Self care after Martin Place siege

If you have found yourself walking around in a slightly dazed state, having difficulty concentrating and frequently thinking about the events that took place in the Lindt Cafe´ in Martin Place on Monday and Tuesday morning, it’s not surprising.

Since we first learned of the hostage siege on Monday morning we have witnessed, both live for some and on our screens, sixteen hours of one man’s abuse and cruelty towards an innocent group of people.

As we stood by it was horrifying to think how an ordinary morning routine could, in an instant, transform into the most appallingly chilling situation for seventeen unlucky people. How frightening to think it could have been any one of us.

There was nothing we could do during these sixteen long hours but watch helplessly, and hope that the defenceless hostages inside the cafe´ would somehow make it out alive. As some escaped our stomachs wrenched for the vulnerability of those still held captive.

How many of us, on waking up Tuesday morning after a restless night rushed to our screens to find out if the siege was over? We feel the initial relief on hearing the ordeal has ended. But then the sickening news sinks in. Two young, worthwhile people have lost their lives.

The siege in the Lindt Cafe´ was without doubt intensely traumatic. Those directly involved, the hostages, their families, friends and colleagues, we recognise will experience an array of powerful emotions over the coming weeks and months as they try to make sense of their terrible experience and deal with their loss and grief. But what of those of us who were not directly involved? How do we feel?

Witnessing a traumatic or violent event can have a deep impact on people even if they were not actually involved in the traumatic event. Because we can empathise with the people held captive and we care about them, we too can feel a range of powerful emotions.

Feelings of sadness, fear, anxiety, confusion, difficulty concentrating, headaches, sleep disturbances, irritability, changes in appetite are just some of the reactions that may be felt over the following days and weeks by those of us who were bystanders, whether you were near the actual scene or watching on a screen.

These reactions can be more severe if you have recently suffered the death of a loved one, witnessed or been involved in an earlier traumatic event or if you had, or are going through a significant change in your life.

It is important to recognise that such reactions are valid, normal and that we will each experience these reactions in our own unique ways.

As shown by the many people who have visited and placed flowers in Martin Place since the end of the siege, coming together to pay respect to those involved is an important communal ritual in the healing process.

Remember also to:


  • by seeking the company of people who love and nurture you
  • to activities, music and places that bring you peace and calm
  • throughout Christmas remember there may be tensions, but there can also be comfort and healing


  • to each other
  • really hear what is being said


  • tell your friends and family about what you are experiencing and how it is affecting you


  • recognise that you have witnessed trauma and that this can change how you feel
  • notice how this feels in your body


  • try to eat at your usual times even if your appetite has changed
  • try to get a good nights rest even if your sleep patterns are disturbed


  • connect to the present moment in an open non-judgemental way
  • notice your breathing and try to make the out breath longer than the in breath
  • when the breath relaxes the mind and body follow.
  • notice the beauty around you


  • if you are worried by your reactions or they persist, a trained counsellor can help you deal with overwhelming thoughts, feelings and emotions


  • to your self and others

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does. – William James

Lifeline 24 hours crisis contact: 13 11 14

Clara Luxford