top of page

Was a friend or relative at the party? what can i do

Information and guidance page for family members, friends and community of

Participants and victims of the Nova Music Festival


Dr. Tal Shany-Ur

English version: Dr. Sari Maril

On Saturday, October 7, 2023, people dear to you were participating in the Nova International Music Festival near Kibbutz Re'im when a difficult and complex incident broke out there. The attack, which began at sunrise during the festival’s peak, led to confusion and shock and made it difficult to distinguish the missiles and gunshots from the music. The transition from the incredible tribal atmosphere of the festival to a mass terrorist attack was surprising and extreme.

The event that your family members or friends experienced is a traumatic event. A traumatic event is an extreme event that is accompanied by threat and helplessness, physical harm, or fear of such harm. Trauma can affect the body and the mind. Its effects vary between individuals, and may change over time. Increased stress in response to trauma is a normal reaction to an abnormal experience.

Family and the close community play an important role in the coping and recovery process of the survivors. You can help. The following information is intended to give you knowledge and tools to deal with and recover from the trauma and its effects.

What happens to the mind, body and emotions during an emergency?

Under dangerous or threatening conditions, the functional systems of the brain and body exhibit automatic responses of various types: fight, flight and freeze. The brain automatically responds in ways meant to keep us safe and help us survive the threat. During this time, the brain continues to receive a lot of information that it is not free to process or understand because it is occupied with survival.

In the days and weeks after the event, when the real danger has passed and physical safety has improved, the brain continues to process what happened at the time of the trauma. Memories of the event may arise, with voices and sights coming up suddenly and without control. Every time such information arises (from memory or following an external event such as a story, a video, a recording, or any encounter that reminds us of the event), the body and mind can revert to a sense of danger. In addition, security incidents that continue to occur in Israel can increase mental burden.

We might feel distress and danger in the present, even though the initial traumatic event has passed. Uncontrollable survival reactions that seem unrelated to reality, such as fear and anxiety, stagnation, or anger may appear uncontrollably. These are natural reactions to an extreme and abnormal situation that we experienced not long ago, and they will not necessarily continue to occur in the future.

Reactions that can appear after a traumatic event (There is no single reaction that will appear. There may be a transition between them.):

These reactions are part of acute trauma, a common condition that usually improves and passes. Not all the responses necessarily appear, and it is possible to switch between them. In addition to the reactions described above, there can also be changes in physical functions during this period, such as appetite, sleep, and sexual function. Emotionally, there may be repeated thoughts about what happened and what could have happened. You may experience guilt, pessimistic thoughts, and even thoughts of death. If your loved one or other people you know are experiencing severe mental distress that includes a sense of disconnection from reality without control, or suicidal thoughts, it is recommended that they be referred to an expert mental health professional (psychiatrist or psychologist) as soon as possible for an assessment. Until then, make sure they are not left alone. If people close to you were harmed in the event and in the war in general, you might experience a sense of grief and loss in addition to the feeling of personal trauma, both for the person close to you and for you.

The current situation can be very different from normal times, and there may be many more changes that have not been described. Feelings like "I'm not myself" will now occur regularly. It is very important not to be ashamed of the situation, to accept the current difficulty, to ask for support and help from the immediate environment and, if necessary, from professionals, and to accept support so that you can help your loved ones who are now in crisis.

If you detect one or more of these reactions in someone close to you, know that people in the immediate environment can help. It’s important to remain stable and calm. Even though you are also having a hard time coping with what is happening, try to convey that you are here for them, that you can cope with the current situation. Even if you see responses that you don’t understand or can’t accept - it is important that you remain patient and refrain from judging the traumatized person at present.

Mind-altering substances

Some of the participants of the event were under the influence of mind-altering substances, which affected the way they perceived and processed information and acted during the event. Their consciousness and senses underwent a radical change and a sharp transition from happiness, joy and human love to threat and danger. Mind-altering substances can have different effects under such circumstances, such as dimming the experience, intensifying it, changing/distorting the perception of reality, or causing feelings of detachment and difficulty remembering the event in an orderly manner. For those who were under the influence of mind-altering substances at the time of the event - this is an integral part of their experience. It can increase their feelings of helplessness and confusion, which makes a lot of sense. They may not want to share this, which is also natural. It is recommended that they discuss this with professionals.

