A community affected by a house fire in which a mum and two young children died should not ‘minimise their emotions’ over the tragedy.
Justine Collison, 33, and her two children, eight-year-old Isabella and Harvey, five, died after the fire at their home in the village of Collingham, near Newark, on December 15.
Her husband Gavin remains seriously ill in hospital.
Collingham fire station has today opened its doors to the local community to provide a place where they can meet, talk, support and reassure each other.
BACP counsellor Jackie Rogers said relatives and close friends will not be the only people affected by the tragedy.
“Family and friends will have to come to terms with how they died. It was traumatic and unexpectedly sudden. It will be very difficult to grieve at first as there will be many other things getting in the way, such as the legalities or the coroner.
Don't minimise emotions
“Other people in the community may not be aware of how they have been affected by this too. They probably can’t explain how they are feeling.
“People in the community shouldn’t minimise their emotions.
“They may feel a gloominess, a hollowness, a heaviness. They may feel lethargic or have headaches. These are normal feelings.
“Some may feel like they’re not allowed to feel that way, because it’s not their family.
Sense of injustice
“There may be confusing feelings and a sense of injustice.
“It’s ok to feel this sadness and loss, even if you were not close to the people who died.”
The tragic fire happened just 10 days before Christmas.
Jackie said: “This would have been incredibly sad whatever time of year it happened, but there is something about Christmas that makes it even more poignant.
“It will be very difficult for some people in the community to celebrate Christmas.
Some people may feel guilt
“Some people may feel guilt that they are ok, that their family are safe and they will be able to celebrate Christmas together.
“Just be mindful about what people do or don’t want to do this Christmas.”
Jackie said the sight of the fire-damaged house, the sounds of sirens or presence of police cars and fire engines, may be triggers for some people in the community who have suffered previous trauma, or have lost their own loved ones in difficult circumstances.
And she said it was important that members of the local community did not bottle up their feelings about what had happened.
“It’s really important not to make it a taboo to talk about it,” said Jackie, an experienced counsellor who has written and spoken previously about how tragedies have affected communities.
It's good to talk
She added: “Allow yourself time to feel this sadness, give yourself moments of reflection. Just don’t fight these emotions or bottle up how you’re feeling.
“It’s good to talk. It’s good that there are places that the community can go.
“Some people may not want to share their feelings, but writing a message or leaving a tribute can help too.”