Life Advice



Ask Amy: Tragic accident creates trauma response

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear What-if: Traumatic stress is a normal reaction to an abnormal event. Your brain will have its own way of processing this accident, and your brain can also rewire itself again to heal.

Researching your question, I read harrowing accounts of train conductors involved in hitting people who have jumped (or been pushed) onto the tracks. One former operator whose train struck a man was quoted: “As cruel as it makes it sound, for the individual [who is hit by the train] — it’s over. It’s just beginning for the train operator.”

The emotional effects of this sort of unavoidable accident can persist, and can sometimes manifest in physical symptoms.

Because your young child was in the car at the time, I assume your response might be even more complicated – such relief that everyone survived the accident – but guilt that it happened at all, and fear that it might happen again.

Guided desensitizing therapy (perhaps returning to the spot and proceeding through safety), might help. EMDR therapy (using eye movement to aid the brain’s recovery) might work for you.

A daily meditation practice (along with treatment) could help you to breathe through your rumination. I highly recommend it.


You should see a trauma specialist. Your police department’s victims’ services program or victim’s advocate should have a list of local therapists who could work with you. has a useful database of therapists and support groups, searchable by location.

Dear Amy: I am the mother of two teen daughters, and would love advice on how to help them with a very annoying and inappropriate question they receive quite often (and started receiving in the pre-teen years): "Do you have a boyfriend?"

I don't understand why this is of interest to so many people, and why they think it's appropriate to ask, regardless of how well they know them, or when they are in front of other people, etc.


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