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Trauma, Grief & Loss

Experiencing a Traumatic Event

Almost everyone who experiences trauma will be emotionally affected, and for some the effects can be long lasting. Traumatic events include things that happen to you directly, or to someone you are close to. You do not have to experience traumatic events directly to be affected, if you witnessed something disturbing happening to someone else it can be overwhelming and hard to come to terms with what has happened. These events are emotionally distressing and can lead to issues such as posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety or even be at the root of substance abuse and relationship issues.

Traumatic experiences are likely to be different from anything you have gone through before, which may lead you to question things you have always believed to be true. The world may feel unsafe, you may question people’s intentions, or you may need to feel in control of all that happens. You may feel your “big picture” beliefs have been shattered, this is what it means when people express feeling like their world has been turned upside down.

What Is A Traumatic Event

Traumatic events can range from acts of violence, sexual trauma and abuse, terrorism, the suicide or sudden death of a loved one, a serious accident, natural disasters or even, the loss of a significant relationship, humiliation, or the diagnosis of a life-threatening or life altering illness. Traumatic events can be a singular event, or ongoing persistent stressors. Research shows that a traumatic event is likely to create longer lasting emotional and psychological trauma is the person experiencing the event:

  • Felt powerless to prevent the event
  • The event occurred repeatedly
  • The event was random
  • The event was unprepared for

How a person is impacted by a potentially traumatic event depends on several factors.

  • Past experiences
  • Coping skills
  • Mental and physical health
  • Availability of a support system

Signs and Symptoms and Effects of Psychological Trauma

Most people will have intense emotional or maybe even physical responses directly after experiencing a traumatic event. For some these powerful feelings will fade after a relatively short time. But for others the impact of the event/s may be persistent or long lasting. The impact may behaviors, affect thoughts, physical and mental health. Some of the potential symptoms are listed below:

  • Substance Abuse
  • Avoid activities or locations that bring memories of the event
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Feeling fatigue
  • Easily startled
  • Easily angered
  • Mood disorders
  • Feeling fearful and anxious
  • Catastrophising
  • Recalling thoughts or flashbacks of the events randomly
  • Nightmares
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Detachment and emotional numbing
  • Insomnia
  • Obsessive-compulsive behaviors
  • Guilt and or shame
  • Panic attacks
  • Self destructive behaviors
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Loss of former system of beliefs

When a person experiences the ongoing effects of trauma it can be devastating. Untreated trauma can lead to destructive, negative effects on the individual and their family and friends.

As human beings we are naturally strong and resilient, and sometimes people believe that it is a sign of weakness to ask for help. It is not a sign of weakness, but true strength to admit that one needs support in coming to terms with and healing the emotional wounds of trauma. If you are experiencing negative effects of traumatic events don’t allow the trauma to continue to control you, take control, call for support.

Grief and Loss

There are many different types of losses that bring feelings of grief. Some of the most prevalent are the loss of someone you love, divorce, job loss, and personal illness. No matter the loss that you are grieving, it may be one of the hardest challenges you will face. Loss is understood as a natural part of life, but when you are faced with it you can be overcome by shock and confusion, leading to prolonged periods of sadness or depression. Grief is associated with feelings of sadness, yearning, guilt, regret and anger and more.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve, the process is wholly individual. Some people are able to work through the feelings on their own, but others will benefit from additional assistance. With support you can develop strategies to help manage your grief. Talk with family and friends; find a support group or a mental health professional that can help you navigate your feelings and emotions. One of the many challenges faced when dealing with loss is adjusting to the new reality of life in the absence of the loved one. This requires developing a new-normal.

When feelings of pain and suffering are avoided in order to not have to feel it comes at a cost. You can become disconnected from an authentic way of being, lose the ability to feel joy, feel emotionally paralyzed or feel disconnected from any natural emotion. You can begin to live in fear, fear of losing control, fear of living with grief. When you shy away from the pain of grief, you can develop negative or unhealthy coping strategies in an attempt to numb out and bypass suffering. Some of the ways you may avoid pain are:

  • Workaholism
  • Busy-ness
  • Drugs
  • Drinking
  • Overeating
  • Anorexia/Bulimia
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorders
  • Perfectionism
  • Self Harm
  • Defensiveness
  • Exaggerated Detachment
  • Angry
  • Angry Phobic

In understanding our attempts to avoid pain we are presented with an opportunity to connect to a more true sense of self. There is no “normal” time period for someone to grieve. New research suggests that most people experience grief not in progressive steps, but in a more fluid way ebbing and flowing through the emotional complexity.

If you are having difficulty navigating the grief process and you would like to talk to me about this subject, please contact me.