by Sofia

I saw this at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg. It was available by Health Canada for First Nations people reacting to a very powerful piece that used pieces of residential schools from across Canada. Copying it here because it’s a good thing for anyone who has experienced trauma to keep in their pocket.

Coping with Emotional Reactions

Thinking about how Residential School affected you can lead to positive or negative thoughts or memories. This brochure is designed to help you recognize the reactions you may have.

Revisiting painful memories can be an important step in the healing process. It can also lead to difficult thoughts, feelings and behaviours. You should not be surprised if you experience emotional reactions hours, days or weeks later. This is perfectly normal.

When past emotions or memories are triggered, you need to be kind to yourself and others. It is helpful to have a plan of how to take care of yourself as a way to honour what you have been through.

These are some common reactions you may experience:


Wondering about your spiritual/ religious beliefs, and/or values, doubting the goodness and kindness of people, not feeling in touch with yourself.


Flashbacks, agitation, appetite changes, addictions, quick to anger, isolating self, mood swings, shock, conflict in relationships, can’t concentrate.


Trouble sleeping, nightmares, stomach ache, nausea, general body aches, headaches, crying, panic attacks.


Sadness, anger, frustration, feeling alone, mistrust of others, feelings of guilt, shame, blame, fear, hopelessness, overwhelmed.

Important things to know:

If you experience any of the symptoms listed in this brochure, please know that this is not uncommon. If these symptoms last longer than a few weeks, consider talking to someone who can help you.
It is important to reach out and talk to others for support to help you to deal with these feelings as soon as possible.
Do not remain alone if you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or hurting others. Tell someone you feel safe with. These thoughts are often temporary and talking with someone you trust can really help.
Healing is possible. Though it can sometimes be difficult and painful, healing is a journey that can make life better and more enjoyable.

Emotional Support

When dealing with emotional reactions, it can be helpful to talk to someone you feel comfortable with.

Are you a former residential school student? Is a family member a former residential school student? If so, counselling, emotional support and cultural support are available to you and your family members.

Support is provided through counselling, cultural supports such as Elders or Aboriginal community workers who will listen, talk and provide support.

Some Self-Care Strategies

Here are some suggestions for self care:

Be kind to yourself
Take walks and exercise
Get out on the land
Smudge, pray, sing
Sew, drum, dance
Spend time with family and friends
Laugh, cry, talk
Meditate, sleep, get plenty of rest
Seek spiritual or religious support
Eat healthy foods
Ask for help
Seek counselling