What can help? What should you do?

After an acute trauma, the brain operates in a state of danger and emergency, even after the level of threat that was in the event itself has decreased. The emergency system goes into overdrive, and the regulatory system is less effective. The signs of the trauma are trapped in the body and we have ways to unload and release them, recover, and later, even to grow. Here are some things you can do to cope:

> Accept and contain what is happening now - every reaction and emotion that arises is natural and normal. Try to create a supportive and inclusive environment, as much as possible. There is no need to panic or resist, the things that are happening now will not always happen. Say to yourself and to the other - "It's okay, this is what's happening now."

> Provide support when someone is experiencing emotional distress - there are things you can do to help a person in distress regulate and decrease the level of difficulty, for example by using breathing, a soothing tone, holding hands, hugging, going for a walk and ventilating (in a safe place). Here are some helpful things to try:

Physical techniques for relaxation and grounding - recommended for coping with intense emotional flooding, anxiety, or restlessness

*It is recommended to perform the following techniques together with the affected individual

Regulation and relaxation through breathing:

  • Deep breathing: Start by exhaling as much as possible, and then a little more. Take a breath and fill your stomach and chest. Hold your breath for a few seconds and note how your body feels (you should not feel difficulty breathing), and then slowly release all the air. Repeat this several times and check if the distress has decreased.

  • You can put your right hand on your heart and your left hand on your stomach and breathe for a few moments in this position.

  • Physiological sigh: Slowly inhale air through your nose until you are no longer able to, take another short inhalation through your nose, and then let all the air out through your mouth, giving a sigh of relief. Repeat this 2-3 times and check if there is an improvement.

  • Box breathing: Divide your breathing into four sections - inhaling, holding, exhaling, and stopping - counting to 4 during each section, such that you inhale and count to 4, stop and count to 4, exhale and count to 4, and stop again for 4 counts. Repeat this a few times and check if your feeling has improved.

Activating the senses:

  • Focus on the sensation of touch in one area of the body (hand, leg, face). You can use one hand to touch the other hand, or your leg or face. Describe the sensation in a few words, then move to another area and describe the sensation there.

  • Hug yourself and stay in the position for at least one minute. You can ask people nearby who you feel safe with for a hug and for physical closeness, which calms and activates security and regulatory systems.

  • Activate your senses and thinking: look around and say the names and colors of various items you see (for example, I see a green plant, I see a white wall). You can do the same using your sense of hearing (for example, I hear a car, I hear a bird).


  • Walk or stand on the ground with attention and stability.

  • Connect your two hands in front of your heart in a position of prayer.

  • Butterfly hug: Cross your arms and hug yourself or place your hands crossed on your hips. Drum with alternating hands for a minute or more.

  • If you feel you need to unload and release tension and energy, that is fine. You can participate in physical activities, but please maintain your physical and mental safety and refrain from overloading.

Thinking activation techniques - recommended for coping with repetitive thoughts about what happened, confusion, involuntary recollections of the event, and difficulty being alone with the content that arises

We can use thinking to help the affected individual in several ways, depending on the situation and the need. We try to bring order to the experience through thoughts and to consider the following questions: what happened to me, what is happening to me now, and what can I do now?

  • What happened to me? If they feel confused or overwhelmed about what happened during the event, and have an urgent need to talk about it - it can be helpful for them to tell someone who they are close to or a professional about the event. They can try to tell the story in the first person, in chronological order, and to emphasize the actions they took. It's okay to say how they felt. It’s important to focus on the things that helped them cope. It is not recommended to repeat the story in an overly intensive manner. If they feel a need to repeat the event and their feelings again and again, find it impossible to stop, and have difficulty returning to the present - please contact a trauma specialist. Note that repeating certain types of content can create immense mental difficulty.

