Information for Relief Workers on Emotional Reactions to Human Bodies in Mass Death

In your work with this disaster you are likely to see, smell, and handle the dead bodies of men women and children of all ages. Working with or around human remains may arouse strong feelings of pity, horror, repulsion, disgust, and anger at the senselessness of this tragedy. You may feel guilty for not helping enough. These reactions are normal and a part of being human. You may feel emotionally numb, or you may even use “graveyard humor” to make the suffering and death seem less terrible. These are also normal responses. Strong emotions or reactions may be most painful when a victim is a child, or reminds you of someone you love, or of yourself. Even if you’ve worked in disaster environments before you may react differently here than you have in the past. Remember strong emotions are honorable and they confirm your humanity.

Here are lessons learned by other people who have worked with bodies in disaster environments.

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