When Grief Meets Trauma: Understanding Traumatic Grief
“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” – Vicki Harrison
One of the most natural responses to loss is grief. It’s an experience we all go through and the way we experience grief differs from one another. Grief can be quite a complex process and it can become even more complex when trauma is involved. Traumatic experiences can make the way we grieve intense, for lack of a better word.
Traumatic grief is a type of bereavement that occurs when the loss you experience is due to or accompanied by trauma. It’s not easy to understand and weave through the complexities of traumatic grief when you don’t know what this grief comes in the form of or what it looks like.
Today, we’re exploring the meaning of traumatic grief, how it affects our grieving process, and how you can cope with this intense grief.
What is Traumatic Grief?
Traumatic grief occurs when you are met with a sudden, violent, or distressing loss of a loved one. This grief can be described as having feelings of shock, disbelief, and an overwhelming sense of helplessness.
Traumatic events that can result in traumatic grief can include accidents, acts of violence, natural disasters, or unexpected loss. Unlike the other types of grief, traumatic grief is complicated as it involves the response to loss followed by psychological or emotional trauma that comes with it.
Examples of traumatic grief can include a sudden loss of a child, a violent death of a loved one, or the loss of your support network. Traumatic grief is different from anticipatory loss. However, it doesn’t make the grief any less challenging to cope with. There’s also a high chance that unaddressed traumatic grief can lead to prolonged grief disorder.
Prolonged grief disorder is when you are constantly surrounded by a sense of longing and thoughts about the lost loved one, so much so, that it begins to affect your everyday life.
Signs And Symptoms of Traumatic Grief
We all experience grief and there’s no right or wrong way to grieve, but the symptoms and signs of grief that manifest can look different to everyone. Here are some common signs of traumatic grief;
- Experiencing intense emotional distress such as feelings of anger, shame, guilt, etc.
- Having intrusive thoughts
- Experiencing flashbacks or memories of the traumatic event
- Engaging in avoidance behaviors
- Social withdrawal and isolation
- Experiencing hyperarousal and hypervigilance
- Feeling irritable and not being able to concentrate
- Experiencing physical symptoms of grief such as insomnia, fatigue, headaches, etc.
- Loss of appetite, and more
The Impact of Traumatic Grief
Traumatic grief can be hard on the grieving process. The shock and disbelief of the loss can impede the ability to healthily process the loss and the emotions associated with it. Because of the lack of processing, it can make it harder for you to move on. Moreover, the stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – can be intensified or even prolonged. You may also experience intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and flashbacks related to the traumatic event, making it difficult to find closure.
On our well-being, traumatic grief can also leave a long-lasting impact. Traumatic grief can lead to emotional distress, the long-lasting kind where feelings of sadness, anger, guilt, and fear may be heightened. This grief can also contribute to mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder, and more.
Traumatic grief can also impact social relationships. Some people may find it easier to withdraw from social interactions to cope with grief. Other times, the leftover emotions from traumatic grief may result in a strain on relationships.
Tips to Cope With Traumatic Grief
There are many ways people may cope with grief and while each way is OK, there are some other ways you can cope with grief. Here are some ways to help you cope with traumatic grief;
1.Seek Social Support:
If you’re struggling with traumatic grief, then you can reach out to friends, family, or support groups to cope with the feelings. Social support in the form of friends, family, and support groups can offer comfort and empathy to cope with the intense feelings that come with the loss. You can also reach out to a grief counselor for guidance.
2.Understand Your Emotions:
Allow yourself to acknowledge and express your feelings and emotions. It could be through writing in a grief journal, talking to loved ones, or engaging in artful self-expression. The idea is to understand the emotions you’re experiencing and this can be achieved with the help of these tools.
3.Don’t Forget Self-Care:
To cope with traumatic grief, make sure you prioritize your physical and mental well-being. You can engage in self-care activities such as exercising, meditation, deep breathing, or spending time in nature. Set aside time to focus on yourself.
4.Set a Routine:
Having a daily routine can also help you process and cope with traumatic grief as it provides a sense of stability when you’re going through something akin to emotional upheaval. To deal with overwhelming emotions, a routine can be the stability you’re looking for.
5.Seek Traumatic Grief Therapy:
If the signs and symptoms of traumatic grief are persistent and begin to interfere with your everyday life and routine, then consider seeking traumatic grief therapy. A professional who specializes in trauma and grief therapy can help guide you.
Traumatic grief is a complicated process that can leave a long-lasting impact on your ability to process grief healthily and navigate the grief journey. It’s important to understand the signs and symptoms of traumatic grief to know how to best cope with the grief. Healing from grief can be long and tedious, but with the right support and help, you can find comfort and solace.
Just remember, you’re not alone and even though healing is a long and personal journey, it’s the one that deserves patience, understanding, and a lot of self-compassion. So be brave and keep going.
I hope this blog helps you move on and know how to cope with traumatic grief. For more, you can write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment in the section below to share your thoughts on the same.