traumatic event often causes deep-rooted, profound feelings.
Depending on the nature of the event, those feelings may be
fear, confusion, grief or a combination of emotions.
of traumatic grief are complex and encompass many challenges
and reactions ó both emotional and physical. In order to
effectively support someone who is grieving, you must first
understand griefís nuances," says Jessie Wolf, licensed
independent clinical social worker at Mayo Clinic Health
addresses a few common questions about traumatic grief and how
to handle it.
grief is a period of experiencing sorrow, numbness, guilt and
anger and can be the result of a loved oneís death. This can
be through illness, accident or violent act, such as domestic
abuse or murder. Experiencing numerous deaths of close family
or friends or the death of a child ó no matter the age or
cause ó leads many people into a state of traumatic grief.
traumatic grief felt?
grief can be felt in the body, such as an increase in
sensitivity to sight, sound and touch, as well as a decrease
in appetite and sleep changes ó inability to sleep and
nightmares. Emotionally, those grieving may experience an
increase in aggression or irritation in addition to deep
feelings of sadness, guilt or self-blame. Their memory may not
be working well, so they forget things, are late for
appointments or donít remember details for weeks or months
after their loved oneís death. People frequently describe
their grieving period as a blur or being in a fog. Often,
people experiencing traumatic grief feel time moving very
slowly or stopping altogether.
should I say?
individual experiencing traumatic grief may become isolated
because talking to people is too difficult. Many people offer
condolences by saying, "They are in a better place"
or "Everything happens for a reason" or "Donít
feel guilty" or "Itís not your fault." The
sentiments are intended to help the bereaved person feel
better. However, these statements minimize the personís
feelings and donít allow for further conversation.
Alternatively, ask questions and create an environment that
I support a grieving person?
Ensure basic needs are met, but donít try to force the
person to eat, sleep or drink. Let them know those options are
available when theyíre ready.
Offer a supportive presence, and donít try to fix the
situation. Acknowledge their feelings, and avoid telling them
not to feel what theyíre feeling. Prescribing their emotions
can result in their no longer being comfortable with sharing.
Itís OK to feel the feelings.
children, answer questions that are appropriate for the age
level. If uncertain, consult with their parent ó if the
child isnít yours ó for direction before answering. As
with adults, allow the child to share their feelings,
acknowledge how feel and simply listen. Donít try to fix
Avoid accelerating the grieving period. Grief knows no
timeline and canít be rushed. The loss of a loved one will
always be part of them, but as time moves forward, grief may
feel differently. For some individuals, grief may not feel
differently for many years.
Allow the person to memorialize or remember their loved one in
a manner in which they are comfortable. Funeral rituals,
spiritual practices, having a picture in the home, talking
about their loved one, writing a letter to their loved,
lighting a candle in memoriam or scrapbooking are some common
out a mental health professional if you or someone else needs
or wants a professional to process the situation or if there
are concerns for safety.