How to Cope With News of a Plane Crash

Two Methods:If you're worried someone you know is on boardIf you're upset by the crash news (but don't know the victims)

Commercial jet airliner crashes can result in a large number of deaths, making for carnage-filled headlines that are easily upsetting generally and potentially personally impacting. Whether you are upset because you're worried that someone you know and love might be on board, or just because you react badly to stories about plane crashes, there are some things you can do to help yourself cope better.

Method 1
If you're worried someone you know is on board

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    Assess the likelihood of someone you know being on board.
    • Find out where the plane flew from. Is here anybody you know living, working, or traveling there?
    • Were you expecting this person to be catching a flight for any reason from this place at this time?
    • Try phoning or emailing the person in question if you have a real reason to be concerned. Reaching them will settle your concerns.
    • If you don't reach the person, scan the news for more information. Be aware that some airports are extremely busy and that there are many flights leaving around the same time as the crashed flight.
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    Keep trying to reach the person in question if you are certain that they were expecting to catch a plane from the crashed plane's airport at the relevant time.
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    Find out the number of the airport, emergency services numbers or hotlines and contact them for information. Expect them to be very busy and for the lines to be engaged. Be patient and keep trying.
    • Search online for airport contact details.
    • Search online for the local (relevant) police or rescue authorities. You might need to use news stories to reach a decision as to which country's authorities are dealing with the plane crash if it happens over sea - consider trying the departure country, the destination country, and any nearby countries closest to the crash location (if known).
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    If you do find out that a loved one or someone you know was on board a crashed flight, there are some things that you will need to consider:
    • Keep abreast of the news as to victims. The news stories will change frequently and there may be a lot of mistaken reporting, so hold onto your hopes, as there may be survivors yet.
    • Find people to support you immediately. Making decisions from afar under unknown and very upsetting circumstances cannot be done alone.
    • Stay in touch with emergency officials. Give them your details, your relationship status to any persons on board, and how you can be contacted at any time.
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    When things become clearer, make a decision as to whether or not you want to go to the location nearest the crash site to either be there as support when victims are brought back for treatment, or to make necessary arrangements to return bodies back home.
    • If you need to get on a plane to be there, you might suffer additional anxiety. You might wish to see your doctor for medication to help you through this.
    • Consider asking someone you trust and can rely upon to accompany you, or to go in your stead if you don't feel that you can go.
    • Consider not going but relying on the authorities to do all that needs to be done.
    • If you have children impacted by this news, keep them informed as you have the facts and try to avoid scaring them unnecessarily. If you cannot cope, consider asking a friend or relative to look after the children for a time.
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    Remember that the "right" decision for you is the one made by you. Don't give into the advice of other people if it feels wrong for you. If you are in the awful position of receiving the worst news that a loved one or friend has died, the way in which you respond and grieve are entirely personal and down to who you are and your relationship with this person.
    • You may need to be treated for shock. This is another very important reason why you must not be left alone.

Method 2
If you're upset by the crash news (but don't know the victims)

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    Stop reading or listening to any news about the crash. There is nothing to be gained by wallowing in mass negativity over an event that has happened, has no personal connection to you, and that is upsetting you greatly.
    • Accept that it is a sad, terrible event and that such news is painful to learn, but don't allow it to paralyze you personally.
    • Accept that your feelings are real but are not to be given free rein to make you feel worse. Ask yourself: "What is to be gained by taking on board all the sorrow?"
    • Do something else to distract your mind. Go for a walk, a run, visit a cafe (and don't read the papers!) or go to the gym.
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    Talk to someone else you know about your feelings. Make sure that it is someone who connects well with you and understands that you can be easily upset by such stories. Ask them to help you work through your feelings of sadness and upset.
    • If other people start talking about the crash around you, excuse yourself.
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    Expect some people to react badly to your voyeuristic grief. If you try to voice your concerns to someone who doesn't understand that you are highly sensitive to such information, or if you leave a tweet or forum post about how upset you are and someone reacts with negativity to your pain, walk away from them. You do not need to add other people's irritability or insensitivity to your very real feelings of sadness.
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    Try not to identify so heavily with the situation. The majority of planes reach their destination and flying commercial aircraft is far safer than traveling in a car. If you're worried about the safety of planes and whether you'll ever catch one again, keep in mind that the odds of crashing are low, and the reality is that many people survive crashes but the press isn't so excited about reporting those ones!
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    Seek professional help if you find that you cannot work through your upset easily. You might need to learn some coping techniques for dealing with highly negative news stories, to learn to separate and distance yourself from other (usually unknown) people's pain and loss that you're trying to take on board.

Things You'll Need

  • Communications methods - start by looking for relevant telephone hotlines and phone numbers of emergency services
  • Supportive people

Article Info

Categories: Managing Negative Feelings | Air Travel