Coping with a Burglary

Are you a victim of burglary?
What to do next
It’s good to talk
The effect of burglary on children

Are you a victim of burglary?

When your home has been burgled, or there has been an attempt to break-in, it is natural to experience many different emotions such as fear, disbelief, anger, or sadness.  These are all normal.  Your home is the place where you expect to be safe and a burglary can shatter that sense of safety.

It can be very distressing when someone comes into your home uninvited, takes your belongings, and damages your property. You may have come home to find possessions pulled out of drawers and thrown about the place. You may have found things missing like cash, jewellery, laptops, personal information, or worst of all, irreplaceable items of sentimental value. You may have even found that seemingly random items such as towels, toys, and pictures are missing too. Often in the immediate aftermath it can be hard to know exactly what has been taken. It may take weeks to find out the full extent of the burglary, which can add to the feelings of insecurity, worry, and anger already present.

Understandably, you may have concerns about future burglaries as well. Many people say that they feel unsafe and their everyday stress becomes heightened, particularly at nighttime.  Naturally, some people may not even be able to sleep in their home at night following a break-in.

What to do next

Report the crime to the Gardaí.  They can check for fingerprints and forensic evidence, and will investigate the crime. You should also try to make a list of all the missing items which should be given to the Gardaí.

Contact your insurance company promptly. It might be useful to take photos if your property has been damaged as a result of the burglary.

Get your house back in order as soon as possible. After the Garda forensic checks have been completed, it can be beneficial to you and your family to put things back in order as soon as possible. This can help restore a sense of normality and familiarity to your home.

Many people consider adding or changing home security measures after a break-in. Some possible steps include:

  • Contacting your local Garda station and asking to speak to the Crime Prevention Officer. This Garda can visit your house and advise on home security.
  • Getting an alarm, or improving your alarm system. This can help prevent future burglaries.
  • Inviting neighbours over to have a chat and offering them the opportunity to share ideas about community/neighbourhood safety.
  • Putting up a Community Alert sign or Neighbourhood Watch stickers.
  • Improving locks on doors and windows.
  • Installing a wind chime or bells on entry and exit doors.
  • Getting security lights at the front and back of the house.
  • If you live alone, getting a monitored personal alarm – if you are over 65 there may be a grant available to assist you in getting this installed.

It’s good to talk about your emotional reaction to the crime.

 It is healthy to talk about your reaction to the crime. You have been victimised. It is okay to be upset about it. Many times people may feel like they are overreacting or making a “big deal out of nothing”. Do not minimize the impact the burglary has had on you.

If you live alone and are feeling nervous, see if you can have someone stay with you for a few nights until you feel stronger.

If you are very distressed, or if painful emotions persist, it may be helpful to see a GP and get medical advice and possible referrals to counselling.

You may feel like you are on an emotional rollercoaster. It can make it easier if you allow yourself to experience the whole range of emotions you will go through as you come to grips with what has happened. While it may not seem like it right now, you will be able to move past the negative feelings associated with the burglary. Given time, you will feel normal again.

The effect of burglary on children

Many parents worry about the effects of a burglary on their children. The most important support for your children will be your reassurance that they will be ok, and that it is natural to feel upset and scared after someone has broken into your house.

It is also important to help them talk openly about what happened. Asking them and talking to them about how they were affected can reassure them that whatever they are feeling now is okay, and that most people feel affected by such incidents. Some children don’t want to talk about it. That’s fine too. It’s important that you give them the opportunity to talk, and not push them if they don’t. You will be the best judge of this.

Do all that you can to provide them with a sense of safety and security after the burglary. Temporarily changing sleeping arrangements, leaving lights on, providing extra security on your house, and ensuring that they are not left alone in the house, are all good ways to help achieve this.

Distractions, like planned outings or treats, can help your children cope with the incident as well.

Notify their teachers and/or their caretakers about what has happened.

If you are very upset by a burglary, it is better not to talk to your young children about your own fears. Share your feelings with a friend of family member and make yourself available to listen to your child.

Children are very resilient and most will recover quickly after a burglary. If your child doesn’t seem to be improving over time, or if they seem excessively worried or anxious, taking them to a GP to seek help is very important.