  • What is happening to me? If they feel things are happening that are different than usual, help them try to explain the situation from a place of understanding. For example, they could say to themselves: I understand what is happening to me. A few days ago I experienced a very threatening event. Something that just happened brought me back to the event. I am now remembering the event and feeling danger again, even though I am protected. It's fine and natural for feelings and emotions to arise. I remind myself that I am no longer in danger, but my mind, body, and soul are still overwhelmed and do not know that the event has already passed. It won't be this way forever.

  • What can I do? When they experience anxiety, restlessness, or other unpleasant feelings, after reducing the intensity of the emotion through relaxation or assistance from others, they can try to move on to performing an action that they are able to perform, for example getting up, walking and moving their body, preparing a drink or food, or doing simple things at home. If they find it difficult to be alone - that's fine. They should ask for support from people in their immediate environment. It’s important for them to be attentive to their needs and to make adjustments, such as asking someone to stay with them, to maintain basic activities. This is how it is now. What is happening now will not last forever, coping progresses in stages.

> Take care of yourself - Even though feelings of panic and danger can be contagious, remember that this is the current situation and it's good that you are around to provide understanding and support. Things will get better. Maintain an environment and actions that are right for you too: nutrition, a good routine at home, support from family members and friends. Do not remain in a state of helplessness, you too can turn to professional help if necessary.

What is not recommended?

> Avoid being judgmental, canceling responses, arguing - Make an effort to create a positive and supportive environment. Accept what happens and remember that it is temporary, even if the behavior is unusual for the person you know and love. Recognize and accept.

> Prevent exposure to additional information about and from the event at this stage, especially videos and photos - Emotionally charged information, especially when accompanied by sights and sounds, overwhelms the survival system, which still needs to recover from the event. You may feel that it's important to connect to the media, social and otherwise - it's an automatic impulse related to the sense of ongoing danger. Research on coping with trauma shows it is important not to create information overload at this point. When these things come up- that's fine, you can help the affected individual apply relaxation and coping techniques. Later, when the current acute situation subsides, they’ll be able to deal with additional information, exercising discretion. At present, it's useless. You should reduce exposure to content at home. Everyone’s systems should be allowed to deal with what happened and not be burdened beyond that.

> Avoid definitions and diagnoses, such as post-trauma - Now is the time to make space for all feelings and emotions. You can say: "You went through a very difficult experience. What’s happening now is not what will happen in the future. It is normal, natural, a stress reaction." If you are not sure whether a behavior is normative or not, consult a professional.

It’s important to remember - In the weeks following a traumatic event, people are in a state of acute trauma and can exhibit signs typical of this state. If signs continue after the event has passed, and impair the return to functioning, post-traumatic stress disorder could be indicated. Even then, it doesn’t mean this will always remain the case. You should contact professionals specializing in trauma. It’s possible to get treatment and recover.

Secondary trauma

When relatives or other individuals close to you deal with such an extreme event, they are exposed to very shocking and frightening information. It is natural for this to evoke difficult and complex emotions. Sometimes, exposure to another person's traumatic event can also produce a trauma response in close individuals who were not present at the event. Your brain might indicate danger and threat, with overactive, difficult to regulate emergency systems,, in the absence of an actual threat.

You might also feel changes in your body, emotions, and consciousness. In such cases, it is recommended to practice the methods described above, which can help you as well. You should ask for support from people who are available now to provide it, and you should not be ashamed. If your personal distress increases, doesn’t go away and impairs functioning, it’s important to contact a professional.

In conclusion, it’s good that you took the time to read these pages. People who are close to you have had an extreme experience and this is the time to be highly attentive and compassionate towards them and towards yourself. In the near future, it’s important to give time for recovery, not to expect things to return to normal within a few days, and not to panic if they do not.Keep in touch with current needs and provide the necessary space and resources, while monitoring the situation and seeking professional help if it gets worse.

We hope that the highlights and tools we have provided will help you cope. If you decide you need to talk to a professional - Please contact:

Help Center


Professional content: Dr. Tal Shany-Ur & Tami Rosen

Editing and production: Neta Heller. Graphic design: Ella Dagni

October 2023


bottom of page