• Recent UK news has included the murder-suicide of Epsom headteacher Emma Pattison and the disappearance of Nicola Bulley in Lancashire

  • Counsellor Emma Foster reflects on the impact such stories have on all of us

The uncertainty of life is rarely spoken about and not often reflected upon, unless it is bought into focus by a random event that diverts us from our day-to-day existence. 

Structure in our lives gives us security, it provides a framework in which we feel that we have an element of control, a sense of certainty that provides us with the knowledge that the world we live in is safe and dependable.

The uncomfortable truth is, is that however hard we may try to put structure into our lives, unplanned and unexpected circumstances can alter the path we may have chosen to go down, sometimes catastrophically.

The tragic events of the last week of the murder/suicide of Emma Pattison and her family and the disappearance of Nicola Bulley have bought into harsh reality how very fragile that structure is and how in a matter of minutes the careful framework that once provided us with comfort, now leaves us exposed to brutal events in which we did not see coming and have no control over.

When a deeply shocking and incomprehensible act occurs within our own communities the effects can be deep and resounding and force us to question and reflect on the safety and security of our own lives and those of our friends and families. Once we begin to do that, it can bring about feelings of anxiety and a sense of what we may have felt as being certain is not as fixed as before.  

Relationships that we had previously felt as reliable and known and the comfort that brings in their predictability may suddenly not feel so secure. Friends and neighbours where once seemed transparent in their own relationships may now bring about a sense of unease that although not previously considered the image in which they present to the local community may not of been the true reflection of their life together.

So how can we make sense of life when shocking events impact us? In truth there has to be a level of acceptance that events as detailed above can and do happen, however hard we may try to prepare against it. This, however, may not provide enough support for some people. The key is to listen to what we need as an individual. Take time out to sit and reflect on your emotions and how they are affecting you. Ask yourself how you are coping with the sudden changes to your circumstances, are you putting in healthy coping mechanisms to cope, do you have a support network around you that you are able to access to talk though your issues and concerns? 

If you feel that you need more support in making sense of what has happened it is imperative that you reach out for professional to support you and lessen any sense of isolation that you may be feeling. By sharing our concerns and fears we can then start the journey to work to overcome the feelings that may threaten to overwhelm us and start to make sense of them.

Emma Foster is a verified Welldoing counsellor in Surrey

Further reading

How to manage news-induced anxiety

Doomscrolling: is reading the news bad for mental health?

Why do we fear uncertainty?