Loved ones may display a number of reactions after receiving a trauma notification. Intense reactions are normal, but they may be difficult to witness.

Some reactions include shock, disbelief, denial, anger, numbness, and sorrow. It is not uncommon for the NOK to scream, sob uncontrollably, or become angry at you, the messenger.

Some loved ones may not react at all, becoming behaviorally frozen and immobilized. They may simply stare, wide-eyed, incapable of doing or saying anything. 

Some people will react with a primitive fight-or-flight response. Those whose basic reaction to stress is to become aggressive may curse, blame the messenger, or hit something or someone. Those whose basic reaction to stress is to flee may retreat to another room, run outside, or faint. Some may immediately begin to cry, moan, or wail.

All of these reactions are a normal response to hearing this shocking news. ​Monitor the NOK for these reactions. Sometimes, being a physical presence in silence is all that is needed. Other times, the reactions manifest into a physical response and medical assistance may be needed. The trauma notification team should be prepared for any and all of these reactions.

Loved ones should not be judged by their reactions. They are merely having a normal reaction to an abnormal event.​

Reactions may include:

  • Shock, disbelief, denial​.

  • Fear, anger, confusion​.

  • Immobilization​.

  • Fight or flight.