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Traumatic grief.

These two words together indicate painful experiences and persistent suffering.
Why are we now looking at how these two experiences, trauma and grief, affect the mind?
Are there ways to recognize the symptoms of traumatic grief?
Are there ways to help hurting people deal with the pain?

What is Traumatic Grief?

A fairly recent concept, experts acknowledge that grief and trauma may combine to affect a person uniquely. Previously, the grief and trauma were managed distinctly, as two separate experiences.

Though traumatic grief has characteristics that are similar to those of PTSD, major depression, its diagnosis is more frequently recognized now as grief resulting from the dual experience of death and trauma.

Sufferers of traumatic grief are dealing with complex, interwoven responses to their emotional pain. The loss they are grieving is deeply affected, impeded, or prolonged by memories or thoughts of the associated trauma.

As more research emerges, so does the need to understand the presence of all the grief/trauma symptom combinations, for the most effective treatment and care.
Symptoms of Traumatic Grief

Generally, trauma specialists and therapists agree on the following symptoms of trauma-induced grief:

  • Frequent attempts to avoid any reminder or mention of the event.
  • A sense of purposelessness and pointlessness regarding the future.
  • Feelings of numbness or emotional detachment.
  • A persistent feeling of being stunned or shocked.
  • Difficulty acknowledging and accept the reality of the person’s death.
  • Sense that life is devoid of meaning.
  • Inability to imagine a full life again.
  • Feeling like part of oneself died too.
  • Disrupted sense of security, trust, or control.
  • Identifying with harmful behaviors connected to the deceased person.
  • Anger and extreme irritability or bitterness.
  • Self-care seems pointless.
  • Symptoms last at least two months.
  • Significant impairment of social, occupational, or other crucial functioning.

The Fallout of Traumatic Grief is Profound and Painful

To cope, the support a qualified therapist is invaluable.
If you are struggling with traumatic grief after a traumatic loss, consider some strategies to address the most common obstacles:

1. Anger

To manage feelings of rage or bitterness at oneself, the situation, or family members, it is important to improve emotional awareness.

  • Recognize when you get angry.
  • Pay attention to triggers.
  • Use distraction to redirect your anger.
  • Be prepared for difficult feelings and deliberately slow yourself down.
  • Practice de-stressing techniques and talk things through.

2. Sleep Disruption

Some degree of sleep disturbance is normal following a sudden death. Dreams, intrusive thoughts, and general uneasiness may make relaxing difficult. To help,

  • Develop a bedtime routine.
  • Avoid caffeine or alcohol before bed and leave a few hours between your last meal and bedtime.
  • Unwind; take a bath or shower; read or play music.
  • Plan the next day.
  • Keep a “worry pad” nearby to help release worrisome thoughts to contemplate later.

3. Appetite Issues

You may have no interest in food, but it’s hard to cope if you neglect your body. To remain strong

  • Eat small, frequent snacks.
  • Eat energy and nutrient rich snacks.
  • Eat with other people.
  • Buy ready-made meals if cooking is too much.

4. Low energy

Exhaustion often accompanies traumatic grief. To deal with the persistent weariness, try to

  • Plan your day and make to do lists.
  • Do a physical activity each day.
  • Get out of the house.
  • Journal your feelings.
  • Talk to a trusted person.

5. Intrusive thoughts

Intrusion of strong memories or thoughts are difficult to control. They may be triggered or happen at random times. To cope

  • Enlist the help of a therapist.
  • Practice mindfulness meditation to remain more present and focused.
  • Meet with a support group.
  • Challenge your feelings of helplessness by helping someone else or by volunteering.

If you have suffered a traumatic loss and are struggling to cope with the agonizing pain of traumatic grief, reach out and contact me.Together we’ll sort through the complicated emotions and help you find your way back into life.