There’s a five-word phrase that explains exactly how you are feeling right now.

It’s a disconcerting feeling, to have our concept of normal shattered in an instant; our concept of safe, of comfort. It’s a feeling that’s difficult to define. A feeling no-doubt felt by many people of faith too, following the Wakeley church stabbings, which took place at the very place many go to escape, process, or heal from tragedy and trauma.  

It’s called Loss of the Assumptive World. 

“Loss of the assumptive world refers to the sense of loss you feel when something traumatic happens that shatters your experience of how the world/life works,” explains relationship counsellor and PhD candidate, Susan De Campo. 

“So, for example, you’ve known—via experience that is then ingrained into your subconscious—for the past 30 years, that you can go shopping at Westfield, look around, buy some stuff, get in your car and go home. 

“Now, however, you cannot assume this will be the case—because something like (the Bondi stabbing murders) has happened. 

“It’s a really unsettling feeling—even if you weren’t there—it kind of makes you question the predictability of how the world works. There is a really confronting realisation that life is not predictable.”

But it’s not just large-scale events that can result in loss of the assumptive world. Individual tragedies may trigger a similar response. 

“It happens to individuals all the time – a loved one dies in a car accident, a brother dies after being caught in a flood,” says De Campo. 

“Any unexpected trauma or threat to life. It’s invariably a traumatic event where people will say: ‘I just never imagined that something like this could happen’.”