 1300 941 488.

Funding Options for Residential Programs


Quest subsidises all privately or self-funded places to ensure the cost of our programs remains affordable to individuals. This allows us to reduce the fee from $4,400 to $2,800.

$2,200 Shared room (Early bird* $2,100 – must be paid 30 days in advance)
$2,800 Single room (Early bird* $2,700 – must be paid 30 days in advance)

Fees effective 1 July 2023.

Subsidies and Financial Help

Through generous grants, donations and fundraising, additional subsidies and financial help is available for a range of circumstances and anyone experiencing financial stress will be considered. We review each case individually and we do not means test. All applications are conducted via phone with a friendly member of the Programs intake team.


Quest is a registered NDIS Provider. Residential Programs can be funded through plan-managed and self-managed NDIS plans.


We work with Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA) White Card or Gold Card holders to make applications to the DVA Health Approvals Board.

Worker’s Comp Insurance

Residential programs can be covered by workers compensation insurance on a case-by-case basis.

Call our Programs Advisers Today
1300 941 488