Published: 16 Nov 2022  |  Category: Mental Health  |  Stage: We have welcomed a family

Understanding the emotional journey of refugees

Resources developed by Reset and Action for Child Trauma (ACT) International.

It’s easy to assume that a refugee’s trauma has ended once they have been resettled in a new country. However, this isn’t always the case. Stages of trauma frequently include the following and need specific approaches and tailored support for each stage:

Before migration: Persecution, possible torture and/or imprisonment, war, violence, economic hardship, loss.
During migration: Risk of life, escape, hardship, uncertainty.
After migration: Cultural difficulties, isolation, unemployment, poverty.

Resettlement Trauma 

Imagine if you had to flee your country with only what you can carry with you. Your life as you knew it is over and it is likely that you will never be able to return. This traumatic loss will have an impact, but for many, admitting this to those who are helping them may be extremely difficult. They may not want to appear ungrateful towards those who are supporting them adjust to their new life, or they may simply not feel comfortable sharing their experienced traumas. These changes in living standards, finances, status, independence and identity are all related to what is known as ‘resettlement trauma’. These changes usually occur in the following stages:

Every individual is different, and transition is challenging. Younger children tend to settle faster as they either have little or no memory of their life before they arrived in the UK and learn the language much faster which makes integration easier. Older children and teenagers take longer to adapt, and adults usually take longer still. However, this isn’t necessarily the case for everyone. On average, it can take up to two years for stage 6 to be reached but even then, for some refugees, this may not happen at all.

It’s important to be mindful of the emotional journey refugees will go through. This journey will be unique for each individual and will evolve, as it will for your Community Sponsorship group too. Be mindful of how this changing journey will affect the empowerment of the family you are supporting. 

Events happening in the families home and host countries may impact their integration too, particularly when family and friends have been left behind. Expectations of UK life can turn out to be quite different. It can therefore take time to feel integrated.


The Impacts of Trauma [327.7KB] Download .PDF