As I have often said throughout various writings and at different times over the years, trauma in grief is not talked about. This needs to change. Not only for the benefit of grievers, but for those wanting to support the bereaved along their healing path, whether in a personal or professional capacity.
For years after my daughter’s suicide in 2005, I felt all alone in a struggle I didn’t understand. Though I saw doctors for chronic ill-health, beyond diagnosing stress as the obvious root of the problems, they didn’t know what to say to me knowing I had lost my daughter (understandable) or how to help me in my grief. I know now that almost 90% of what I struggled with was directly related to symptoms of PTSD that I was diagnosed with in 2014, and proved to be a game-changer in my ongoing healing.
In general, treating trauma in grief seems to be a relatively new area that the medical profession and other communities (workplace, social, family) still needs to tap into. This is a cultural problem, certainly not the responsibility of one community alone to change. For various reasons, it is common for grievers to not reach out for help. As a community unto themselves, they play a major role in shifting consciousness toward this change. Not understanding what’s happening to them or thinking to relate physical ill-health to grief keeps them from reaching out for help. Many grievers choose to handle things alone. And discussing mental health is still largely taboo in grief, despite the broader gains we are making.
Because everybody is or will be living with grief one day, we all have a responsibility to ensure expanded resources are integrated into every one of our communities to support the bereaved over the long haul. Sharing information is only one way to get the ball rolling. When grievers understand more about grief (trauma remains only one of many challenges) and can be assured that resources are in place to help them through their ordeal, they can start to feel safe enough to reach out for help. Otherwise, grief remains a long and lonely existence.
Last year, I had a wonderful opportunity to present a workshop on PTSD in grief at a first-ever bereavement conference in Ottawa, Canada. Given the large number in attendance, it was clear that many people from all walks of grief wanted to learn more about trauma and PTSD after loss.
More recently, having participated in a webinar series sponsored by The National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (based in the USA) on the latest research and trends in treating trauma, I am convinced that as someone who lives with PTSD as a result of loss, now more than ever is the time to start sharing information about trauma in grief . Covering a range of topics, including how trauma affects the survivor and the family, I will be publishing a video series and providing links to resources where applicable, to share information with grievers and those supporting the bereaved on what it’s like to live with PTSD and how trauma affects the survivor in a number of areas after a difficult loss. It is my hope that positive discussion about trauma in grief can and will bring about the promising change we need to develop or enhance existing grief support systems across our communities.
I live by the premise that knowing what you are dealing with is half the battle. As such, the Trauma in Grief series, while informational only, provides a raw and candid look at trauma in grief based on my personal experience and knowledge. I strongly urge anyone to seek appropriate medical attention as required.
I have a lot to say about trauma, all of which you can learn about throughout the video series. What I will say here is that had I been more aware in my early grief about trauma and PTSD, I know for certain my family could have been spared much of the unnecessary conflict and hardship we endured. After nearly fourteen years, we are only now coming to a much better understanding of how damaging trauma has been to us all and what we can hope to expect for the future (in a good way).
Trauma in general is devastating, but one of the most damaging effects is the breakdown of relationships. In our own situation, it has taken years of intense effort to understand trauma and even begin to develop the skills to manage our lives living with PTSD. It’s been a steep learning curve, but our perseverance to heal as much of the trauma as we can keeps us moving forward.
You can watch the introductory video to the Trauma in Grief series on my Living Meditations channel on YouTube and subscribe there or on this blog to receive notification when the latest video has been posted. If you aren’t affected yourself by trauma but know someone who has been, please spread the word and share. Together, we can be the difference.